David Archibald lets rip on why hydrogen fuel is not going to save us, but coal, gas, and nukes will. He has wondered for years why Australia is so concerned with talking about a thirty year energy plan when we don’t even have a 90 day supply.
Australia’s Energy Plan
Guest Post by David Archibald
Global warming is the new state religion and Alan Finkel, Australia’s Chief Scientist, is its high priest…
The fad of the moment is hydrogen. To recap, when global warming started out the villains among us realised that the easiest way to make money was to turn Australia from being a low-cost power producer to a high cost one and take a slice of the action on the way through. So the likes of AGL and Macquarie Bank concocted solar farm and wind farm schemes and sold them on to people wanting a high, government-enforced rate of return. They then used their own money to generate a yet higher return on equity by taking advantage of the inherently unstable power grid they had created. They did this by building diesel generator sets such as this one in South Australia, obviating the whole point of getting away from carbon-based fuel.
Briefly, the only reason solar and wind get a look-in is because solar panels and wind turbines are made using energy from coal at $0.04 per kWh and turn out power at $0.20 per kWh. Some mines voluntarily install solar panels to supplement the power from diesel generator sets at $0.30 per kWh. What would happen to the cost of power if the energy used for making solar panels was $0.20 per kWh? It would be north of at least $0.80 per kWh. You can’t use solar and wind power to make solar and wind power equipment; as such they are neither renewable nor sustainable. And they certainly won’t be replacing fossil fuels when the fossil fuels run out.
Even some lefties are figuring this out and thus the documentary Planet of the Humans. So the global warming clerisy, headed by Alan Finkel in this country, needs to keep coming up with new content to satisfy their simple-minded believers. Thus the latest encyclical by the Minister for Religious Affairs, Angus Taylor, entitled Technology Investment Roadmap Discussion Paper. This is 74 pages of stomach-churning pap. Vast sums are to be spent on hydrogen. The language of the Government encyclicals suggests that hydrogen is a new source of energy that just has to be tapped to guarantee a wonderful future.
But hydrogen is such a reactive gas that there is no source of it in nature. The only naturally occurring hydrogen is in farts in which it provides the flammable component. Hydrogen has a myriad of uses in the chemical and oil refining industries. The cheapest way of making hydrogen at the moment is a water shift reaction with natural gas. About 60% of the energy contained by the natural gas is wasted in the process — if you just wanted a source of energy. When natural gas becomes expensive enough, then hydrogen will be produced by electrolysis of water.
As a fuel, hydrogen has some big shortcomings
Hydrogen has low energy density, so a big, high-pressure tank of the stuff doesn’t take you far. It has an explosive range in air of 18% to 60%. It causes embrittlement of steel. There is a plot at the moment to add hydrogen to the natural gas distribution system — which then might start leaking like a sieve. It has a colourless flame, so leaks that have caught fire can’t be seen. In the days before infrared cameras, workers at a rocket fuel factory in Texas used to detect hydrogen leaks by walking with a straw broom in front of them. When the broom caught fire they had found the leak.
The $300 million the Federal Government proposes to spend on hydrogen won’t add anything new to what is currently known about hydrogen. It is just a distraction to placate a religious minority — the global warming believers, in the manner of Hassidic Jews being exempt from military service in Israel.
Energy Policy for Australia: Buy Oil, get nukes, stop wasting that gas
The Federal Government’s energy policy is just wishing and hoping and dreaming, built on a foundation of scientific fraud. That begs the question of what should it be? This won’t take long so let’s start:
First, sick to the terms of the Paris agreement we signed in 1979 and have at least 90 days of liquid fuels stockpiled in the country. At the current Australian consumption rate of about one million barrels per day, that would be 90 million barrels. Better yet, let’s be a lot safer than that and have 200 days of stocks. As our refineries are now few and far between, the stocks should be held as refined product – diesel, petrol, jet fuel and lubricants, and all the other little things that an economy needs to keep going. The cost of building the tankage would be US$400 per cubic metre which equates to $0.60 per litre. At 159 litres per barrel, 200 million barrels equates to 31.8 billion litres which would cost $19 billion for the tankage. At the current Singapore price for diesel of A$64 per barrel, filling our strategic petroleum reserve would cost a further $12.8 billion. Not having a reserve of this magnitude is an existential threat.
