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Initiative to convert CO2 into solid carbonates aims to produce building materials on commercial scale by 2020
An Australian pilot project capturing carbon emissions and storing them in building materials aims to have a full-scale production plant by 2020.
Mineral Carbonation International, an Australian company developing carbon-utilisation technology will officially launch its technology and research program at the Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources on Friday.Continue reading...
As interior secretary recommends boundary changes to Donald Trump, three national monuments are reportedly at risk of being reduced in size
In April, Donald Trump ordered a sweeping review of 27 national monuments, from Maine to Oregon. The monuments were set aside over the last three decades by Bill Clinton, George W Bush, and Barack Obama. Trump’s review sought to explore whether the protected land should be opened up to create economic opportunities for industries such as oil, gas, mining and timber.Continue reading...
Few topics have attracted as much political attention in Australia over the past decade as emissions reduction policy.
Amid mounting concern over electricity price increases across Australia and coinciding with blackouts in South Australia and near-misses in New South Wales, the Australian government asked Chief Scientist Alan Finkel to provide a blueprint for reform of the electricity industry, in a context in which emissions reduction policy was an underlying drumbeat.
In a new poll of the ESA Monash Forum of leading economists, a majority said that Finkel’s suggested Clean Energy Target was not necessarily a better option than previously suggested policies such as an emissions trading scheme. But many added that doing nothing would be worse still.
The Finkel Review’s terms of reference explicitly precluded it from advising on economy-wide emissions reduction policy, and implicitly required it also to reject emission reduction policies such as an emissions tax or cap and trade scheme.
One of the Finkel Review’s major recommendations was a Clean Energy Target (CET). This is effectively an extension of the existing Renewable Energy Target to cover power generation which has a greenhouse gas emissions intensity below a defined hurdle. Such generation can sell certificates which electricity retailers (and directly connected large customers) will be required to buy.
The ESA Monash Forum panel was asked to consider whether this approach was “preferable” to an emission tax or cap and trade scheme. As usual, responses could range from strong disagreement to strong agreement with an option to neither agree nor disagree. Twenty-five members of the 53-member panel voted, and most added commentary to their response – you can see a summary of their verdicts below, and their detailed comments at the end of this article.
A headline result from the survey is that a large majority of the panel does not think the CET is preferable to a tax or cap and trade scheme. None strongly agreed that the CET was preferable, whereas 16 either disagreed or strongly disagreed, and four agreed.
Of the four who agreed, three provided commentary to their response. Stephen King preferred the CET on the grounds of its ease of implementation but otherwise would have preferred a tax or cap and trade scheme. Michael Knox agreed on the basis that the CET was preferable to the existing Renewable Energy Target. Harry Bloch unconditionally endorsed the CET.
Of the five who neither agreed nor disagreed, three commented and two of them (Paul Frijters and John Quiggin) said there was not much to distinguish a CET from a tax or cap and trade scheme. Warwick McKibbin, who disagreed with the proposition, nonetheless also suggested that the CET, tax and cap and trade scheme were comparably effective if applied only to the electricity sector.
However, closer examination of the comments suggests much greater sympathy with Finkel’s CET recommendation than the bare numbers indicate. Even for those who strongly disagreed that the CET was preferable, none suggested that proceeding with a CET would be worse than doing nothing. But eight (Stephen King, Harry Bloch, Alison Booth, Saul Eslake, Julie Toth, Flavio Menezes, Margaret Nowak and John Quiggin) commented that proceeding with the CET would be better than doing nothing. Interestingly none of these eight explained why they thought doing something was better than doing nothing. Does it reflect a desire for greater investment certainty or a conviction that reducing emissions from electricity production in Australia is important?
Seven respondents (Stephen King, Alison Booth, Saul Eslake, Julie Toth, Gigi Foster, Lin Crase and John Quiggin) alluded to the political constraints affecting the choice, of which several drew attention to Finkel’s own observations. None of these seven suggested that the political constraint invalidated proceeding with the CET.
Of the 19 economists who provided comments on their response, 16 thought a tax or cap and trade scheme better than a CET. Numbers were equally drawn (three each) as to whether a tax or cap and trade was better than the other, with the remaining 10 invariant between a tax or cap and trade.
My overall impression is that in judging Dr Finkel’s CET recommendation, most of the panel might agree with the proposition that the “the perfect is the enemy of the roughly acceptable”. I surmise that in a decade past, many members of the panel would have held out for greater perfection, but now they think prevarication is more cost than benefit, and it is better to move on and make the best of the cards that have been dealt.
In emissions reduction policy the mainstream advice from Australia’s economists has not been persuasive. But this is hardly unique to Australia, as the pervasiveness of regulatory approaches in other countries shows. Perhaps an unavoidably compromised policy that is nonetheless well executed may be better than a brilliant policy that is poorly executed. Even if they could not have been more persuasive in design, Australia’s economists should still have much that is useful to contribute in execution. Hopefully more can be drawn into it.
Read the panel’s full responses below:
Bruce Mountain does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.
Special report: India and China are shifting away from coal imports and coal-fired power while a mega-mine is planned for Queensland. Where does this leave coal in Australia?
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The Paris-based International Energy Agency was born in a crisis. In the wake of the 1973 oil shock, as Arab petroleum producers withheld supply from countries that supported Israel in the Yom Kippur war, the then US secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, called on the OECD to set up a new body to ensure its members would always have the reliable and affordable energy they needed.
Over time, as the agency has expanded its focus to map broader energy trends, it has sometimes faced accusations of conservatism – that it has underestimated the uptake of renewable energy, and has been overly bullish about the future of fossil fuels. But last month it released a report that pointed to a rupture more far reaching than the 70s oil embargo.Continue reading...
We want to hear from people who monitor air quality data and inspect other forms of pollution locally. Get in touch with us here
The issue of air pollution has recently been thrust into the news after the UK government lost court cases over illegally dirty air. It has been estimated that poor air quality contributes to the shortening of the lives of around 40,000 people a year.
Councils are required to monitor the air quality in their district under the Environment Act 1995. Local authorities must conduct regular reviews and assessments and submit their findings to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
Brazilian president has dissolved Renca to attract investment in region thought to contain gold, with critics warning of irreversible damage
The Brazilian president Michel Temer has abolished an Amazonian reserve the size of Denmark, prompting concerns of an influx of mineral companies, road-builders and workers into the species-rich forest.
The dissolution of the Renca reserve – which spans 46,000 sq km on the border of the Amapa and Para states – was described by one opposition senator Randolfe Rodrigues of the Sustainability Network party, as the “biggest attack on the Amazon of the last 50 years”.
Interior secretary Ryan Zinke says his recommendations include boundary adjustments for some locations among 27 national monuments
Conservation safeguards on a “handful” of national monuments across the US could be rolled back following the delivery on Thursday of the White House’s long-awaited review of such public lands, interior secretary Ryan Zinke said.Continue reading...
Climate change has thawed Arctic enough for $300m gas tanker to travel at record speed through northern sea route
A Russian tanker has travelled through the northern sea route in record speed and without an icebreaker escort for the first time, highlighting how climate change is opening up the high Arctic.
The $300m Christophe de Margerie carried a cargo of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Hammerfest in Norway to Boryeong in South Korea in 22 days, about 30% quicker than the conventional southern shipping route through the Suez Canal.Continue reading...