Apologies, this page is political.
When the politicians intrude into technology and promise to make a complete mess of it, they deserve a response. John Davis
Direct action is a policy by which the Tony Abbott Australian coalition government promises to reduce CO2 emissions. There is no evidence it will ever achieve any worthwhile reduction. No reputable scientist, technologist, or economist can see how it will work.
It is a puzzling policy and we are left to conclude it is designed to achieve nothing but give taxpayer funds to large industry, and relive them of the need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
They want to abolish the carbon tax that charges polluters, and instead pay money to industries that reduce their pollution. There is no penalty for any industry continuing to pollute.
In the right hand cell are details on the policy published by Tristan Edis in Climate Spectator.
Below is my assessment of the policy document taken to the last election.
To meet its target as detailed in the Kyoto Mark II protocol, the government says it needs to buy 421 million tonnes of CO2 abatement between now and 2020.
The government has said it has $2.55 billion to spend over 2014-15 to 2017-18.
It has left it vague as to what it will allocate for the remaining two years. However prior to the federal election I sought clarification from Greg Hunt’s office on what the funding allocation would be for the remaining years. I was told that there was no change from the prior 2010 election policy. This set out that annual funding for years five and six would be $1.2 billion. I actually then sought to confirm the annual funding would remain at $1.2 billion and was told ‘yes’ by one of Hunt’s spokespeople.
So $2.55bn + 1.2bn +1.2bn equals $4.95 billion.
Until I hear otherwise from the government that’s the budget number you can assume is the maximum the government has to spend in the emission reduction fund.
This means the government can only afford to spend an average of $11.75 per tonne of CO2.
Now go out and talk to people engaged in developing carbon abatement projects and ask them what they could deliver for $11.75 from the government for a tonne of abatement. I can tell you from more than a decade of talking to people across sectors -- from tree planting to power generation to industrial and residential energy efficiency -- that you’d struggle to get yourself a few million tonnes of abatement, let alone 421 million tonnes.
The two markets which probably reflect the lowest cost abatement available -- the NSW and Victorian Energy Savings Schemes -- have never traded their certificates at prices equivalent to $11.75 per tonne of CO2 or lower. And these schemes are delivering volumes of abatement of just a few million tonnes, not even close to the 421 million tonnes the government needs.
Leading carbon market analysts and brokers including Bloomberg New Energy Finance, SKM-MMA and RepuTex also confirm that the government has Buckley’s chance of reaching its target with the allocated budget.
Federal Liberal - National Coalition policy
"The Coalition’s plan for real action on Energy and Resources" 2010
“We will merge the departments of climate and environment.
We will abolish
-Shadow climate minister Greg Hunt March 2013
Comments by John Davis in this column
It is most likely the Liberal National Coalition party will win the next federal election in Nov 2013. (They did) I find this depressing. They seem to be determined to destroy anything to do with clean energy and put fossil fuel energy back in it's place.
in this column I'm expressing my opinion of their policies.
My conclusion is that they are killing clean energy because they:
The logical path is to change to clean energy, yet they are actively following the opposite path. Are they helping their donors to carry on business as usual with no thought for the future.
Liberal Party Energy policies
Direct action plan 2010 - Liberal Party
1. Remove the threat of Labor’s mining tax
Labor’s mining tax is a $10.5 billion hit on one of the most important sectors of the Australian economy. Labor’s mining tax has undermined confidence in Australia as an investment destination and as a secure supplier of resources.
The Coalition will restore confidence, stability and security for the industry so it can thrive and continue to create jobs and economic wealth for all Australians. The Coalition will stop this tax.
Comment on mining tax.
A lot of fuss about a tax the Liberals managed to reduce to become almost ineffectual.
Is the Liberal party trying to increase fossil fuel mining? If not why is it in this document?
Rather childish point scoring not befitting a government facing serious issues.
2. Remove the threat of Labor’s Carbon Tax
Comment on carbon tax
The carbon tax has given industry a plan by which they can invest and get on with business. Now the coalition has introduced uncertainty affecting business investment. Will they be the lucky ones to receive corporate welfare, or did they not "donate" enough.
The carbon tax has reduced CO2 emissions, but not as much as enforceable targets.
