23 June, 2017

Energy and Climate Change/Global Warming

As the former head of Australia’s National Climate Centre, William Kininmonth states:
‘The real challenge for society is to manage within a naturally varying climate. A total of 70 per cent of natural disasters involve weather and climate extremes. Regulating carbon dioxide concentration (indeed, if this is even possible) will not ameliorate these.’
‘Less than 20,000 years ago Earth was in the grip of the last glacial maximum. Deep ice sheets then covered much of North America and northwestern Europe; sea level was 130 metres lower than today. Our present relative warmth is a blessing.
‘It is unfortunate that the Chief Scientist did not conduct an independent review of the science underpinning the contentious hypothesis of dangerous anthropogenic climate change before embarking on a blueprint for the national electricity market. A misplaced objective of emissions reduction at the expense of affordable and reliable electricity services will unnecessarily impoverish Australians.’

20 June, 2017


New Science Assessment on Climate
It is timely that a group of scientists has published in the US an assessment of a large number of deficiencies in analyses which support the dangerous warming thesis. 

They draw on criticisms made by Professor Rafael Reif, president of MIT,  of President Trump’s decision to exit the Paris Climate Accords.  

Their conclusion is that  “By withdrawing from the Paris agreement, President Trump did a wonderful thing for America and the world. He showed that advocacy masquerading as science should not be the basis for political decisions. He showed that to put America first is to put the planet first. And, by rejecting the non-problem of man-made global warming, he began the long and necessary process of waking up the likes of Professor Reif to the fact that the diversion of time, effort, and trillions of dollars away from real environmental problems and towards the bogus but (to MIT) profitable non-problem of supposedly catastrophic global warming is as bad for the planet as it is for true science”.

06 June, 2017

King Cotton

Cotton’s environmental footprint is much less noticeable today than was the case in the early 1960s, thanks largely to science and technology, says Ryan Kurtz, director of agricultural research at Cotton Incorporated.


He said the highly successful Boll Weevil Eradication Program, genetic engineering, innovations in tillage, and changes in farm size and efficiency combined to reduce cotton’s impact on the environment over the past 35 years.


Addressing a group of textile manufacturers, retailers and trade journalists during a recent Cotton Incorporated conference—“Everything You’ve Heard About Cotton is Wrong”—in New York City, he said cotton farming has evolved from “horses to robots and drones. We’ve seen great strides in reduced soil loss, water use, and pesticide use.”


Those environmental improvements have not been at the expense of production. “From the ‘60s until now, cotton farmers have almost doubled the amount of cotton they grow with no more acreage. Science and technology make that possible.”


He said commercial cotton breeding has created new varieties that produce more lint. Integrated pest management (IPM) programs allow producers to be more precise in targeting insect pests, he added. And those pesticides are more selective, targeting specific insects, diseases or weeds.


Kurtz said reduced tillage systems conserve moisture, increase organic matter in the soil and limit water and wind erosion. “We’re doing a better job of protecting our soil,” he said.


“Biotechnology now protects plants from insect damage,” Kurtz said. Herbicide tolerant varieties also allow a more efficient weed management system. “Cotton farmers also reduce energy consumption because of biotech,” he added.


“Genetic engineering has improved varieties in other ways. We have more water efficient varieties,” which improves on a plant already known for drought tolerance. 


“Cotton requires significantly less water than corn, wheat and rice.” Only a small portion of U.S. cotton production receives full irrigation, he adds, and most gets by well on supplemental water.


“We have improved water efficiency in the past 35 years,” Kurtz said. Better varieties play a crucial role, “but sensors improve efficiency and application timing that works better than just ‘eyeballing.’” Measuring evapo-transpiration offers real-time information to help schedule irrigation. 


Kurtz, an entomologist by training, said cotton farmers once followed a calendar approach to insect pest management, sacrificing beneficial insects in an effort to head off damaging populations of pests. Pesticides were non-selective, he said, and took out lady bugs and other beneficials as well as bollworms and boll weevils.


“Now, we use more selective pesticides to preserve beneficial insects, and we spray when populations reach economic thresholds. That’s the value of IPM.”


