Crikey Says

Nov 11, 2011

Crikey says: our energy future

"The door is closing...I am very worried – if we don't change direction now on how we use energy, we will end up beyond what scientists tell us is the minimum [for safety]. The door will be closed forever."

"The door is closing ... I am very worried -- if we don't change direction now on how we use energy, we will end up beyond what scientists tell us is the minimum [for safety]. The door will be closed forever." That's Fatih Birol, chief economist at the International Energy Agency, upon the release this week of the IEA's World Energy Outlook 2011 report. According to the report, the world is likely to build so many fossil-fuelled power stations, inefficient buildings and energy-hungry factories in the next five years that it will become impossible to hold global warming to safe levels. If current trends continue then by 2015 at least 90% of the available "carbon budget" will be swallowed up by our energy and industrial infrastructure. By 2017, there will be no room to move at all -- the whole of the carbon budget will be spoken for, according to the IEA's calculations. Throw to the graphs. Our energy demand:

Room to move:

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13 thoughts on “Crikey says: our energy future

  1. Mark Duffett

    Someone might want to put a rocket under the Crikey editorial writer. A nuclear powered one, that is. Ferguson is much more correct than Milne on this issue, as even just the graph above hints. 100% renewable energy plans for Australia are multi-trillion dollar recipes for failure.

    With their disgraceful and completely unjustified insistence that nuclear energy be excluded from international carbon credit calculations under the new legislation, the Greens are even more part of the climate problem than Ferguson.

    I plead with anyone whose mind is not closed on this issue to get over to and get educated. Almost anywhere will do, but try (especially the comment stream) for a recent example.

  2. Roger Clifton

    If Australia is to move to 100% renewables energy supply, we must install storage with a capacity of our entire energy supply for about a week of unreliable weather. Storage of even the very smallest fraction of that capacity would cost an exorbitant sum. Just ask the Minister.

    By the way, the climatic crisis is nothing to do with renewables or non-renewables, it is to replace carbon-energy with non-carbon-energy. If we really are serious about doing that, we must repeal the federal legislation against nuclear. How to do that? Just ask the Senator.

    Do you want to insult the intelligence of the Crikey readership? Just ask the editor.

  3. greenfiend

    100% renewable energy has already been tested and shown to work. Number of failures (ie blackouts) for this project so far: 0.

  4. wilful

    The only way to reconcile the climate crisis with our current way of living is nuclear power.

    If you think there’s another solution (apart from another way of living) you’re engaged in wishful thinking.

  5. Grant Winberg

    “A SCIENTIFIC movement to promote thorium as a nuclear fuel, due
    to its abundance and improved safety, is developing around the
    world and Australia could lead the way.
    The Sydney scientist Reza Hashemi-Nezhad has argued for more than
    a decade for the benefits of thorium when used in an
    accelerator-driven nuclear reactor that operates at subcritical
    You cannot have an accident similar to Chernobyl,
    Dr Hashemi-Nezhad, the director of the Institute of Nuclear
    Science at the University of Sydney, said. It does not produce
    weapon-grade materials. And the nuclear waste is much less toxic
    than from a standard reactor.
    With the world’s largest reserves of the radioactive mineral, Australia
    could be a leader in developing and adopting the technology.
    It is completely proven and feasible, Dr Hashemi-Nezhad said. The
    only thing required here is government acceptance.”
    Perhaps and hopefully the minister has his feet firmly planted on the
    ground and will support Reza’s call – in preference to having our heads
    in the clouds (or some other inappropriate place).

  6. davidk

    Amazing how quickly the proponents of the nuclear non -solution come out of the woodwork when this issue arises. How quickly they forget the Japanese experience.
    Better to spend the money developing renewables. Maybe we should invest in cold fusion development.

  7. michael crook

    We do not need nuclear or fossil fuels when renewables actually have no fuel cost, and this is where the problem lies. No billions to be had from sales of sunshine or wind. The technology is there. Burning coal is destroying the planet, get with renewables, now.

    Martin Ferguson will get his reward in due course no doubt, but not from us.

  8. Chris Sanderson

    Mark Duffett

    Martin Ferguson should retire and join his colleagues in some sinecure job in the fossil fuel industry as all the bureaucrats and ex-politicians do when their ‘Greenhouse Mafia’ bosses decide their usefulness is over.

    Until then he should be deprived of any responsibility and influence over Renewable Energy – so should Kim Carr regarding Electric Vehicles. Both these dinosaurs are unable to see in any direction except backwards.

    The IEA in their ‘World Energy Outlook – 2011’, probably the most conservative voice on the energy industry has just reiterated what the top climate scientists have been saying for the past decade –


    And because we didn’t 10 years ago, we now have to do it much faster to avoid the 2ºC irretrievable tipping point, which means with much greater pain.

    Mark, of course we will need to use nuclear energy – as well as renewable energy.

    For heavens sake don’t let’s get into that stupid waste of time arguing about nuclear vs renewable.

    It’s whatever mix of both stops us burning fossil fuel the soonest.

    Most prudent people already understand that if they want energy security over the next 10-20 years they had better install their own decentralized clean electricity generating system.

    Anyone waiting for the pollies to find the balls to do what’s necessary doesn’t understand the concept of risk.

    The pollies have to do some radical things like declaring war on burning fossil fuels, nationalize the fossil fuel and electricity industries and close it down as fast as it can be replaced – accepting that until it can, some reserve capacity may still have to be coal based until renewables prove they can reliably produce base load power 24/7, or safe nuclear is available.

    My bet is to go for renewables immediately because they work and are available now – the IEA says we have 5 years. The new generation nuclear will not be safety-proven and available until the 2030’s.

    And those that are worried about nuclear should forget the brainwashing we (correctly) received 50-60 years ago. Although Helen doesn’t agree, the nuclear science has moved on since then. Read Prof Barry Brook’s blog here: and read Tom Blees’s book ‘Prescription for the Planet’.

  9. Mark Duffett

    No, I have not forgotten the Japanese experience, presuming you’re referring to the event from which no-one has died, and deaths from which will remain indistinguishable from zero. Just as I have not forgotten the French experience, in which they decarbonised over 80% of their electricity generation (while that total generation was growing several-fold) within 22 years. Current indications are that despite ‘spending the money developing renewables’, this (French proven performance) will not be the German experience, not even close.

  10. AR

    Mar’n Fer’son is just another apparatchik left over from Sussex St, circa 1970, but Duffer & others above must be willfully mendacious, given that nobody could be as stupid as they pretend to be.
    Energy hammers down on the planet, esp here in Oz, from the source of all life, the Sun. Which drives the (relatively) minor (but still orders of magnitude greater than boiling water – whether by fission or fossil fuels) energy sources of wind.
    Quite apart from that, the Goddess Moon drives the tides, eternal, unaffected by cloud or darkness.
    There is a problem with storage because those who DO know better continue to obfuscate between energy & electricity storage – the first was solved centuries ago (check out Sydney Water, nee MWSDB), the latter is still stuck in the 19thC with batteries, the ultimate tek dead end.
    Let’s look at the future – if/when the eurozone collapses, the major market (almost 5% greater than the declining erstwhile open maw of the US) for Chinese toys & geegaws, the demand for our raw materials will decline, probably significantly unless Chinese domestic consumption takes up some slack – which is taking in each others laundry.
    What does that mean for Oz – the ONLY developed, western democracy with ALL known resources and food, a young well educated population and the perfect climate.
    Let’s prepare for an independent, united nation, a lifeboat in the coming economic, social & psychological tsunami.

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