What you will find on this page: LATEST NEWS; mapped – world’s coal plants (interactive map); latest on fossil fuel subsidies; countries with carbon prices; Adani myths & facts; renewable power complexity; world’s largest CO2 importers & exporters; 100 companies 71% emissions; pollution and price report; a President Trump? China’s coal war; climate change is about power (video); history of fossil fuels (video); significant fossil fuel projects; IMF not telling all; battle of the giants; oil boom or bust (video); coal seam gas; fracking what is it (videos); pros & cons of fracking; coal in Australia regional context;
15 January 2020, The Guardian, Climate crisis fills top five places of World Economic Forum’s risks report. For first time, environment is at top of list of issues worrying world’s elite. A year of extreme weather events and mounting evidence of global heating have catapulted the climate emergency to the top of the list of issues worrying the world’s elite. The World Economic Forum’s annual risks report found that, for the first time in its 15-year history, the environment filled the top five places in the list of concerns likely to have a major impact over the next decade. Børge Brende, the president of the World Economic Forum, said: “The political landscape is polarised, sea levels are rising and climate fires are burning. This is the year when world leaders must work with all sectors of society to repair and reinvigorate our systems of cooperation, not just for short-term benefit but for tackling our deep-rooted risks.” After a month in which bushfires have raged out of control in Australia, Brende said there was a need for urgent action. “We have only a very small window and if we don’t use that window in the next 10 years we will be moving around the deckchairs on the Titanic.” The WEF report said the retreat from the multilateral approach that helped cope with the 2008 financial crisis made it more difficult to tackle shared global risks. Read more here
4 January 2020, The New York Times, Comment: Australia Is Committing Climate Suicide. BRUNY ISLAND, Tasmania — Australia today is ground zero for the climate catastrophe. Its glorious Great Barrier Reef is dying, its world-heritage rain forests are burning, its giant kelp forests have largely vanished, numerous towns have run out of water or are about to, and now the vast continent is burning on a scale never before seen. The images of the fires are a cross between “Mad Max” and “On the Beach”: thousands driven onto beaches in a dull orange haze, crowded tableaux of people and animals almost medieval in their strange muteness — half-Bruegel, half-Bosch, ringed by fire, survivors’ faces hidden behind masks and swimming goggles. Day turns to night as smoke extinguishes all light in the horrifying minutes before the red glow announces the imminence of the inferno. Flames leaping 200 feet into the air. Fire tornadoes. Terrified children at the helm of dinghies, piloting away from the flames, refugees in their own country. The fires have already burned about 14.5 million acres — an area almost as large as West Virginia, more than triple the area destroyed by the 2018 fires in California and six times the size of the 2019 fires in Amazonia. Canberra’s air on New Year’s Day was the most polluted in the world partly because of a plume of fire smoke as wide as Europe. Scientists estimate that close to half a billion native animals have been killed and fear that some species of animals and plants may have been wiped out completely. Surviving animals are abandoning their young in what is described as mass “starvation events.” At least 18 people are dead and grave fears are held about many more. Read more here
12 December 2019, The Conversation, Grattan on Friday: Climate winds blowing on Morrison from Liberal party’s left. Scott Morrison is picking up that Australia’s devastating, prolonged fires are producing a soured, anti-government mood among many in the community. It may not be entirely rational for people to turn on politicians in such situations. The actual fighting of the fires, driven primarily at state and local levels, appears to have been efficient. But the government has invited anger in terms of the broad debate by being so inactive and partisan about climate change over years. Morrison is struggling to navigate his way through these fraught days before Christmas. He’s stressing unity – “I want to reassure Australians, that the country is working together … to deal with the firefighting challenge”. He’s refusing to meet calls for a national summit or a COAG meeting on the fire effort, but he’s highlighting the federal government’s co-ordinating activities. He’s placing the most positive spin he can on what Australia is doing on climate change, but all the time emphasising Australian emissions are only a tiny portion of the global total “so any suggestion that the actions of any state or any nation with a contribution to global emissions of that order is directly linked to any weather event, whether here in Australia or anywhere else in the world, is just simply not true”… “Let’s not beat around the bush … let’s call it for what it is. These bushfires have been caused by extreme weather events, high temperatures, the worst drought in living memory – the exact type of events scientists have been warning us about for decades that would be caused by climate change,” said Kean, who is the leader at state level of the moderate faction. Read more here
25 November 2019, The Guardian. Scott Morrison and the big lie about climate change: does he think we’re that stupid? f all the horrors that might befall the burnt-out, the flooded, the cyclone-ravaged and the drought-stricken Australian this summer, perhaps none could be viewed with more dread than turning from their devastated home to see advancing on them a bubble of media in which enwombed is our prime minister, Scott Morrison, arriving, as ever, too late with a cuddle…. In Australia we are all now being treated as children, quietened Australians, most especially on the climate crisis. While the climate crisis has become Australians’ number one concern, both major parties play determinedly deaf and dumb on the issue while action and protest about the climate crisis is increasingly subject to prosecution and heavy sentencing…. In this regard, the climate crisis is a war between the voice of coal and the voice of the people. And that war is in Australia being won hands down by the fossil fuel industry. Which brings us back to that industry’s number one salesman, the prime minister, standing there in the ash in the manner of Humphrey B Bear on MDMA, as, mollied up, he pulls another victim in the early stages of PTSD into his shirt, his odour, his aura – such as it is – and holds them there perhaps just a little too long. Sometimes, at his most perplexing, he lets that overly large head loll on the victim’s shoulder and leaves it there. Prayers and thoughts naturally follow….All this theatre hides a deeply cynical calculation: that Australians will keep on buying the big lie, a lie given historic