“We also have newer, more efficient ways to apply insecticides. Seed treatments, for instance, reduce the need for early (over the top) pesticide applications.” 

These products are applied to the seed before planting and are systemic, so the roots take them in. Amount of product necessary also dropped. “Instead of pounds per acre, we can now apply milligrams per acre,” Kurtz said.


He said ongoing research considers the possibility of developing cotton plants that repel insect pests.

21 April, 2017

Australian Cotton Industry

 I have long contended that in all respects the Australian Cotton Industry is a model that all agricultural industries in Australia, if not the world, should follow.

The following extract from a Cotton Australia submission to Government is just one example of the the quality of the science and attitude that pervades the industry.

"Improvement in Water Use Efficiency (WUE) is one of the most important drivers for the Australian cotton industry. It is not unusual for the water to account for 60% to 80% of a cotton producer’s combined land/water assets.

The submission says it is essential to understand that there are no “Silver Bullets” for WUE. There is no “One Size Fits All Solutions”, as irrigators utilise a suite of technologies and services to maximise
their water use efficiency.

These can range from simply estimating crop water requirements by digging a hole in a field with a
shovel, and assessing the water capacity of the soil by look and feel, to employing highly
sophisticated soil moisture readers, linked to satellite derived weather and plant water use data.

It can be an optimised furrow, gravity irrigation system, or pressurised drip or lateral move type
systems, or by improvement in yield from new varieties and better management techniques
deriving from world class research.

It can result from minimising evaporation by maximising storage depth and minimising surface
area, or by upskilling of labour from the most humble irrigators tasked with manually starting,
managing and stopping thousands of syphons, to university trained irrigation managers analysing
data from a whole range of sources, and making timely decisions that optimise plant growth.

Or most likely a combination of all of the above."

17 April, 2017


A new word has entered the fashionable lexicon. The global warming alarmists and the "dark green" advocates of the Murray Darling Basin Plan had better get used to it and learn how it impacts their advocacy arguments.

I have long contended that the massive variability of our river flows makes the use of statistical averages quite meaningless, when the spreads around the average are so enormous. Asking CSIRO to come up with Average Volumetric Limits (AVL's) for each of the major rivers in the MDB is a stupid question from people who clearly don't understand the the key characteristic of our inland rivers-massive variability.

Likewise the promoters of renewable energy, particularly wind and solar, talk about single figure targets without acknowledging the dependence on the wind blowing and the sun shining to achieve them. If energy sources are to be dependable then the "intermittent" sources need to have back-up or significant storage capacity, to achieve the reliability requirement. Without subsidies this makes them quite uneconomic! 

Hydro is a notable exception, because you can store the water and achieve immediate generation with the turn 'of a tap', making hydro ideal for peak electricity generation. A fact that Snowy Hydro has exploited brilliantly. I remain to be convinced that "pumped hydro" will prove economic, where water has first to be pumped to higher altitudes and then run back down to drive the generators.

But, take my word for it, we are going to hear a lot about "intermittency".