Second, ultimately nuclear energy will be needed to power every activity. The current nuclear technology, dominantly light water reactors burning U235, is prone to explosions and leaves a large waste burden relative to the power produced. To overcome those problems, in the ideal nuclear technology the fuel will circulate instead of being a solid, in the manner of the thorium molten salt reactor. Reactor size is likely to shrink back to 300 MW instead of the current size of 1,000 MW and beyond. The standard of living of our grandchildren and the generations subsequent will depend upon the operating cost of the nuclear technology we bequeath them.
A good analogy is agriculture in the economy. Currently the 2% of the U.S. population engaged in agriculture feeds the rest of the country and provides a surplus for export. The same situation occurs in Australia. By comparison, 20% of the Chinese population is engaged in agriculture and, despite the world’s heaviest fertiliser use, China needs to import 20% of their protein consumption as well. So, all other things being equal, China’s standard of living is inherently 20% lower than those of Australia and the U.S. If sustaining the future nuclear reactor fleet, in doing everything from making steel and cement to rubber seals, takes 30% of the power produced instead of say 2%, then the standard of living will be 30% lower. Getting our nuclear technology as good as it could be, as determined by physics and chemistry, is the most important thing the Federal Government can do for the future of the country.
There has been little progress in nuclear technology for the last 50 years. As the fossil fuels run out, doing everything will become more expensive. There is no time to waste.
Third, when the world’s oil supply tips over into decline, demand will start switching to other fuels. Cars will go 50% further on natural gas burnt in current car engines than on natural gas burnt in gas turbines to make power to charge electric vehicles. Coal-to-liquids becomes viable at US$120 per barrel. Ideally we will adopt the Bergius process in which hydrogen atoms are forced into coal molecules rather than the Fischer-Tropsch process in which coal is burnt to produce a synthesis gas which in turn is run over a catalyst to produce liquid fuels. The Bergius process, relying upon hydrogen produced by electrolysis using power from nuclear plants, will result in our coal reserves lasting a lot longer. Our motto should be “Conserve to convert” (to liquid fuels). Because when the coal runs out we will be scraping up dead leaves, lawn clippings, forest waste, old newspapers to provide the carbon to run the economy on.
The plan above will work at some level. It all depends upon how expensive nuclear power is when we get to the best technology possible. No other plan will work. The sooner we start, the safer we will be. That might require a cathartic event to get rid of the global warming believers who are currently forcing us down a path that can only end in tears. We wouldn’t require a cathartic event, causing suffering and putting the nation at risk, if the Chief Scientist spoke scientific truth. He can’t be so stupid as to actually believe that global warming is real, for example the runaway, compounding effect of water vapour heating starting at exactly the pre-industrial level of CO2 in the atmosphere, that the whole edifice relies upon, leaving the only possible conclusion that he sees global warming as a means to an end. In the 1950s there was a common meme in movies of evil scientists doing evil things, to the detriment of society. He is one of these.
The Global Warming religion is a new form of animism
On the subject of the religious influence on Australia’s energy policy, most global warming believers would consider themselves to be militant atheists. They are wide of the mark, because they have reverted to a basic form of animism. Nicholas Wade makes the case in his book The Faith Instinct that humans evolved to believe in a religion. Certainly religion is a part of culture and culture is the extension of evolutionary pressures by non-physical means. It is incontrovertible that some cultures are better than others. It follows that a better religion will be part of a culture’s outperformance of other cultures. Global warming doesn’t build orphanages or hospitals. As a religion it doesn’t do any good at all. Belief in global warming is like a prion relative to the human genome, a little poisonous fragment even simpler than a virus.
The U.S. entertainment industry is well aware of the significance of the religious component of culture. In the series American Gods, the old gods, led by Odin, battle the new gods created by popular culture on the basis that gods are created by the public’s belief. That theme continues in the newly released movie entitled The Hunt in which members of the “godless elite” hunt and kill deplorables. In a scene set in a convenience store, one of the elite says “For the record, arsehole, climate change is real” as she kills a deplorable with a poison gas canister. That sentence from popular culture gives us hope that this is the beginning of the end for global warming.