expression last Thursday morning when on national radio the prime minister declared that Australia’s unprecedented bushfires were unconnected to climate change…. And on this day, when Sydney was blanketed in bushfire smoke, when much of Victoria was declared code red, fires were burning out of control in South Australia, and “climate emergency” was declared word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries, Morrison said that “to suggest that at just 1.3% of emissions, that Australia doing something more or less would change the fire outcome this season – I don’t think that stands up to any credible scientific evidence at all”. This is an argument entirely in bad faith. Two days before saw the release of a major UN report that forecast Australia to be the sixth-largest producer of fossil fuels by 2030. Between 2005 and 2030 Australia’s extraction-based emissions from fossil fuel production will have increased by 95%. By 2040, according to the report, on current projections the world’s annual carbon emissions will be 41 gigatonnes, four times more than the maximum amount of 10 gigatonnes required to keep global heating below 1.5C. Read more here
End Latest News
March 2019, Carbon Brief Since 2000, the world has doubled its coal-fired power capacity to around 2,000 gigawatts (GW) after explosive growth in China and India. A further 236GW is being built and 336GW is planned. More recently, 227GW has closed due to a wave of retirements across the EU and US. Combined with a rapid slowdown in the number of new plants being built, this means the number of coal units operating around the world fell for the first time in 2018, Carbon Brief analysis suggests. Another 186GW is already set to retire by 2030 and 14 of the world’s 78 coal-powered countries plan a total phaseout. Meanwhile, electricity generated from coal has plateaued since 2014, so the expanding fleet is running fewer hours than ever. This erodes coal’s bottom line, as does competition from gas and renewables. Access interactive map by clicking on image. Read more here
13 May 2019, Renew Economy, Global fossil fuel subsidies reach $5.2 trillion, and $29 billion in Australia. New analysis commissioned by the International Monetary Fund has shown that global fossil fuel subsidies continue to grow, despite the growing urgency of the need to decarbonise the global economy. The working paper prepared by the IMF Fiscal Affairs Department estimated that, in 2017, global fossil fuel subsidies grew to $5.2 trillion, representing 6.5 per cent of combined global GDP. China leads all countries in the level of subsidies provided to fossil fuels, which the IMF report estimated to total $1.4 trillion in 2015. The United States followed with $649 billion in subsidies, Russia with $551 billion and the EU with $289 billion. The IMF estimates that annual energy subsidies in Australia total $29 billion, representing 2.3 per cent of Australian GDP. On a per capita basis, Australian fossil fuel subsidies amount to $1,198 per person. Australia ranked below most countries for mortality rate from pollution related illnesses, with the IMF attributing 2.6 deaths per 1,000 in Australia to local air pollution associated with fossil fuels. This is less than half the rate observed in China (5.3 deaths per 1,000) and significantly below Russia (10.0 deaths per 1,000) and the Ukraine (16.0 deaths per 1,000), where little by way of regulation exists to protect people from air pollution. The IMF found that the removal of fossil fuel subsidies would have significant economic benefits, including improved budget bottom-lines for governments. The net benefits of eliminating fossil fuel subsidies would amount to 1.7 per cent of global GDP. Read more here
20 March 2019, Desmog Global Banks, Led by JPMorgan Chase, Invested $1.9 Trillion in Fossil Fuels Since Paris Climate Pact. A report published today names the banks that have played the biggest recent role in funding fossil fuel projects, finding that since 2016, immediately following the Paris Agreement’s adoption, 33 global banks have poured $1.9 trillion into financing climate-changing projects worldwide. The top four banks that invested most heavily in fossil fuel projects are all based in the U.S., and include JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citi, and Bank of America. Royal Bank of Canada, Barclays in Europe, Japan’s MUFG, TD Bank, Scotiabank, and Mizuho make up the remainder of the top 10. This report comes as March has already brought deadly weather to places such as the American Midwest, where historic flooding has left four dead and farm losses could reach $1 billion, and Mozambique, where Tropical Cyclone Idai has devastated the East African country and President Filipe Nyusi estimated that more than a thousand people are likely dead. Both disasters have been linked to climate change. “Increased flooding is one of the clearest signals of a changing climate,” said 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben in a statement published by ThinkProgress, adding that flooded Nebraska’s “current trauma is part of everyone’s future.” Read more here
April 2019, New York Times: The idea of putting a price on carbon dioxide emissions to help tackle climate change has been slowly spreading around the globe over the past two decades. This week, Canada’s federal government took the latest step when it extended its carbon-pricing program nationwide by imposing a tax on fossil fuels in four provinces that had declined to write their own climate plans. More than 40 governments worldwide have now adopted some sort of price on carbon, either through direct taxes on fossil fuels or through cap-and-trade programs. In Britain, coal use plummeted after the introduction of a carbon tax in 2013. In the Northeastern United States, nine states have set a cap on emissions from the power sector and require companies to buy tradable pollution permits. Below is their entry for Australia. Access full article here
In 2012, Australia’s Labor Government rolled out a cap-and-trade program that essentially set a price on carbon of $23 per ton. Emissions fell nationwide under the program, but the policy faced a fierce political backlash from industry groups and voters. When the more conservative Liberal Party swept into power in 2013, it quickly repealed the program. Australia currently has a far more lenient carbon pricing program in place, called the Safeguard Mechanism, in which large industrial polluters that exceed a pollution baseline can buy carbon credits to compensate. In 2017, only a handful of companies, including several coal mines, spent about $6 millionbuying credits. Australia is currently on track to miss its overall goals for cutting emissions. Carbon pricing could still make a comeback. Australia is expected to hold federal elections in May, and the Labor Partyhas proposed bringing back a scaled-down version of cap-and-trade for the nation’s largest polluters. Still, carbon pricing remains a contentious issue in the country, which has been hit hard by global warming but is also the world’s biggest exporter of coal.
