End the Climate Hysteria – Fuel Security Edition

End the Climate Hysteria – Fuel Security Edition

by David Archibald

12 April 2022

 

The following is a campaign ad running in the Subiaco Post on Saturday 16th April. This is a free newspaper that covers most of the West Australian Federal seat of Curtin.

 

 

The story so far: a weird animist religion, formerly known as global warming but now rebadged as climate change, has adherents amongst my opponents for the seat of Curtin. They believe climate change is caused by carbon dioxide, despite the fact that the Earth’s temperature has been flat for the last 30 years. And I mean absolutely flat – 0.0° change over the last 30 years.

The climate cult also has the problem that the logarithmic heating effect of carbon dioxide means that carbon dioxide is tuckered out as a greenhouse gas. It can’t do what the cultists expect it to. Its heating effect from the current atmospheric concentration will be miniscule and lost in the noise of natural variation.

Apocalyptic cults have come along every so often in history and climate change is just the latest version. Belief in climate change is filling a void in the cultists’ lives, but there is no reason that the rest of us should suffer because of that. If the climate cultists just told their scare stories to each other there would be no harm done.

But to borrow a line from Conan the Barbarian, this is not just another snake cult. They have started to do real damage to the economy, and are even putting the Nation’s existence at risk. If it weren’t for the idiotic hatred of carbon by the cultists we could already be well advanced in converting our low grade coal to petrol and diesel and becoming self-sufficient.

The importance of that is that it would remove our main vulnerability as a nation. If our ships and trucks and aircraft don’t have fuel then they will be stuck in place and we will be defenceless. By the way, international oil traders are warning of a diesel shortage late in the year. That would be extra inconvenient if it came when our farmers need to harvest their crops.

For Australians this is the scariest chart to see — 21 days of diesel supply in stock and then life becomes a permanent Mad Max rerun:

 

 

Australia’s big four banks have stopped financing new coal projects. Oil companies are reporting that it is difficult to get financing for development projects. The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority has taken it upon itself to enforce the diktats of this whacko religion — a form of nature worship based on pseudo-science.

Power prices have already gone up a lot, but its worst effect is on our fuel supplies. To put the story in perspective, let’s start 80 years ago in WW2. Australia imported all the oil we used.

Japanese strategy in that war was to seize bases in the Pacific to cut off supply from the US. That strategy has now been adopted by China with their base to be built in the Solomons.

Our postwar leaders knew how important it was to have our own fuel production, so the Federal Government subsidised oil exploration. When the Bass Strait fields were discovered in the late 1960s they weren’t economic against oil from the Middle East at US$4.00 per barrel. So Australian motorists subsidised Esso and BHP in developing Bass Strait. That had an immediate benefit during the Yom Kippur War of 1973 when other countries had their oil supplies cut off but we sailed through the crisis with little interruption to supply.

We also built up to seven oil refineries; now we are down to two –- the Ampol refinery in Brisbane and the Viva refinery in Geelong. So for we in WA the nearest domestic supply of petrol and diesel is 2,500 km away. But combined those two refineries only produce 24% of Australian demand. We are on our own in WA and praying for the safe arrival of tankers from refineries in Singapore.

Australia consumes one million barrels per day of liquid fuels. We produce about 365,000 barrels per day but can only refine two thirds of that.  The solution to the problem of our current 76% reliance on imported petrol and diesel is to make those things in Australia using coal that is too low grade to be exported.

In the early 1990s, a billion dollar Japanese research project into hydrogenating brown coal in the Latrobe Valley found that the operating cost would be $40 per barrel which is $80 in 2022 dollars. Today’s oil price is $132 per barrel, making our own liquid fuels from our own coal endowment decidedly economic.

There are 200 billion tonnes of brown coal in the Latrobe Valley of Victoria, which would make 200 billion barrels of petrol and diesel. To put that in perspective, that is about 100 times as much as Bass Strait originally held.

There are also billions of tons of brown coal in WA that should be made into petrol and diesel here. The sooner that happens, the safer we all will be.

Because we can do that we also have a moral obligation to do so and supply others. All the island nations of the Pacific run on diesel – to keep the lights on, for fishing, for everything. We can keep them supplied when oil production in the rest of the world keeps trending down.

Neither the Liberal or Labor parties have any interest in keeping Australia safe from fuel supply interruptions. They have both proved that by keeping Australia delinquent with respect to our obligation under the International Energy Agency agreement.

This requires Australia to maintain stocks equivalent to 90 days of our annual net imports. We only hold 53 days of net imports. Australia is the only delinquent country under that treaty — because our current crop of politicians, Liberal and Labor, couldn’t care less.

So they won’t come up with the idea of using our otherwise-worthless low grade coal to make the fuel we need. Plus it would go against their irrational hatred of carbon. The Morrison government blew $300 billion on covid but only made token efforts on fuel security. A few million barrels of oil stored in salt domes in Louisiana is pathetic and 14,000 km away.

One day the coal will run out too and we will have to go nuclear. Civilisation won’t run on sunlight and wind.

Solar panels are cheap only because they are manufactured using cheap energy from coal in China. But China has hit peak coal and their costs are going up from here.

That is why polysilicon for solar panels is now made in Xinjiang Province, 3,000 km inland where the coal is cheapest and Uighur slaves provide the labour. The Chinese don’t use power from solar panels to make more solar panels for the same reason we don’t.

Under ideal conditions in the WA desert, solar panels made with power at $0.04 per kWh in China make power costing $0.21 per kWh. If we tried to make solar panels with power from solar panels, the cost would be infinite. Solar panels aren’t renewable; they are only an artefact of cheap Chinese coal, which will soon be over, as China found out when they banned Australian coal.

Hydrogen is only useful for hydrogenation of coal to liquid fuels. Hydrogen isn’t a source of energy and it is quite a wasteful way of storing energy.

If you want to read a detailed explanation of hydrogen’s inherent uselessness as a fuel, do an internet search for “Energy and the Hydrogen Economy Bossel Eliasson”. Of course the Morrison Government is blowing hundreds of millions of dollars on hydrogen as a prop to the climate cult.

But there may be a role for wind turbines in solving our liquid fuel problem. Power from wind turbines might usefully be stored as hydrogen for coal hydrogenation. Wind is too intermittent to contribute usefully in our power grid, but wind at $0.05/kWh will produce hydrogen at $7/kg.

Brown coal is 8% hydrogen; diesel is 14% hydrogen. Just force hydrogen atoms into the coal molecules at 450° and 200 atmospheres until they give us what we want — petrol and diesel.

Eventually coal will be too precious to burn as a fuel. We need to conserve to convert.

Normally the Greens are a reliable contra-indicator. If they are in favour of something, then it is very bad. If they don’t like something, it is usually a good thing to do. But on nuclear energy, the Greens are only half wrong.

The technology used by most of the world’s nuclear reactors, light water reactors burning U235, is inherently unstable. Even the most modern reactors of that type have potential for core excursions. They also use only a fraction of our uranium endowment while leaving a vast waste problem.

The best nuclear technology for civilisation to run on is the sodium-cooled breeder reactor though that technology hasn’t been commercialised yet. The cost of power from that technology will determine our great-grandchildren’s standard of living. The sooner we prepare for that and develop all the requisite technology, the safer our great-grandchildren will be.

But in the meantime it is time to choose. The Liberal member for Curtin has listed having lighting installed at tennis courts as one of her achievements of the last three years.

This is the choice facing us in Curtin at the election in May. Tennis court lighting or fuel security? Please make the right choice for all our sakes.

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