SMH Revelation: Rural People Won’t Support High Cost Climate Policies

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

Sydney Morning Herald Andrew Charlton just said something about climate change which almost made sense, before getting lost in the weeds of the fake green hydrogen revolution.

I hate to say it, but Barnaby has a point on climate

Andrew Charlton
Co-Director of the e61 Institute for Economic Research
October 29, 2021 — 5.00am

Eleven years ago, as adviser to prime minister Kevin Rudd, I sat in the room with US president Barack Obama, Chinese premier Wen Jiabao, German chancellor Angela Merkel and other world leaders in the dying hours of the United Nations climate conference in Copenhagen.

Hour after hour, hope drained out of the room. It became clear that the meeting was going to fail for one simple reason: the developing countries were blocking the deal.

At one point a Chinese official thumped the table and shouted: “Rich countries cannot tell people who are struggling to earn enough to eat that they need to reduce their emissions.”

A Latin American negotiator explained what was happening. “For centuries your countries have prospered by exploiting the world’s resources,” he whispered into my ear. “How can I go home from this meeting and tell the slum dwellers they must stay poor to help clean up your mess.”

Watching the failure in Copenhagen taught me an important lesson about climate change. No amount of moral energy from those who are less affected and less vulnerable will motivate those who are most affected and most vulnerable. This lesson is relevant for Australia’s domestic politics. For 10 years since Copenhagen, Australia’s climate debate has foundered for a version of the same reason.

Climate activists from the inner cities promote their impeccable science, their colourful rallies and their passionate rhetoric. But no super-majority of urbanites will ever convince regional workers whose jobs are at risk to heed their righteous commandments.

Most of Australia’s 18 coal-fired power stations are expected to close over the next 15 years, leaving about 10,000 direct workers looking for new jobs.

So, as I watched the messy compromise this week between the Liberals and Nationals, I had a horrifying reflection. Barnaby Joyce is right. Or at least, the Nationals leader is right about one thing: we need to solve this for the regions first.

The great shame is that this was possible. The clean energy opportunity for the regions is real if we choose to capitalise on it. Research released last week showed that many of the jobs in the new clean energy industries are in hydrogen production, renewable energy, batteries, green metals and mineral processing using clean energy are just some of the opportunities that can create tens of thousands of new jobs in Australia’s regions.

Andrew Charlton is a managing director at Accenture, adjunct professor at Macquarie University and co-director of the e61 Institute for economic research. He was an economic adviser to Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd.

Read more: https://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/i-hate-to-say-it-but-barnaby-has-a-point-on-climate-20211028-p593uu.html

I’m impressed Andrew, for a SMH contributor you almost had it, then sadly lost it. Your green hydrogen “solution” to rural jobs will never fly, because you forgot another great pillar of country life – nobody trusts the government.

If green hydrogen was remotely economically viable, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Every farm would have its own green hydrogen plant, we would be churning out gigalitres of the stuff, like farms do in the USA when they have a frackable natural gas deposit on their land.

But green hydrogen is not economically viable without massive government support, and likely never will be. Green hydrogen produced by anything other than steam reforming fossil fuel, or maybe in the distant future zero carbon nuclear power, is a politically motivated chimera, which will need an indefinite period of generous government life support to exist.

From tech entrepreneur and regular WUWT contributor Rud Istvan, the author of Blowing Smoke;

… Most hydrogen is made by steam reformation of natgas, which isn’t green. Less than 5% is via water electrolysis, mostly special non-industrial circumstances because more expensive. Electrolysis is about 70% energy efficient.

To be stored in meaningful quantities, hydrogen is either highly compressed in special costly carbon fiber wound epoxy cylinders (90% efficient because of PV/T=k heating), or liquified, about 75% efficient. Needs to be used in PEM fuel cells (cars, grid) since SOFC (Bloom Energy) crack and have poor lifetimes, PEM are at best 60% efficient and use platinum catalyst on Nafion membranes. Expensive, why there aren’t many in commercial use anywhere despite years of Plugged Power trying and hyping. So 1*0.75*maybe 0.9*0.6= Maybe 0.41 net hydrogen energy efficiency. Same as CCGT. But with a lot more capital expense for an ‘industry’ that does not exist yet for good reason.

Now over at Judith’s a while ago we recalculated the faulty EIA LCOE for on shore wind. 2.15x CCGT. So Australia green hydrogen will be at best as energy useful as natgas at over twice the cost. Yup that is what makes it ‘green’. GREEN anything means more expensive AND more problematic.

Source: WUWT Comment

Even The Guardian in one of their saner moments noticed green hydrogen numbers are shaky.

Using hydrogen fuel risks locking in reliance on fossil fuels, researchers warn

Renewable electricity production is increasing rapidly as costs tumble. But it still makes up a small proportion of all energy used, which is mostly provided by coal, oil and gas. Using the electricity directly is efficient, but requires investment in new types of car and heating systems.

Using the electricity to create hydrogen from water and then using carbon dioxide to manufacture other fuels can produce “drop-in” replacements for fossil fuels. But the new study concludes this cannot work on a large enough scale to tackle the climate emergency in time.

“Hydrogen-based fuels can be a great clean energy carrier, yet their costs and associated risks are also great,” said Falko Ueckerdt, at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) in Germany, who led the research.

“If we cling to combustion technologies and hope to feed them with hydrogen-based fuels, and these turn out to be too costly and scarce, then we will end up burning further oil and gas,” he said. “We should therefore prioritise those precious hydrogen-based fuels for applications for which they are indispensable: long-distance aviation, feedstocks in chemical production and steel production.”

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/may/06/hydrogen-fuel-risks-reliance-on-fossil-fuels

If there is a path to economically viable green hydrogen, it will take a long time to find it. So the huge government subsidies required to kickstart the green hydrogen revolution would not have an end date.

A switch from mining and farming to green hydrogen production would require rural people to abandon livelihoods which do not require government support, and switch to putting their entire lives in the hands of fickle city politicians, who would have to provide a reliable long term subsidy of hundreds of billions of dollars per year, to fund an entirely new industry which currently has no real market.

Andrew, you are expecting people who have never seen anything but ham fisted job killing environmental regulations, an almost complete failure to invest in vital infrastructure like roads and water reservoirs, and ongoing utter disrespect from city politicians, to suddenly about face and completely trust those same politicians with their livelihoods.

Good luck selling that plan to rural communities.

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October 30, 2021 at 12:18AM

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