Monday, December 14, 2009


The Kyoto Protocol's objective is to reduce green-house gas emissions by 5.2% from 1990 levels by 2012. The following chart (sourced here) outlines Australia's emissions and breaks them down into each sector:

Figure 1. CO2 emissions - 1990, 2000 and 2006 comparison

According to this data, to reduce Australia's emissions by 5.2% from 1990 levels would mean our total emissions would need to be reduced by 31.2492 Mt of CO2. The likelihood of this happening with 3 years is slim, but more cuts can be made by 2015, as 2012 is so close.

The World Wildlife Fund argues that Australia has 24 coal-fired power stations that emit 170Mt of CO2 every year. That is almost 140 million tonnes, per year, more than Kyoto wants.

The chart below details how much of our electricity is generated from coal:
Figure 2. Australia's electricity generation methods

These coal fired power stations produce approximately 27,840MW across the nation.

Australia has the largest known Uranium reserves and huge stores of Natural Gas.
The cost to build a nuclear plant is approximately $1.4m / MW. A natural gas plant is approximately $1m / MW. To cover Australia's coal-fired electricity production (27,840MW) with a combination of gas and nuclear would cost:
  • $13.92b for gas
  • $20.88b for nuclear
Yes, that is a lot of money, but if this did happen ($34b is only 3.3% of GDP) it would reduce Australia's emissions to around 410Mt of CO2 (25% below 1990 levels). How many other countries would achieve such goals? This, of course, would not all be spent in one year, but rather over several years and therefore will not affect the budget / national debt as much.

If, as it seems likely, there will be a worldwide ETS, Australia would have (if emissions were cut to 25% of 1990 levels) around 96 million international permits to sell, each year. At the current European price, this equates to a $2.5b windfall. Each year.
-It should be added here that the only thing that can possibly have any chance of binding the whole world to reduce emissions is a price for carbon and a Carbon Pollution reduction scheme that all countries sign to. Without a price for carbon and a binding pollution reduction scheme, there is no way to hold countries accountable for not meeting targets. Having to buy international permits is punishment; conversely, reducing emissions is rewarded by selling permits. Nothing seems to motivate people more than a cash prize-

As electricity generators would not be taxed-through-the-roof, electricity bills will not see a large price hike. Foreign investment will also not see a dive in the power sector, as is highly possible under the current scheme.

The only industry that will be affected is the coal mining industry. Australia has massive coal reserves (note that is only black coal, Victoria has the largest brown coal reserves) and it is not economically viable to leave them sitting in the ground and cease extraction processes. We can still export this coal. There are huge demands in Japan and other Asian economies for both black and dried-out brown coal.

Australians though will probably never agree to nuclear power, just as they have never agreed to drinking recycled sewage water (yet western countries have been utilising both for decades). Also, politicians probably won't push this kind of sweeping change as it is looking further than the standard 2-3 years of political planning / win enough votes for the next election.

So I guess we'll just have to grin-and-bear a massive hike in electricity bills (like some places have seen with water) yet sit pretty knowing we're emitting more CO2 into the atmosphere than any other developed country.


Style Seduction said...

I went on a walk against warming protest on the weekend and its amazing how many people turn their nose up at this kind of information.

But also how many of them we wearing 'no nuclear power' shirts.

They want to reduce emissions but I dont think any of them have actually thought up a viable solution. Good post.

kiki said...

it frustrates me how people refuse all these dangerous / polluting forms of energy (coal, nuclear etc) but don't ever come up with an alternative.

i'm still not 100% convinced that global warming is caused by humans, but, regardless to this, i don't think we can justify pumping as much shit into the atmosphere as we do.

the world is such a diverse, beautiful and amazing place. Humankind does a pretty good job at destroying it

Coal said...

Coal Terminals and additional infrastructure are required in the coal supply chain. Coal industry and coal prices show developing economies are more likely to increase their investment into & their use of thermal coal & metallurgical coal in coming years because of its affordability and to meet increasing demands for electricity and steel.