If you want a concise but precise summary of the most talked about myths and facts about the Adani proposal access this site: The Myths About Adani Jobs
12 July 2017, The Guardian, Commentators who don’t understand the grid should butt out of the battery debate. Criticising South Australia’s battery for not meeting peak demand is akin to raging at your smartphone because it can’t send a fax. he Australian electricity grid’s most recently announced extremity is a gargantuan battery system in South Australia, designed to bolster grid security. The facility has been met mostly with a warm welcome, interspersed with weird, interesting and tense hostility. Buried in the mix of reactions are clues about how a new phase of grid transition might play out, as we switch from the rapid build out of zero carbon power sources to building and integrating them into a system designed for fossil fuels.Before we interrogate the misunderstandings of South Australia’s new battery, we have to step back and look at the system as a single, electric organism. Read More here
5 July 2017, Carbon Brief, Mapped: The world’s largest CO2 importers and exporters. Around 22% of global CO2 emissions stem from the production of goods that are, ultimately, consumed in a different country. However, traditional inventories do not include emissions associated with imported goods. While the US and many European countries have reduced their domestic emissions over recent decades, some of this reduction has been offset by increasing imports from countries, such as China, that have a more carbon-intensive energy mix.Even though domestic emissions have fallen 27% in the UK between 1990 and 2014, once CO2 imports from trade are considered this drops to only an 11% reduction. Similarly, a 9% increase in domestic US emissions since 1990 turns out to be a 17% increase when trade is included. Including emissions outsourced to other countries provides a more complete picture of the true responsibility associated with a country’s actions. It also accounts for carbon transfers associated with the decline of the manufacturing sector in the developed world. Carbon Brief has mapped out exports and imports of CO2 globally, and examines how including them changes countries’ national CO2 emissions. Read More here
Global emission transfers between countries in 2004 in millions of tonnes of CO2 (MtCO2), taken from Figure 1 in Davis and Caldeira 2010.
10 July 2017, EcoWatch, New research claims that just 100 fossil fuel producers are to blame for 71 percent of industrial greenhouse gases since 1988, the year human-induced climate change was officially recognized through the establishment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Despite the landmark establishment, the oil, coal and gas industry has expanded significantly and has become even more carbon-intensive since 1988, according the 2017 Carbon Majors report from the environmental not-for-profit CDP. Here are the top 10 greenhouse gas emitters since 1988 followed by the percentage of global industrial greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Carbon Majors report:
- 1. China (Coal), 14.3%
- 2. Saudi Arabian Oil Company (Aramco), 4.5%
- 3. Gazprom OAO, 3.9%
- 4. National Iranian Oil Co, 2.3%
- 5. ExxonMobil Corp, 2.0%
- 6. Coal India, 1.9%
- 7. Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex), 1.9%
- 8. Russia (Coal), 1.9%
- 9. Royal Dutch Shell PLC, 1.7%
- 10. China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC), 1.6%
19 April 2017, Climate Council Report: Pollution and Price: The Cost of Investing in Gas.
Investing in more gas will lock in high electricity prices and pollution for decades to come. Our new report, ‘Pollution and Price: The cost of investing in gas,’ shows that tackling climate change and protecting Australians from worsening extreme weather requires our electricity system to produce zero emissions before 2050. Gas is not sufficiently less polluting than coal to garner any climate benefit. Furthermore, greater reliance on gas will drive higher power prices. While renewable energy can provide a secure, affordable alternative to new fossil fuels. Access Report here
3 August 2016, Jeremy Leggett, State of The Transition, July 2016: Might the fossil fuel industries implode faster than the clean energy industries can grow to replace them? In a memorable recent statement, some of Germany’s top scientists argued that “controlled implosion of fossil industries and explosive renewables development” can deliver the targets in the Paris agreement on climate change. Taking this premise at face value, and setting aside the thought that other factors might also be needed, the course of events in July does not offer much hope that “controlled” is a word easily applicable to the array of existential problems currently battering the energy incumbency. And while the clean energy industries continue to make progress, they are clearly not “exploding” as fast as they could. Might it be that the ongoing implosion of fossil fuel industries will happen much faster than the necessarily explosive transition to solutions? Let me start with coal. The prospects for this bankruptcy-strewn industry grew worse in July. It increasing looks as though the Chinese government’s recent retreat from coal is biting, and that the peak of Chinese coal production in 2014 is real. Prof Nick Stern and others, including Chinese collaborators, argued that we are witnessing “a turning point in the climate change battle” in this development. The latest Chinese announcement is a ban on construction of many coal projects until 2018. The air pollution driving much of their retreat is slow to abate. The same is true of India.NASA data this month showed toxic air choking a vast swathe of the subcontinent, most of it deriving from fossil fuel combustion. Facing all this, even Deutsche Bank, the most recalcitrant of the coal funders, pulled back from deals in the coal mining sector. Read More here
CSAS Earth Institute, Columbia University: Several years ago Bill McKibben contacted Dr. Hansen to ask for help in providing the scientific basis for a CO2 target of 450 ppm, as he was planning to form an organization 450.org. Dr. Hansen asked Bill to hold off while he worked on a relevant paper with several of the leading experts on the global carbon cycle and global climate. After a few months the team provided results to McKibben and within a year published a monumental paper (Target atmospheric CO2:Where should humanity aim?). Dr. Hansen and team concluded that maintaining a long-term CO2 level of 450 ppm would have highly deleterious impacts, and that a more appropriate long-term goal was 350 ppm of CO2. Subsequent fundamental work on Earth’s energy imbalance (Earth’s energy imbalance and implications) confirmed the accuracy of that estimate, inspiring McKibben to form 350.org instead of 450.org. Read More here
6 March 2016, Vox, The most important global warming story over the past two years has arguably been China’s struggle to suppress its once-insatiable appetite for coal. And lately, those efforts have begun paying off. Recent data suggests that China’s carbon dioxide emissions fell in 2015, driven by a sharp drop in coal use. There’s always tons of uncertainty with China’s energy stats (a major caveat to keep in mind throughout this post), but the recent shift does look significant: As I’ve written before, a sluggish economy can explain part of this dip — but not all. China is making a long-term transition away from heavy industry. The central government is trying to clamp down on air pollution and setting aggressive targets for clean energy sources like nuclear, hydro, wind, and solar. There’s a major push to green the economy and hit peak CO2 emissions by (or before) 2030. And yet … with China, nothing’s ever that simple. Over the past year, as a recent reportfrom Greenpeace details, some of China’s regulatory agencies have also approved permits for 210 brand-new coal plants across the country — which, if built, would make it harder for the country to meet its climate targets. Many of these plants are being urged on by coal-mining provinces that have been hit hard economically of late. Read More here
For more background on what is happening with the oil and gas “boom” of USA visit this site Shale Bubble. Is Australia going down the same path or wanting to?
