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Do we need a CPRS?

The Garnaut Report is silent on ‘the elephant in the room’: the role of nuclear power in achieving lower carbon emissions in other countries.

No doubt the silence on nuclear power is politically astute and/or avoiding controversy.  As indicated above Garnaut is not concerned with the actual methods employed and assumes that whatever technology becomes profitable will be used.

Almost all power engineers acknowledge that nuclear power is currently the only practical alternative to coal. There are now several hundred new nuclear power plants in planning and under construction worldwide and China alone is projecting 300.

If carbon sequestration is impractical on a scale that would make a difference, and this paper asserts this is so, it is virtually certain that the impact of an effective CPRS would be to make nuclear power inevitable in the new energy mix. This mix would no doubt include increased use of other economic alternatives like solar and wind.  Photovoltaic solar and some other alternative technologies are already competitive with nuclear power in some circumstances and may replace part of our electricity needs if technological progress allows but they do not provide this energy continuously at present and are not a realistic replacement for coal.  Nuclear electricity is the ‘next best’ economic alternative to coal and as outlined above the engineering challenges involved are trivial compared to CCS. 

If this is so, we have a good idea of what the world aught to look like. Why go through the difficulty of implementing economy distorting mechanisms with unknown side effects, when we can simply identify the technology changes we want and implement them? 

When changing to a new phone or television standard we do not tax the old technology to make the new attractive; we simply say that from such and such a date we will no longer use the old and everyone needs to make the appropriate transition arrangements.

One gets the impression that if the authors of the Garnaut Report had been engaged to design and build the Sydney Harbour Bridge they would have proposed, instead, a tax on ferries.

To achieve the desired outcome of a transition to nuclear electricity without hidden economy distorting market mechanisms, NSW (and other states, perhaps with explicit Loan Council support or Commonwealth transition funding) could simply take action to progressively replace the present coal burning power stations with similar or possibly larger nuclear stations in the same or similar locations. Existing transmission and other generator independent infrastructure could then be used minimising cost. Local employment impacts would be minimised, employees and local residents would be healthier and safer. With appropriate advice and information this improved greenhouse, safety and employment environment would minimise any ‘not in my backyard’ objections to the changes.  The new stations would provide carbon free electricity to support existing industrial and residential purposes and provide for future growth, at a price competitive with that under the CPRS. 

Additional electricity capacity could be provided for electric trains, public road transport and private cars. These will inevitably become more attractive as oil prices rise and government infrastructure catches up with almost every other comparable city and country in the World.

We will know we have caught up when Sydney (and possibly Newcastle) has a proper Metro network of several intersecting lines linking up-market residential, retail and employment nodes across the city; the State has an updated 25KV electrified freight rail network; and there is a separate very fast passenger train service, at least down the east coast.  These will substantially reduce the transport use of fossil fuel and encourage urban consolidation around the new stations.  New industrial lands could be developed around freight hubs. Technological progress and local industry will be encouraged and stimulated by moving the State’s infrastructure into the 21st Century.

The relative cost of energy is, in any case, expected to increase under existing (undistorted) market mechanisms, encouraging increased energy efficiency.  Most experts predict that oil will increase in price relative to coal and together with new battery technology will encourage the development of new electric and hybrid transport. 

As nuclear power would only replace coal for electricity generation and indirectly for transport, coal would continue to be sold overseas (just as we presently sell uranium but do not consume it; conscious that NSW coal will remain a tiny fraction of the coal consumed worldwide) and used (at an undistorted price) in local metals smelting where there is no alternative.

 

 


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Travel

Denmark

 

 

  

 

 

In the seventies I spent some time travelling around Denmark visiting geographically diverse relatives but in a couple of days there was no time to repeat that, so this was to be a quick trip to two places that I remembered as standing out in 1970's: Copenhagen and Roskilde.

An increasing number of Danes are my progressively distant cousins by virtue of my great aunt marrying a Dane, thus contributing my mother's grandparent's DNA to the extended family in Denmark.  As a result, these Danes are my children's cousins too.

Denmark is a relatively small but wealthy country in which people share a common language and thus similar values, like an enthusiasm for subsidising wind power and shunning nuclear energy, except as an import from Germany, Sweden and France. 

They also like all things cultural and historical and to judge by the museums and cultural activities many take pride in the Danish Vikings who were amongst those who contributed to my aforementioned DNA, way back.  My Danish great uncle liked to listen to Geordies on the buses in Newcastle speaking Tyneside, as he discovered many words in common with Danish thanks to those Danes who had settled in the Tyne valley.

Nevertheless, compared to Australia or the US or even many other European countries, Denmark is remarkably monocultural. A social scientist I listened to last year made the point that the sense of community, that a single language and culture confers, creates a sense of extended family.  This allows the Scandinavian countries to maintain very generous social welfare, supported by some of the highest tax rates in the world, yet to be sufficiently productive and hence consumptive per capita, to maintain among the highest material standards of living in the world. 

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Fiction, Recollections & News

The Royal Wedding

 

 

 


It often surprises our international interlocutors, for example in Romania, Russia or Germany, that Australia is a monarchy.  More surprisingly, that our Monarch is not the privileged descendent of an early Australian squatter or more typically a medieval warlord but Queen Elizabeth of Great Britain and Northern Island - who I suppose could qualify as the latter.

Thus unlike those ex-colonial Americans, British Royal weddings are not just about celebrity.  To Australians, Canadians and New Zealanders, in addition to several smaller Commonwealth countries, they have a bearing our shared Monarchy.

Yet in Australia, except for occasional visits and the endorsement of our choice of viceroys, matters royal are mainly the preoccupation of the readers of women's magazines.

That women's magazines enjoy almost exclusive monopoly of this element of the National culture is rather strange in these days of gender equality.  There's nary a mention in the men's magazines.  Scan them as I might at the barber's or when browsing a newsstand - few protagonists who are not engaged in sport; modifying equipment or buildings; or exposing their breasts; get a look in. 

But a Royal wedding hypes things up, so there is collateral involvement.  Husbands and partners are drawn in.

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Opinions and Philosophy

Electric Cars revisited

 

 

  

In 2005 I calculated that in Australia, due to our use of coal to generate electricity, electric cars had a higher carbon footprint than conventional cars. 

There's been a lot of water under the bridge since then and now (April 2019) many are promoting electric cars as environmentally friendly, so I thought it was worth a revisit. 

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