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Australia is nuts in agreeing to adopt Net Zero

By Brendan O'Reilly - posted Thursday, 13 January 2022


The Morrison Government (in the run up to the COP26 talkfest in Glasgow) promised that "the Coalition will act in a practical, responsible way to deliver Net Zero emissions by 2050". The Government and the Labor/Greens Opposition now seem to only disagree in respect of detail. Consequently, it seems that, on the face of it, the end of cheap and reliable coal, gas and petroleum-based energy in this country is nigh.

New suburbs in places like the ACT are no longer being connected to gas. Motorists around the country also look like being forced to buy electric vehicles, that currently struggle to tow a trailer or make a long trip. Meanwhile, coal-fired generators are being forced out of the energy market by rules that favour expensive intermittent "renewables". Even state-owned coal-fired electricity generators are now in a parlous financial situation.

At next year's federal election voters will be asked by all major parties to affirm Net Zero, along with a further raft of taxpayer-funded green energy subsidies. The political choice now seems to be between Tweedledum and Tweedledee.

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Zero CO2 emissions, almost by definition, is an impossible target.

Firstly there is the huge financial cost (estimated at US$120-160 trillion worldwide). Secondly there are unavoidable emissions such as outgassing from the ocean, decomposing vegetation, venting volcanoes, naturally occurring wildfires, and exhaling by humans and animals. Even if all electricity is generated by so-called "renewables", the wind towers and solar panels don't come from thin air, and also require substantial energy for their production. The energy for steel production (that goes into wind turbines) is mostly sourced from coking coal, while solar panels (especially if made in China) are made using mainly coal-fired electricity for energy.

In a literal sense, there is also no such thing as "renewable energy". The first law of thermodynamics states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, and can only be transferred from one form to another. So called "renewables" are really just collection systems that harness intermittent low level energy, that is ultimately generated by the Sun.

Net Zero Emissions seeks to offset (reduced) CO2 emissions, usually by planting trees. Critics point to issues of timing, permanence, and the risk of later carbon release with tree planting projects, so that the practicality of even Net Zero is also questionable.

Trees take decades to reach maturity but often the promised reductions in CO2 are sold up-front in a practice known as "forward selling". It is also difficult to guarantee the permanence of planted forests, which may be susceptible to clearing, burning, or mismanagement.

Net Zero is being pushed by a mixture of noisy zealots and carpetbaggers, who have succeeded in petrifying much of the public about global warming and weather extremes. Many of the forecasted effects of "global warming" (e.g. rising sea levels, a destroyed Barrier Reef, disappearance of Arctic ice) either have not happened or have been far less extreme than predicted. Every adverse weather event seems to get blamed on "climate change", though extremes of low temperatures or favourable weather patterns are conveniently ignored.

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There are also a range of practical and political problems that arise in attempting to reach Net Zero by 2050, which is looking an increasingly hopeless cause internationally. Arguably, even for the small number of countries reducing their emissions, most are merely outsourcing their CO2 and heavy industry to China and India.

Through the 1990s, China's production of steel hovered at around 100 million tonnes per year. After WTO membership, it exploded to around 700 million tonnes by 2012, and exceeded one billion tonnes in 2020. China now accounts for a massive 57 per cent of world production, and produces significantly more steel on its own than the rest of the globe had managed together back in 2001. The same goes for plenty of the other ingredients of industry.

None of the four biggest emitters of CO2 are expected to do much to reduce emissions. China is the largest emitter (10 billion tonnes in 2018).

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About the Author

Brendan O’Reilly is a retired commonwealth public servant with a background in economics and accounting. He is currently pursuing private business interests.

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