14 December 2015, Post Carbon Institute: COP21 in Paris is over. Now it’s back to the hard work of fighting for, and implementing, the energy transition. We all know that the transition away from fossil fuels is key to maintaining a livable planet. Several organizations have formulated proposals for transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy; some of those proposals focus on the national level, some the state level, while a few look at the global challenge. David Fridley (staff scientist of the energy analysis program at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory) and I have been working for the past few months to analyze and assess many of those proposals, and to dig deeper into energy transition issues—particularly how our use of energy will need to adapt in a ~100 percent renewable future. We have a book in the works, titled Our Renewable Future, that examines the adjustments society will have to make in the transition to new energy sources. We started this project with some general understanding of the likely constraints and opportunities in this transition; nevertheless, researching and writing Our Renewable Future has been a journey of discovery. Along the way, we identified not only technical issues requiring more attention, but also important implications for advocacy and policy. What follows is a short summary—tailored mostly to the United States—of what we’ve learned, along with some recommendations. Access full report here
1. We really need a plan; no, lots of them: Germany has arguably accomplished more toward the transition than any other nation largely because it has a plan—the Energiewende. This plan targets a 60 percent reduction in all fossil fuel use (not just in the electricity sector) by 2050, achieving a 50 percent cut in overall energy use through efficiency in power generation (fossil fueled power plants entail huge losses), buildings, and transport. It’s not a perfect plan, in that it really should aim higher than 60 percent. But it’s better than nothing, and the effort is off to a good start. Although the United States has a stated goal of generating 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030, it does not have an equivalent official plan. Without it, we are at a significant disadvantage…….
Level One: The “easy” stuff: Nearly everyone agrees that the easiest way to kick-start the transition would be to replace coal with solar and wind power for electricity generation. That would require building lots of panels and turbines while regulating coal out of existence. Distributed generation and storage (rooftop solar panels with home- or business-scale battery packs) will help. Replacing natural gas will be harder, because gas-fired “peaking” plants are often used to buffer the intermittency of industrial-scale wind and solar inputs to the grid (see Level Two)…….
Level Two: The harder stuff: Solar and wind technologies have a drawback: they provide energy intermittently. When they become dominant within our overall energy mix, we will have to accommodate that intermittency in various ways. We’ll need substantial amounts of grid-level energy storage as well as a major grid overhaul to get the electricity sector to 80 percent renewables (thereby replacing natural gas in electricity generation). We’ll also need to start timing our energy usage to better coincide with the availability of sunlight and wind energy. That in itself will present both technological and behavioral hurdles…….
Level Three: The really hard stuff: Doing away with the last 20 percent of our current fossil fuel consumption is going to take still more time, research, and investment—as well as much more behavioral adaptation. Just one example: we currently use enormous amounts of cement for all kinds of construction activities. Cement making requires high heat, which could theoretically be supplied by sunlight, electricity, or hydrogen—but that will entail a nearly complete redesign of the process.…..
2. It’s not all about solar and wind: These two energy resources have been the subjects of most of the discussion surrounding the renewable energy transition. Prices are falling, rates of installation are high, and there is a large potential for further growth. But, with a small number of exceptions, hydropower continues to serve as the largest source of renewable electricity.The inherent intermittency of wind and solar power will pose increasing challenges as percentage levels of penetration into overall energy markets increase. Other renewable energy sources—hydropower, geothermal, and biomass—can more readily supply controllable baseload power, but they have much less opportunity for growth….
3. We must begin pre-adapting to less energy: It is unclear how much energy will be available to society at the end of the transition: there are many variables (including rates of investment and the capabilities of renewable energy technology without fossil fuels to back them up and to power their manufacture, at least in the early stages). Nevertheless, given all the challenges involved, it would be prudent to assume that people in wealthy industrialized countries will have less energy (even taking into account efficiencies in power generation and energy usage) than they would otherwise have, assuming a continuation of historic growth trends…..