The state governments have wound back a lot of programs saying that the carbon tax will do the job. Are they going to undo the damage?
3. Introduce an Exploration Development Programme
Comment on exploration
This must refer to exploring for fossil fuels, or it would not be in this policy. They do not say this directly.
If it is for all minerals then they are stealing money from the CCS fund to explore for non energy minerals.
Does the old fashioned way of spelling program(me) reflect their thinking?.
4. Support for clean coal technologies
Comment on "clean coal"
This must have been written by the coal lobby.
They are "directing $158 million from CCS to clean coal technologies." But CCS is clean coal technology.
Are they confused? Or are they trying to confuse?
So what are they going to do with the money if not CCS?
The term :"Clean Coal" is both an oxymoron, and greenwash.)
Coal is not clean, and, it is corrupting the political process.
(CCS = Carbon Capture and Storage)
5. Commit to the development and implementation of soil carbon technologies
Comments on Soil sequestration
The coalition policy calls for 85 MT of CO2 (23 MT of C) to be added to farm soils every year to mitigate our emissions.
The CSIRO says that the theoretical upper limit would be 100 MT /yr of CO2, if every hectare of cultivated land was improved.
But CSIRO also points out, all soil carbon oxidises back to CO2, so this organic material must be added every year, forever.
Some organic material has a mean life of 3 years, some 30 years, and some 120 years. Most of our soils are still losing carbon from the original clearing of bush.
Organic carbon increases the fertility of the soil and is worth doing, but it is dishonest or ignorant to claim it as a way of sequestering carbon.
A recent University of Western Australia study estimated the costs at $80 per tonne of CO2. ($22 / T of C).
Department of Climate Change estimates only one million tonnes of CO2 per year may be sequestered in soils at $33 /t.
Should we Biochar our forests?
If they were serious about fixing carbon into the soil then they could look at biochar which will last in the soil for thousands or even hundreds of thousands of years.
If we wanted to bury our yearly emissions we'd need to bury about 500 MT of carbon dioxide every year.
Include our exports of another 800 million tonnes, and that is 1,300 million tonnes of CO2.
It would be a huge task, we would need to continually cut down and replant all our native bush and plantation forest and convert it to biochar.
85 million tonnes in the policy would sequester only 39 days of our emissions and export.
We have problem, and the coalition policy is not addressing it.
Trees in a plantation:
We would need to continually cut down and replant all our trees and convert them to biochar. Plus sewage sludge, plant waste, municipal waste, etc.
Estimates put this as economic if the carbon dioxide price is $37 - $80/Tonne.
Another researcher puts this cost at $150/T of CO2.
Once coal is stopped, biochar gives us a once in a lifetime opportunity to get our atmosphere back to 350 ppm.
Seems an extraordinarily high price to allow the coalition's sponsors to continue burning coal in business as usual.
Let's not squander this for just a few more years of coal burning.
6. Accelerate the development of carbon capture through biological sequestration technologies.
The Coalition will redirect $45 million from the Carbon Capture and Storage Flagships program to accelerate the development of carbon capture through biological sequestration technologies, such as algae.
Biological sequestration technologies appears to have significant potential as an on-site or local carbon absorption medium for large scale CO2 producers, such as power stations (where suitable land space is available), thereby reducing the need for expensive compression and transmission pipeline systems.
Comment on algae
CCS will probably use 40% of a coal fired power station's energy and coal companies would like to avoid this. They would prefer to use algae to turn their CO2 to biofuel which they would sell. They look good, and is a PR coup if they can pull it off.
But when the biofuel is burnt, the CO2 is still released and they don't get the blame for it.
This policy is a gift to the coal industry.
Click to enlarge Source
7. Support a pilot biofuel lignocellulose plant
Biofuel is an embryonic industry in early stages of development and there is a second generation of fuels coming. Lignocellulose is an abundant, low-cost, non-food, feed-stock which may be used in the production of biofuels.
Significant technical challenges must be overcome to achieve cost-competitive conversion of these feed-stocks. If technical cost issues can be overcome, there is potential for the development of second generation biofuels, in particular the production of ethanol, from new lignocellulose feed-stocks, such as, sugar cane bagasse, crop stubbles, sawmill residues and woody weeds.
