28/01/2011 - 00:00

Warning to pensioners: get the blankets out

28/01/2011 - 00:00

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WA needs a plentiful supply of affordable coal-derived liquid fuels to secure its future energy requirements.

A WEEK ago, a state politician handed me a copy of a recently published column in The Canberra Times by Nationals Senator Barnaby Joyce that listed several major problems confronting Australia, including ever-rising electricity charges.

He concluded this point thus: “Oh yes, and aren’t the solar panels doing a great job?

“In Canberra last week it was revealed that they would add $225 to the average electricity bill, and that the [Gillard-Greens] government’s proposed carbon tax would raise them by a further 24 per cent.”

Not clear is whether that 24 per cent slug refers to the $225 hike or the impact of the solar roof panel-mania on consumers’ total current annual electricity outlays.

I suspect the latter, which means electricity bills will rise by a further 24 per cent when the Gillard-Greens tax on carbon dioxide gas – an essential plant nutrient now at near-starvation levels in the atmosphere – is imposed.

Now, if business and domestic electricity consumers believe that’s terrible, ya ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

The Gillard-Greens carbon dioxide gas tax is just the opening gambit to coming price hikes which, if Senator Joyce is to be believed (and State Scene certainly believes him), among other things, keeps many elderly people in their beds when they should be moving about.

“Certain things paint an indelible image in your mind,” the senator wrote.

“This happened to me lately when my mother-in-law told me that while doing Meals on Wheels in winter there was always a place to find pensioners ... in bed.

“This was not because they were ill but because they could not afford the price of the power to stay warm any other way.

“How completely self-indulgent and pathetic we have become that in our zealous desire to single-handedly cool the planet we have preferred those who can afford the power bill over those less fortunate to avoid privation.

“How pathetic we are that South Korea, using our coal, can provide power cheaper to their citizens after an 8,300km sea voyage, than we can with power stations on our coal fields.”

Let’s leave Canberra and consider Western Australia.

WA is one of the most energy abundant corners of the world, yet electricity prices are set to do what Senator Joyce says – skyrocket.

WA has huge coal reserves, not only in the Collie Basin, but north of Perth and across the southern Goldfields.

There’s an abundance of gas below the North West Shelf and beyond.

And we’ve got enough uranium to fuel nuclear power stations far beyond the foreseeable future.

But we’re heading for electricity costs comparable to those in Tokyo, where the wholesale price stands at 22 cents/kilowatt hour, nearly twice what Australia’s heavily subsided windmills irregularly and unreliably generate at.

Windmills produce electricity at 15c/kwh, while foreign manufactured feel-good roof top solar panels put it out at a whopping 30c/kwh.

Coal, on the other hand, comes in at 3-4c/kwh, but is set to rise because the coal-fired electricity producers must increasingly subsidise exorbitantly costly solar panel and windmill-generated electricity.

When it becomes law, the Gillard-Greens carbon dioxide gas tax will mean another 24 per cent price rise.

All those factors will contribute to pushing WA’s electricity costs towards Tokyo’s level.

But that’s only part of this dismal self-inflicted story.

WA’s electricity is 65 per cent derived from gas-fired turbines.

The problem here is that the cost of North West Shelf gas is rising and will continue doing so as the world’s oil price keeps climbing, which market experts say is inevitable.

Remember, during the 2008-09 so-called GFC, oil prices slumped to around US$40/barrel?

Currently the Tapis oil price that affects our corner of the world is just over $US100/barrel and destined to double by mid-decade.

Notice petrol prices are now heading towards $1.40c/litre? They’ll go much higher.

No new major oilfield has been discovered for years and the daily oil demand in increasingly wealthy China and India keeps rising.

Bye-bye low oil prices. They’re ancient history.

Apart from the impact on running cars, this means our oil-gas parity pricing arrangement ensures gas prices will also rise, meaning higher running costs for refrigerators, computers and lighting.

Before outlining what should be done, it helps to know that neither the Gillard-Greens nor the Barnett-Nationals governments have a clue on what must now be done.

State Scene knows this because both governments have scandalously procrastinated in completing reports on future energy needs and the ability to meet those needs within their borders.

Clearly their obedient bureaucrats cannot truthfully tell their political masters what the future holds because of the perpetual fear of Greens propaganda campaigns and consequent short-sighted politically motivated energy policy manipulation in the past.

That’s another way of saying that all the silly politically inspired, costly electricity subsidising of wind and solar panels to combat alleged global warming is incompatible with energy security and affordable electricity.

Let’s therefore bite the bullet now and tell WA’s Office of Energy, which is so far behind with its energy report, what it should tell procrastinating Mr Barnett.

Firstly, WA should begin moving towards building at least one nuclear power (thorium-powered preferably) station because its electricity will be far cheaper than gas-fired, windmill and solar panel-produced electricity.

We should also move promptly towards converting our valuable coal resources into liquid fuels for long-term farming, fishing, heavy/long haulage, air travel and defence usage.

Our low-grade coal is also ideal for fertiliser manufacture.

Anyone wishing to install exorbitantly costly solar panels or use windmill-derived electricity should have it, but not via taxpayer-subsidy.

Short-trip city automobiles should be energised with compressed natural gas.

This can be done via 3,600pounds/square inch compressors to fill-up at home from domestically distributed gas. Such compressors are available for about $2,000 and are already being used by Americans.

LPG and battery-powered automobiles may also become fashionable.

When moving down these energy usage paths, keep in mind that those pushing other outrageously costly energy options by scaring people, especially children, about alleged global heating, are pedalling a hoax.

If anything, the world’s temperatures are headed the other way – global cooling for at least the next 20-years.

How do I know? Simple.

Because the sun, the source of lovely worldly warmth, is presently quite inactive, as several astute observers predicted years ago that it would be.

The freezing northern winters of the past three years are set to become annual events.

The last time such a solar pattern occurred was the Dalton Minimum, a period of two consecutive weak solar cycles from 1798 until 1822.

State Scene has so far focused only on energy. But an even more basic human need is daily food requirements.

A Dalton Minimum re-run will mean restricted agricultural production across colder northern Asia, America and Europe.

Recent food price hikes in China, India, and the Middle East that sparked panic, even riots, are only the opening gambit of what can be expected.

Access to economically priced coal-derived liquid fuels would ensure WA could help ameliorate such regional sustenance shortfalls over coming cooler decades.

It would also mean WA’s pensioners would be warm and mobile during our coming cooler winters.

 

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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