4. Consumerism is a problem, not a solution: Current policy makers see increased buying and discarding of industrial products as a solution to the problem of stagnating economies. With nearly 70 percent of the United States economy tied to consumer spending, it is easy to see why consumption is encouraged. Historically, the form of social and economic order known as consumerism largely emerged as a response to industrial overproduction—one of the causes of the Great Depression—which in turn resulted from an abundant availability of cheap fossil energy. Before and especially after the Depression and World War II, the advertising and consumer credit industries grew dramatically as a means of stoking product purchases, and politicians of all political persuasions joined the chorus urging citizens to think of themselves as “consumers,” and to take their new job description to heart…..
5. Population growth makes everything harder: A discussion of population might seem off-topic. But if energy and materials (which represent embodied energy) are likely to be more scarce in the decades ahead of us, population growth will mean even less consumption per capita. And global population is indeed growing: on a net basis (births minus deaths) we are currently adding 82 million humans to the rolls each year, a larger number than at any time in the past, even if the rate of growth is slowing……
6. Fossil fuels are too valuable to allocate solely by the market: Our analysis suggests that industrial societies will need to keep using fossil fuels for some applications until the very final stages of the energy transition—and possibly beyond, for non-energy purposes. Crucially, we will need to use fossil fuels (for the time being, anyway) for industrial processes and transportation needed to build and install renewable energy systems.We will also need to continue using fossil fuels in agriculture, manufacturing, and general transportation, until robust renewable energy-based technologies are available. This implies several problems…..
7. Equity within and between nations has to be addressed: The ability to harness energy creates wealth and confers social power. With the advent of fossil fuels came a rush of wealth and power such as the world had never before seen. Naturally, humanitarians saw this as an opportunity to spread wealth and power around so as to lift all of humanity above drudgery, eliminate hunger, and even put an end to war. And to a large degree that opportunity has been seized: overall, child mortality rates are down, life expectancy is up, infectious diseases are on the decline, hunger has been reduced (even as population has dramatically grown), and mortality from violence has declined since the end of World War II…..
8. Everything is connected: Throughout the energy transition, great attention will have to be given to the interdependent linkages and supply chains connecting various sectors (communications, mining, and transport knit together most of what we do in industrial societies). Some links in supply chains will be hard to substitute, and chains can be brittle: a problem with even one link can imperil the entire chain. This is the modern manifestation of the old nursery rhyme, “for the want of a nail…the kingdom was lost.”…..
9. This is not plug-and-play; it is civilization reboot: Energy transitions change everything. From a public relations standpoint, it may be helpful to give politicians or the general public the impression that life will go on as before while we unplug coal power plants and plug in solar panels, but the reality will probably be quite different. During historic energy transitions, economies and political systems underwent profound metamorphoses. There is no reason to suppose that it will be different this time around. If this is done right, the changes that must take place will bring with them opportunities for societal improvement and the greater wellbeing of everyone—including the rest of the biosphere……
The Guardian as part of their “Keep it in the Ground” campaign are producing a series on global “carbon bombs”. The carbon bombs are 14 giant proposed fossil fuel projects around the world that, if they go ahead, will lead to the emission of 6.3 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide a year by 2020. The stories will be listed below as they are published.
FIRST STORY – Galilee Basin Australia: Their Australia environment specialist Oliver Milman visits the Galilee basin in Queensland. The story unfolds….The plans here are truly colossal. Developers hope to establish a series of mines to exploit a deposit of 247,000 sq km (95,400 sq miles) of coal, a land mass the size of Britain. If the complex is fully developed, greenhouse gas emissions from the burned coal would top 700m tonnes a year. That would mean a CO2 output just behind Germany. There are also concerns that project will also impact the Great Barrier Reef because of the risks posed by increasing shipping to export the coal. We have established that the Australian government has engaged in a frantic diplomatic push to avoid the Great Barrier Reef being listed as “in danger” by the UN. Preventing the Galilee basin coal mines and other projects from going ahead is the front line of efforts to Keep it in the Ground and prevent dangerous climate change. Read More here
SECOND STORY – Schlumberger: Is a company with a huge £114m investment from the Wellcome Trust. The Gates Foundation Trust also holds a shareholding of more than $3m in the company. Schlumberger is ubiquitous in fossil fuel operations across the world, it employs more than 100,000 people finding, scoping, and drilling as much oil and gas as possible from 85 countries across the world. With revenues of $48bn (£30bn) a year and a valuation in excess of $116bn (£75bn), it has more staff than Google, turns over more than Goldman Sachs, and is worth more than McDonald’s – yet you won’t have heard of it. Meet the oil world’s most secretive operator. Read More here
THIRD STORY – Peabody: The truth behind Peabody’s campaign to rebrand coal as a poverty cure. The world’s largest privately-held coal company has a long history of attacking climate science. Now it is working to change the conversation from a climate crisis to one of global poverty – with coal as the solution….. Peabody’s links to the parallel universe of the climate denial movement stretch back to the early 1990s when Fred Palmer, who is now Peabody’s main lobbyist as vice-president of government affairs, founded the Greening Earth Society, an industry front group. It actively promoted the notion that climate change was a net positive, with benefits for plants and public health. Read More here