To assist the development and trial of this new biofuel source, the Coalition will commit $8 million towards a pilot biofuel lignocellulose plant in Australia.
Comment on ethanol from wood
Worthy aim, but the government would be trying to pick winners. Why are they specifying ethanol when butanol is more likely to replace it. Some processes produce diesel and biochar which may help their soil sequestration. Why has it been narrowed down?
Do they have a company and technology in mind? There are many technologies.
They are specifying $2 million per year for 4 years. I was head of research on one of these processes in Canadsa and in 1974 we were spending this much for research only. After 30 years of development and running a pilot plant, they now are seeking $500 million for a production plant.
This is greenwash, not a serious proposal.
8. Test the suitability of competitive biodiesel blend
The heavy vehicle road freight market accounts for about 40 percent of diesel fuel sales in Australia. In recent years there has been a dramatic increase in the available range and sales of
diesel powered light vehicles in Australia, following the UK and European trend.
Biodiesel can deliver better air quality and lower greenhouse gas emissions.5 However, use of the most competitive biodiesel blend – B20 – is constrained by uncertainty about its impact on heavy vehicles.
The Coalition will provide $4 million towards a vehicle trial to test the suitability of B20 for heavy vehicle use.
Comment on greenwash
This seems a reasonable thing to do. But for only $4 million it seems more the sort of project a government department would normally do without any fuss. It hardly seems worthy of much mention in a policy document.
Are they short of ideas?
Are they latching onto the word bio in order to greenwash their policy?
9. Support development of logistics systems for LNG as a transport fuel
Apart from the significant export potential from our LNG production, the emergence of localised LNG production plants to service the growing uptake of LNG as an alternative to diesel for interstate haulage vehicles provides a significant opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as well as providing strong economic and strategic benefits.
There are over 200 trucks now running on LNG in Australia. Facilities exist in WA, Victoria and one under construction in Tasmania to serve the growing trend by transport operators to use LNG. A network of filling stations has been built in key locations to service this market. The development of logistics systems for LNG as a transport fuel will build on the establishment of LNG production in Gladstone, potential LNG production in Newcastle and existing small-scale production in Melbourne.
The Coalition will commit $8 million to assist commercial enterprises in the development of logistics systems for LNG as a transport fuel, particularly in the Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne transport corridors.
Comment on LNG
Has this been written by the gas lobby?
LNG, CSG, shale gas, and biogas are all methane. The production can produce leaks making it as bad as coal.
Gas produces CO2. It is not a cure, but a delaying tactic.
10. International co-operation to develop hydrogen as a vehicle fuel
Hydrogen fuel offers the promise of zero emission technology, where the only by-product from cars is water vapour. Current fossil-fuel burning vehicles emit all sorts of pollutants such as carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide, ozone and microscopic particulate matter.
Hybrids and other green cars address these issues to a large extent but only hydrogen cars hold the promise of zero emission of pollutants. The US, Japan and Germany have been at the forefront of hydrogen vehicle fuel development.
The Coalition will maintain and encourage further international co-operation in the development of hydrogen as a long-term fossil fuel replacement for transport vehicles, particularly passenger vehicles.
Comment on Hydrogen
Yes, hydrogen is a worthy aim, but there is very little chance of success in the near future. Hydrogen is covered on this website
They plan to: "encourage further international co-operation in the development of hydrogen"
The seems to be no chance of them doing anything ourselves.
No money is mentioned, just vague encouragement.
15. Examine a new exploration incentive for solar thermal and geothermal projects
The Coalition supports further exploration of solar and geothermal energy sources. As a diverse and energy rich country, Australia should be at the forefront of exploring new sources of alternative energy.
The Coalition will examine the viability of providing a new exploration incentive for solar thermal and geothermal projects. Any incentive will need to be cognisant of prevailing budget circumstances and be subject to fiscal constraints.
Comment on nothing much
This is not a promise, no money mentioned, just a few weasel words:
"will need to be cognisant of prevailing budget circumstances and be subject to fiscal constraints."
16. Re-establish agreement to enable the sale of uranium to India
The Coalition will re-establish the agreement to sell uranium to India for peaceful, energy generation purposes.