30 January, 2017

Coal and Renewables

The case against coal is coming apart at the seams

  • The Australian
Consider truly irrational government policy, and I don’t mean Don­ald Trump. We are a nation blessed with abundant energy sources — coal in all guises, gas in enormous quantities, a major portion of the world’s uranium.
We export these and other raw materials in huge amounts all over the world. Our national wealth, everything we take for granted in our living standards — Medicare, schools and hospitals, the police, even the ABC — rests on those exports. Yet, as part of our muddle-headed, erratic, irrational, episodic and excessive efforts to combat climate change, we have not cheap electricity, as you would expect, but hugely expensive electricity, which is now, a la South Australia, increasingly unreliable. We also burden ourselves with one of the most cumbersome industrial relations systems in the world.
As a result, an operation like Alcoa’s Portland smelter might well have shut down. To forestall that we will now give that smelter $230 million of taxpayer money. Massively increasing costs, then massively subsidising to compensate those costs, is surely a world- class template for irrational policy.
One reason our policy is so irrational is that our debate is so ill-informed. Almost all of our climate change policy has a deep inheritance of irrationality about it. The Rudd and Gillard governments created a vast phalanx of climate bodies that had essentially propaganda roles, like church mission societies, to spruik the danger of climate change and urge the most radical and costly actions possible to address them.
They half-convinced Australians — they certainly convinced the ABC — that emissions trading schemes, and carbon taxes of the kind we so dolefully had for a few years — were sweeping the world. Those Australians whose foreign travel consists mainly of Tuscany, Paris, London and New York could half believe this as Eur­ope did impose a costly ETS and some American states had similar schemes. But as someone who spends a lot of time in Asia I knew it was absolute baloney. The propaganda Australians were being fed was just completely misleading.
This week in an interview with The Australian, Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg gave the government’s definitive view of ETS schemes. “Internationally, economy-wide carbon trading schemes have been bedevilled by collapsing prices, criminal behaviour and industry opposition,” he said.
Although he has elsewhere said the government was not planning to change the renewable energy target, Frydenberg levelled the same broad criticism at artificial schemes generally.
The solution to reducing carbon emissions, he persuasively ­argued, lies in technological development. Renewables will be some part of this, but cleaner coal and gas, and in many countries other than Australia, nuclear power, will be the backbone of reliable energy with reduced carbon emissions. No one knows precisely how much climate change is occurring or how much of it is caused by human activity. It is the most basic common sense on a risk-management basis to reduce emissions and it is also good to clean up the air for environmental purposes beyond climate change.
It is true that nothing Australia does will have a measurable effect on the global climate. It is also true that whatever happens with climate change we will be much ­better able to deal with it if we are still a rich country rather than a country that has impoverished itself with excessive climate change actions.
Most of the ETS schemes around the world are either duds or yet to be implemented. Many of them are Potemkin village style arrangements that allow their governments to talk the talk without imposing big costs on their economies.
The many levels of deception and slipperiness in all this is evident in a million examples. Germany is hailed as a hero for abandoning nuclear energy. So it imports electricity from France, which is generated by French nuc­lear power plants, and from Pol­and, which comes from coal-fired stations. In the five years to 2015 Germany constructed coal-fired power stations with a capacity equivalent to seven times that of the Hazelwood station closed so spectacularly in Victoria.
You hear constantly on the ABC that coal is coming to an end. This is a perfect post-truth mantra. It is spectacularly the inverse of ­reality. Japan, for example, is planning 45 new coal-fired power stations with 20,000MW of capacity. Any line in any official report anywhere, and indeed in countless NGO propaganda pamphlets, which seems to be critical of coal, or indicates a limitation on its use, is instantly beaten up by our climate change propaganda industry into a further death-of-coal story.
Yet the International Energy Agency shows that coal makes up more than 40 per cent of world electricity generation. That will decline as a proportion of global energy, in no small measure because of gas, to somewhere between 28 per cent and 36 per cent by 2040. But even that proportionate decline includes a very big absolute increase in the use of coal.
The new coal-fired power stations will be mostly clean coal, that is, much lower emissions per unit of energy than traditional power stations.
That’s good. But no one should doubt that coal use will grow. China, which has sold its rhetorical flourishes on climate change as though they were real action, plans to increase coal use by 14 per cent between 2015 and 2020. In 2015 China added 52,000MW of coal power.
The IEA says that India’s coal-fired power capacity will increase by almost 140 per cent by 2040, or 162 times the capacity of the closed Hazelwood station.
China has not even committed to a peak emissions target, merely a year, 2030, when it will get there, and many estimates are that it will double its emissions in the process. Most of China’s real action involves modernising its energy system, building new coal stations that emit far less carbon per unit of power than the ones they replace. The chief benefit and motivation for this is not concern about global climate change but the desperate need to improve air quality.
You’ll hardly ever hear any of this because it doesn’t conform to the dogma of the massively publicly subsidised climate change religion. The obvious best way forward for Australia is cleaner coal, more gas and — God help us — one day, nuclear. But that would require rational policy that may be beyond us at the moment.