FOURTH STORY – Shell: The real story behind Shell’s climate change rhetoric. An investigation into the Shell business shows that under its forecasts the Earth’s temperature will rise nearly twice as much as the 2C threshold for dangerous climate change, and that the firm’s own greenhouse gas emissions are still rising and will rocket further after the £47bn acquisition of rival BG Group. Further, Shell’s Canadian tar sands, Brazilian, Nigerian and US Gulf deep-water projects are the most likely to be rendered worthless by a global clampdown on high carbon-emitting exploration projects, analyses find. In addition, the company’s growth is becoming reliant on drilling wells (some deeper than the one that caused BP’s Gulf blowout) and it is a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a political organisation that has opposed policies to address climate change. Read More here
22 May 2015, Energy Post: Why Shell can’t quite the Arctic: Despite the damage to its reputation, Shell insists on continuing its controversial Arctic campaign. The company says that the world needs the oil and gas resources of the Arctic. But according to Energy Post’s editor-in-chief Karel Beckman, it’s really Shell itself that needs those resources. Shell’s annual shareholders meeting last Tuesday (19 May) in The Hague seemed almost like a climate conference, some observers reported. Activist shareholders lined up to ask Shell to embrace the energy transition. Read More here
29 May 2015, The Guardian, Shell’s CEO, Ben Van Beurden, has agreed to be grilled by the Guardian on everything from divestment to economics and responsibility – but will he give some unguarded answers? In this extended interview, the Guardian’s editor in chief, Alan Rusbridger, head of environment Damian Carrington and energy editor Terry Macalister put all the questions you’ve wanted to ask to the head of Shell. Why do they continue to invest in new ways to take oil and gas out of the ground when they already have more than they can possibly burn? To listen to the interview go here
FIFTH STORY – BP: Revealed: BP’s close ties with the UK government. Documents show the extent of BP’s influence on government policy and how their intimate relationship is at odds with UK commitments to reduce carbon emissions. For the oil multinational BP, it was a historic moment – the signing of a joint venture to exploit the vast oil and gas reserves of Russia’s Arctic shelf with the Russian energy giant Rosneft. The deal was worth £10bn in share swaps. The chief executive of Rosneft, Igor Sechin – then Russian deputy prime minister, key Putin ally and one of the most forbidding characters in the world of oil – would be coming to London to seal the agreement. Rosneft is majority owned by the Russian state, and BP urgently needed a senior British government figure to mark the alliance. Read More here
SIXTH STORY – Tar Sands Alberta: The tar sands here are one of the single biggest source sites of the carbon pollution that is choking the planet. Mine out all the thick black petroleum, as the Canadian government proposes, ship it out by proposed pipelines such as the Keystone XL and oil trains, and abandon all hope of avoiding a climate catastrophe. Within a 25-mile radius of Fort McKay, 21 projects with a capacity of up to 3.3m barrels a day have been approved or are in production. Another 20 with a combined capacity of about 1.6m barrels a day are in the planning stage, according to Fort McKay First Nation. Locals can hear, smell, feel and taste the evidence of extraction, even inside their homes. On bad days, it smells like cat piss, according to Cece Fitzpatrick. Read More here
SEVENTH STORY – China: Chinese miners last year dug up 3.87bn tonnes of coal, more than enough to keep all four of the next largest users – the United States, India, the European Union and Russia – supplied for a year. The country is grappling with the direct costs of that coal, in miners’ lives, crippling air pollution, expanding deserts and “environmental refugees”. Desire for change contends with fears that cutting back on familiar technology could dent employment or slow growth, and efforts to cut consumption do not always mean a clampdown on mining….Although it overtook the US nearly a decade ago to become the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, per person it still produces barely a third as much carbon dioxide as the US and half Russian levels.
The problem for those fighting to keep global warming within 2C though, is that Chinese demand has expanded so fast that anything short of a dramatic cut in coal use – something no one is even advocating – leaves terrifying amounts of carbon dioxide pumping into the atmosphere. Read More here
EIGHTH STORY – Arctic: A last great unprotected wilderness, safe haven for endangered species and home to native people whose subsistence lifestyle has survived in harmony with nature for thousands of years. It is here that Shell plans to drill for oil, pulling the detonator on a carbon bomb which eventually could spray 150bn tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The irony is that the drilling is only possible because manmade climate change is already causing this region to grow warmer twice as fast as the rest of the planet. The melting ice makes these huge reserves of oil and gas more accessible. It could set major oil companies against each other but also superpower against superpower as they scramble to exploit the last untapped giant reserves in a part of the world where territorial boundaries remain unclear. No wonder some fear a new cold war. Read More here
25 May 2015, Energy Post:The IMF just destroyed the main argument against clean energy. A new report by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) finds that energy (fossil fuel) subsidies are “big and rising”. At the presentation of the report, Vitor Gaspar, Director Fiscal Affairs Department at the IMF, noted that most subsidies go to coal and said the numbers were “shocking”. He added that “eliminating energy subsidies can generate substantial environmental, fiscal and welfare benefits”. Elias Hinckley, strategic adviser at the US law firm Sullivan and Worcester, argues that the IMF report can “re-write the fundamentals of the discussion about our energy future”. Read More here
Adding to the story: 21 May 2015, Richard Heinberg’s Museletter 276: IMF Tells a Half-Truth: This month’s Museletter starts out with my take on the contradictions behind the IMF’s new exposé on the extent of Global Energy Subsidies. Read More here
Carbon Tracker Initiative – A team of financial, energy and legal experts with a ground breaking approach to limiting future greenhouse gas emissions. They are doing this using a new language and framework that approaches climate change not as something happening “out there” but something that will affect everyone financially. Resources (includes Carbon Reporting links); News; Reports; Blog
The Contest: lines being drawn
The CEOs of the European oil giants Shell, BP, Total, Statoil, Eni and BG Group, with a combined revenue of $US1.4 trillion – although notably not the US giants Chevron and Exxon – sent letters last Friday to the head of the UN climate negotiations, Christiana Figueres, and Laurent Fabius, France’s Foreign Affairs and International Development Minister who will also lead the Paris climate talks later this year. Read More here