Under the previous Coalition Government, Australia entered into an agreement with the Government of India to enable the sale of Australian uranium to India for peaceful, energy generation purposes, subject to strict conditions and safeguards
As one of its’ first acts in government, Labor reversed the decision to supply uranium to India.
The Australian uranium industry has now been locked out of a major new market because of the Labor’s ideological stance, and Australia’s overall trade relationship with India is also at risk.
It simply does not make sense for the Labor Government to allow other countries to sell uranium to India, but deliberately prevent Australian exporters from accessing the same opportunities.
Comment on uranium
Anything for money.
I don't see any future in nuclear:
17. Examine the potential of thorium as an energy source for export
The Coalition will examine the potential use of thorium as an energy source.
Australia possesses an estimated 18.7 per cent (489,000t) of the world’s identified resources of thorium.
The primary source of thorium in Australia and globally is the mineral monazite. Thorium can be used as an alternative source of fuel for energy generation and possesses an energy content that can be utilised almost in its entirety.
Comment on thorium
There is no time. Researchers have been working on it for 50 years without producing a commercial reactor. More
After the development of the atomic bomb, USA had a choice of whether to develop nuclear power with fast or slow neutrons. Fast neutrons can turn Thorium into nuclear fuel and burn up 99.5% of the fuel leaving 0.5% waste.
They chose to develop slow neutrons which burn up only 0.5% and leave 99.5% waste. From this waste can be made atom bombs.
USA research on fast neutrons and Thorium was stopped by anti-nuclear protesters. It may have been a mistake.
Nice idea, but there is no time for Thorium to save the climate. Examine it by all means, but this is not a serious proposal. There is no money allocated.
The clean energy projects are dwarfed by the money to be put into coal, gas, oil, and mineral exploration.
This list of policies looks like a sponsors wish list combined with a few green sounding phrases. But I cannot see any hope of a cleaner future, or evidence of thinking for the future benefit of the country.
History of Direct Action
Other criticism of these policies
Crikey The shredding of the Coalition climate plan continues apace
ABC - The Drum: Direct action. What does it promise? Will it work?
This is the Coalition's Direct Action Plan. It promises to "reduce CO2 emissions by 5 per cent by 2020 based on 1990 levels."
Despite the rhetoric, Direct Action contains much that is similar to the Government's carbon policy eventually agreed with the Greens and independents. Like the Government's policy, it will spend billions on retiring dirty power plants in the La Trobe valley like Hazelwood. Like the Government's plan, Direct Action promises to invest in clean tech and renewable energy. And, believe it or not, Direct Action also promises to establish a form of carbon pricing.
Instead, the Coalition plans to tackle carbon emissions by paying industry to pollute less, through an Emissions Reduction Fund. As the Direct Action policy document states:
The Coalition will also spend another billion or so on policies such as its $400 million "one million solar roofs" program.
Totalling those numbers up gives a total spend of $9.22 billion out to 2020. Showing typically fuzzy accounting values, the Coalition has also said it will cap the cost of the program at $10.5 billion out to 2020. That's money that the Coalition says will come from "normal budget processes", which means either more tax, more borrowing, or spending cuts.
Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey have already promised that money will not come from extra taxes. That means an incoming Abbott government has committed to more than $10 billion in spending cuts in order to pay for its carbon policies.
Where will the carbon reductions come from? The Coalition says the majority will come from soil carbon. Soil carbon is a promising technology being investigated by a number of countries. An Abbott government plans to pay farmers $8-10 for each tonne of carbon they can lock up in their soil. As a result, the Coalition says 85 million tonnes of carbon emissions can be abated.
The problem is, the technology is not proven yet. Even if the Government spends billions, we don't really know how much carbon we can sequester. According to a comprehensive scientific review of soil carbon technology by the CSIRO last year, "a general lack of research in this area is currently preventing a more quantitative assessment of the carbon sequestration potential of agricultural soils".
The conclusions of the CSIRO report are worth reporting at length:
In other words: the CSIRO's soil carbon trials actually showed a decrease in the amount of carbon stored in the soil! Not only this, but the report says it is "extremely difficult" to predict whether soil carbon farming practices will work in the future.
Many farmers are already arguing that $8-10 a tonne is far too low. Michael Kiely of the Carbon Coalition, who was cited by the Opposition when they first released their policy, says that the price paid to farmers would need to "start at $25 and head north."
In other words, the Coalition is basing 60 per cent of its Direct Action policy on a technology that the CSIRO says it can't predict will work, and can't measure adequately either.
he story of the Canadian government's forestry policy shows what can go wrong when natural systems are used as climate policy instruments.
In 2002, Canada announced that it planned to rely on tree planting and improved forestry practices to achieve one-third of its Kyoto emissions reduction targets. This didn't happen. Instead, huge swathes of forest died, due to catastrophic infestations of the Mountain Pine Beetle. As a result, Canadian forest scientists estimate that Canada's forests went from a source of carbon reduction to a source of carbon emissions.
What caused the Mountain Pine Beetle infestation? Scientists believe it was in part climate change itself. Cold winters normally kill off Mountain Pine Beetles in large numbers, but as winters warm in the North American forests, fewer beetles are dying.
Leaving aside soil carbon, the second-biggest source of the Coalition's planned carbon abatement is energy efficiency and green building standards. The Direct Action policy promises a total of "20-30 million tonnes" of carbon emissions reductions by 2020 through this mechanism.
Direct Action is amazingly sketchy on how this will be achieved. It devotes all of two sentences to this aspect of its policy:
The mechanism appears to be payments to developers through "a CO2 abatement price of $15 per tonne.
Can these payments by the government actually achieve a 5 per cent cut in Australian greenhouse gas emissions out to 2020? Nearly every credible analyst says no.
The Australia Institute's Richard Denniss and Matt Grudnoff have performed the most substantial analysis of Direct Action. They conclude that Direct Action will cost taxpayers $11 billion a year, require a thicket of new regulations and hundreds of new bureaucrats to enforce them.
The Treasury agrees. In its Red Book briefing for the incoming government, the Treasury stated bluntly that when it comes to cutting carbon emissions, "direct action initiatives alone will not do the job."
Its Blue Book, prepared for the Coalition should it have won government, was even blunter. "A broad based market mechanism which prices carbon," Treasury wrote, "...is the only realistic way of achieving the deep cuts in emissions that are required."
Direct Action is ultimately a competitive grants scheme essentially identical to "cash for clunkers" and other expensive and ineffective government spending programs to reduce emissions that have already failed under the Howard, Rudd and Gillard governments - as the Australian National Audit Office and the Grattan Institute have both found. Like these programs, Direct Action is likely to achieve any emissions reductions at an exorbitant cost. One million solar roofs, for instance, will cost $133 for every tonne of carbon it abates.
If you stop to think about it for a minute, it's obvious that Direct Action won't work. It doesn't introduce a proper market mechanism for carbon abatement. It doesn't seek to cap Australia's carbon emissions. The odds are against it, even before we examine the depth of the Coalition's actual commitment to addressing climate change. No wonder Tony Abbott can't find any economists or climate scientists prepared to support it.
The take-home message is simple. The Coalition's plan is based on incomplete science, dubious economics and breath-taking political expediency. It will be hugely expensive. It won't cut carbon emissions. It won't even lead to lower taxes. And it will still introduce a shadow price for carbon.
Ben Eltham is a writer, journalist and fellow at the Centre for Policy Development.
Federal Liberal Party policy
Quotes from www.liberal.org.au/our-plan-abolish-carbon-tax
If elected, the Coalition will take immediate steps to implement our plan to abolish the Carbon Tax.
On day one, I will instruct the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet to draft legislation that repeals the Carbon Tax and to have the legislation ready within one month.
On day one, the Finance Minister will notify the Clean Energy Finance Corporation that it should suspend its operations and instruct the Department of Finance to prepare legislation to permanently shut-down the Corporation.
On day one, the Environment Minister will instruct the Department to commence the implementation of the Coalition’s Direct Action Plan on climate change and carbon emissions.
On the first sitting day of Parliament under a Coalition Government, I will introduce legislation to repeal the Carbon Tax.