5 June 2015, Energy Post, IEA sees “harsh reality” for gas industry: From a Golden Age of Gas to a “harsh reality” in just a few years – the 2015 “Gas medium-term market report“ released by the International Energy Agency (IEA) on 4 June in Paris sounded a warning note to anyone who believes gas is bound to conquer the world. That can still happen – but only if gas drastically improves its competitiveness, said the IEA. The IEA’s Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven and her team presented the IEA’s annual gas market report in the lion’s den, at the World Gas Conference in Paris where the prevailing mood was one of optimism about the prospects of gas. The IEA, which itself introduced the notion of a ‘Golden Age of Gas’ some years ago, now notes that the future is still quite uncertain. Above all, the most important growth market, Asia, can no longer be counted on as a certainty, said Van der Hoeven: “The belief that Asia will take whatever quantity of gas at whatever price is no longer a given.” Read More here
21 January 2015, Post Carbon Institute (Richard Heinberg) Our Renewable Future, Or, What I’ve Learned in 12 Years Writing about Energy. Folks who pay attention to energy and climate issues are regularly treated to two competing depictions of society’s energy options.* On one hand, the fossil fuel industry claims that its products deliver unique economic benefits, and that giving up coal, oil, and natural gas in favor of renewable energy sources like solar and wind will entail sacrifice and suffering (this gives a flavor of their argument). Saving the climate may not be worth the trouble, they say, unless we can find affordable ways to capture and sequester carbon as we continue burning fossil fuels. On the other hand, at least some renewable energy proponents tell us there is plenty of wind and sun, the fuel is free, and the only thing standing between us and a climate-protected world of plentiful, sustainable, “green” energy, jobs, and economic growth is the political clout of the coal, oil, and gas industries (here is a taste of that line of thought). Which message is right? Will our energy future be fueled by fossils (with or without carbon capture technology), or powered by abundant, renewable wind and sunlight? Does the truth lie somewhere between these extremes—that is, does an “all of the above” energy future await us? Or is our energy destiny located in a Terra Incognita that neither fossil fuel promoters nor renewable energy advocates talk much about? As maddening as it may be, the latter conclusion may be the one best supported by the facts. If that uncharted land had a motto, it might be, “How we use energy is as important as how we get it.” Read more here
REALITY CHECK: Only about 22% of global energy is consumed in the form of electrical power. Our biggest single energy source is oil, which fuels nearly all transportation. Transport is central to trade, which in turn is the beating heart of the global market economy. Oil also fuels the agricultural sector, and eating is fairly important to most of us. Of the three main fossil fuels, oil is showing the most immediate signs of depletion, and renewable options for replacing it are fairly dismal.
12 March 2013, SBS, Factbox: Here are some key facts on coal seam gas: how big is it in Australia and what are its potential environmental impacts?
WHAT IS COAL SEAM GAS? Coal seam gas is methane formed from the decay of organic matter over time, formed in the same way as coal and oil. Methane is held within the coal seam by water pressure in the seam. Extracting the gas requires depressurising the coal seam by removing the water, and may include other techniques to increase the permeability of the seam.
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CSG AND SHALE GAS
Shale gas and coal seam gas are often confused one with one another. Shale gas is methane held within shale layers, rather than a coal seam. Shale is much harder than coal and always requires fracturing (‘fracking’) to allow the gas to flow. There is currently no shale gas production in Australia, although there are large shale gas reserves in SA, the NT and WA. In the US, shale gas supplies 15 per cent of gas consumption.
WHAT’S DRIVING THE DEMAND OF CSG IN AUSTRALIA? CSG accounts for 27 per cent of Australian gas reserves: it is set to supply at least 30 per cent of the whole nation’s domestic market by 2030, and 50 per cent of gas demand in eastern Australia. All CSG reserves are in NSW and Queensland. In the ‘Eastern Gas Market’ (NSW, Queensland, Victoria, SA, Tasmania), CSG makes up 78 per cent of gas reserves.
According to the Australian Energy Regulator, assuming that gas use keeps increasing at the current rate of 4 per cent per year until 2025, conventional gas in the Eastern Gas Market will last for nine years, while CSG will last for 27 years. As shown in this ABARE map, the Eastern Gas Market is not connected to the Western Market (WA) and the Northern Market (NT) by pipelines.
CSG EXTRACTION TECHNIQUES: Extracting CSG involves drilling a vertical well down to the coal seam and pumping out the water held in the seam. This reduces the pressure in the coal seam and allows the gas to be released. Horizontal or angled wells can also be drilled to reach the coal seam. If the flow of gas is insufficient, the coal seam gas may be fractured (‘fracked’) to increase the permeability of the coal and allow the gas to flow more freely. Read More here
Source: Fracking explained: opportunity or danger: Kurz Gesagt – In a Nutshell
Source: Sierra Club Beyond Natural Gas Campaign
The following video is how the oil/gas industry in the US presents fracking Source: Western Energy Alliance. Western Energy Alliance focuses on federal legislative, regulatory, environmental, public lands and other policy issues. They represent the voice of the Western oil and natural gas industry in a variety of ways.
27 May 2015, Yale Climate Connections, Pros and Cons of Fracking: 5 Key Issues, Have you been asked if you support or oppose fracking? A brief guide to sorting out the plusses and minuses of key fracking issues. There’s an issue where the underlying science remains a political football, and scientists are regularly challenged and called out personally. Where energy needs and short-term economic growth are set against our children’s health and future. Where the consequences of bad, short-sighted decisions may be borne primarily by a small subset of under-served and undeserving persons. And where the very descriptive terms in the debate are radioactive, words spun as epithets. We’re not talking here about global warming, and “deniers” versus “warmists.” We’re talking about the game-changing new set of unconventional oil and gas extraction technologies and techniques collectively known as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.