As soon as the Carbon Tax is repealed, the Environment Minister will introduce legislation to enact the Coalition’s Direct Action Plan on climate change and carbon emissions.
Within the first sitting fortnight of Parliament, the Finance Minister will introduce legislation to shut-down the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.
In summary, the Liberal party will:
Abolish the carbon tax.
Close the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.
Establish an emissions reduction fund of $3 billion.
Support projects such as exploring such as the exploration of soil carbon technologies
Pay some companies to reduce CO2.
What happens to the vast majority of companies who don't win the tender? Can they keep polluting? Surely it would be better to charge them to pollute?
Do research into putting carbon into the soil.
More delay for a doubtful one off carbon reduction.
The farmer must commit to hold the carbon in the soil forever. How will this be possible?
What happens in a bushfire, drought, or flood? Will the farmer pay to put it all back?
How many years of emissions could the soil hold.
No prominent scientist or economist has backed this plan.
Liberal party Direct Action Plan
Extracts from the policy document - it is undated and possibly an old version.
The Coalition established the $500 million Low Emissions Technology Demonstration Fund to support these projects:
Comments by John Davis
They must be referring to policies they did in their last term
1 Wasn't built and company went into receivership. Recently bought by by Silex ans is planning to go ahead.
2 Carbon Capture and Storage keeps the brown coal burning. Will be a very expensive process requiring about 40% of the power station's energy.
3 This project led by Chevron will be designed to capture 3.5 Mt of carbon dioxide per annum from Greater Gorgon gas fields and store it in the Dupuy formation beneath the Barrow Island.
WWF claims that the Gorgon geosequestration project is potentially unsafe as the area has over 700 wells drilled in the area, 50 of which reach the area proposed for geosequestration of CO2. Fault lines compound the problems. Barrow Island is also an A class nature reserve of global importance. wikipedia
4 Promoting Coal Seam Gas. Ugh!
5 At Callide A Power Station, the oxyfuel technology has been retro-fitted to the existing coal-fired power station. The idea is to burn coal with oxygen thus producing a flue gas of only CO2. This can be compressed and buried without needing to separate it from the nitrogen present in air. The process of producing the oxygen is expensive. It may work. Continues coal burning.
6 More coal. Is the industry paying them?
|Leading climate change economist Nicholas Stern estimated the annual cost of NO action on climate change at 5-20% of GDP by 2050, whereas the cost of action would only be 1-2%!|
ABC The Drum: analysis of Tony Abbott
On Monday night on the ABC's PM program, Stephen Long finally examined some of Tony Abbott's claims. In a stunning piece of forensic investigation, Long single-handedly dismantled the distortions, misrepresentations and bald-faced lies that Tony Abbott continues to advance.
"Full credit to the Opposition Leader's political skill," Long said in his report. "But he's been aided and abetted by journalists who've continued to report unchallenged claims that appear to contradict facts."
Long singled out Tony Abbott's claims that the carbon tax would be "toxic" for the economy, and that it would shut down the coal industry. There is no factual basis for either argument. According to Long, "every credible analysis including the industry's own says the coal industry is going to enjoy a massive expansion despite the Government's carbon price."
But almost no-one in the mainstream media has bothered to hold Tony Abbott to account. Just to take one example, let's examine Abbott's argument, repeated a number of times, that Australia will be "going it alone" in introducing a price on carbon. It's hard to understand how this argument was ever accepted by anyone.
The European Union has had an emissions trading scheme since 2005, whatever its manifest flaws.
India has introduced a tax on coal.
China has recently announced it will launch a pilot program for emissions trading in the next five years.
California, the world's eighth-largest economy, has an emissions trading scheme at a state level, which will soon be linked to the European scheme.
To say some sections of the Australian media are against the carbon tax is something of an understatement. As Jonathan Holmes pointed out this week on Media Watch, some parts of the talk-back radio sector are spewing out hatred against the Prime Minister that is nothing short of sexual vilification.
The anti-carbon tax campaign from the Murdoch tabloids is unbalanced in a different way, cooly and calculatingly mispresenting the factual basis of climate change and the details of the carbon tax for reasons of cynical political animus.
So let's exert some scrutiny on Tony Abbott and the Coalition.