July 2015, Post Carbon Institute: Shale Gas Reality Check: Revisiting the U.S. Department of Energy Play-by-Play Forecasts through 2040 from Annual Energy Outlook 2015: In October 2014, Post Carbon Institute published the results of what likely remains the most thorough independent analysis of U.S. shale gas and tight oil production ever conducted. The process of drilling for shale gas and tight oil is known colloquially as “fracking” and has drawn a great deal of controversy—considered by some as an energy revolution and others as an environmental and human health catastrophe. Much of the cost-benefit debate over fracking has come down to the perception of just how much domestic oil and gas it can produce and at what cost. To answer this question, policymakers, the media, and the general public have typically turned to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (EIA), which every year publishes its Annual Energy Outlook (AEO).
In Drilling Deeper, PCI Fellow David Hughes took a hard look at the EIA’s AEO2014 and found that its projections for future production and prices suffered from a worrisome level of optimism. This lead us and others to raise important questions about the wisdom of some energy policies and infrastructure projects (for example, the approval of Liquified Natural Gas export terminals and the lifting of the crude oil export ban) that have been pursued largely on the basis of the EIA’s rosy forecasts. Recently, the EIA released its Annual Energy Outlook 2015 and so we asked David Hughes to see how the EIA’s projections and assumptions have changed over the last year, and to assess the AEO2015 against both Drilling Deeper and up-to-date production data from key shale gas and tight oil plays. What follows are Hughes’s findings regarding shale gas. The AEO2015’s tight oil projections will be reviewed in early September 2015. Read PCI conclusions here
11 August 2015, The Conversation, What does Australia’s new 2030 climate target mean for the local coal industry? Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has promised that his government’s new 2030 climate target will be good for the environment, good for jobs and good for protecting the nation’s coal industry. After announcing Australia would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2030, the prime minister was asked about what impact that could have on the local coal industry. He replied:
We are not assuming a massive close-down of coal. In fact, one of the things that will benefit the world in the years and decades to come is if there is a greater use of Australian coal, because high-quality Australian coal as opposed to low-quality local coal is going to help other countries to, if not reduce their emissions, certainly reduce their emissions intensity. One of the reasons why China is forecast to substantially reduce its intensity, if not its overall emissions, is because it is forecast to rely increasingly on coal from countries such as Australia…We certainly aren’t forecasting the demise of coal. Our policy doesn’t depend upon the demise of coal. In fact, the only way to protect the coal industry is to go with the sorts of policies that we have. That’s why I think our policies are not only good for the environment but very good for jobs.
Australia currently gets three-quarters of its electricity from burning coal – but most of the nation’s coal production, particularly from New South Wales and Queensland mines, is for global exports. The Conversation asked a panel of energy experts for their forecasts for Australian coal in the light of the 2030 target and the upcoming climate talks in Paris. (You can also read why experts have warned Australia’s post-2020 climate target isn’t enough to stop 2C warming.) Read More here
23 June 2015, Climate Council’s new report reveals that if all of the Galilee Basin coal was burned, an estimated 705 million tonnes of CO2 would be released each year – more than 1.3 times Australia’s current annual emissions. Tackling climate change effectively means that existing coal mines will need to be retired before they are exploited fully and new mines cannot be built. This is particularly relevant for Australia as plans are on the table to open up the Galilee Basin, and expand coal mining operations in the NSW Upper Hunter Valley and in the Liverpool Plains, a region described as the food bowl of Australia. Moving away from fossil fuels means that new energy sources, like solar and wind, must come online rapidly. Click on image to access report:
16 June 2015, The Conversation, Talk of the demise of Australian coal production is largely political, not economic. The problem for the countries that presently mine and burn coal is that there are currently few low cost alternatives. Most countries in the world today are focused on trying to ensure their citizens have access to electrical power. This is difficult without low cost base load electricity production and at present, coal provides an affordable solution. As at the end of 2012 there were 75 countries producing coal. These countries ranged from Nepal with production of 17,640 short tons in 2012, through to China with production of 4.017 billion tonnes in the same year. It’s worth noting that Australia was ranked 5th (after China, the United States, India and Indonesia) with coal production of 463 million tonnes in 2012. While these rankings move around a little over time there is no doubt Australia is still a major player in the market for coal.
Regional coal production
If you focus on regional coal production since 1980 (see chart above), it is clear production in most regions is levelling out or falling except for Asia and Oceania. When you break this group down there are four major producers involved: China, India, Indonesia and Australia, with a large number of other countries producing considerably less. This is evident in the chart below. Coal production has increased in each of these countries since 1980 though the rate of increase since 2000 is greatest for China.
Coal production by China, India, Indonesia and Australia
While Australia’s coal production is important, it is not the largest coal producer. There are a number other countries in the world that produce very large amounts of coal. If Australia were to cease production of its coal there would be an initial increase in world prices. Nevertheless, it is expected that other producers would fill the gap, particularly given the more recent falls in demand for coal. Read More here
Map of existing and potential carbon pricing schemes. Source: World Bank Carbon Pricing Watch 2015
- The report says in 2015, carbon pricing covered around 12% of the world’s emissions.
- The actual volume of carbon that was covered by a carbon price in 2015 rose slightly from the previous year, from almost 6 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent up to 7 gigatonnes, the World Bank report says.
- Over the last decade, the picture has changed more dramatically, as the graph below shows. In 2005, only 4% of the world’s annual greenhouse gas emissions were priced, and almost all of this was a result of the EU’s newly launched emissions trading system (EU ETS). Read More here