THE path up the carbon tax slippery slope was made clear when Greens deputy Christine Milne said “I certainly recognize that you are going to need a price at A$40 per tonne or more to shift from coal to gas and then a higher price still for gas to renewables.” Some Greens don’t even balk at a $500 per tonne tax. The Green’s junior partner, the ALP, has confirmed that the carbon tax will keep increasing.
Subsidies for solar and wind systems are already raising the cost of electricity to consumers, and Milne affirms that renewable energy will not be at parity with coal or gas any time soon. The disadvantages of renewables are insurmountable: environmental costs due to the low power density and the unreliability of the wind and sun. In short, they do not work.
British columnist and activist, George Monboit, has elucidated the utter futility of the Green agenda and adds, “None of us yet has a convincing account of how humanity can get out of this mess.”
Speak for yourself George.
Granted, a massive nuclear power program, though do-able, has nagging waste and proliferation issues. Exotic energy sources such as the under construction $10 billion International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, will not be producing electricity until at least 2035.
But the hopelessness of the Greens is in their own minds.
Building on almost 20 years of research, in January this year, fusion-watchers were shocked and skeptical when two Italian scientists Andrea Rossi and Sergio Focardi demonstrated a small nuclear device in front of a number of independent physicists, producing abundant heat, with little or no radiation or waste, and no carbon dioxide.
They promise to be operating a 1MW power-plant by October 2011 at an estimated cost of $10 per MWh; 10 times cheaper than conventional power, nuclear, and 20 times cheaper than renewable energy sources.
Of course, it sounds like one of these energy scams and many have said it’s “too good to be true”. But a number of successful verifications have followed, including with the skeptic society of Sweden. Now, Rossi has signed a contract with a large firm with a history of contracting to the US Department of Energy.
According to Rossi’s patent, his Energy Catalyzer (ECat) consists of a heated tube of powdered nickel (Ni) and proprietary catalysts, through which hydrogen (H) is pumped at high pressure, surrounded by boron and lead shielding, and encased in a water jacket. Rossi claims the power results from conversion of nickel to copper and other lighter elements. Full conversion of 58g of nickel would produce the energy equivalent of burning 30,000 tons of oil. The radiation emitted during operation of ECat was barely detectable above background.
Transmutation of elements would leave little doubt of the nuclear origins. Understanding all the details of the reaction may not be far off, as NASA has initiated a project to study the reaction, and the smart money is on a Low Energy Nuclear Reaction (LENR) called the Widom-Larsen reaction, involving the weak nuclear force, absorption of naked H atoms into the Ni lattice atoms and subsequent low-energy beta-decay processes.
Ironically, Rossi’s developed his devices without the assistance of government programs or grants, and in the face of the opposition from the establishment academics, who have seen Ni-H reactions in the same light as ‘cold fusion’. But this is how great leaps are made, with imagination, persistence, and occasional flashes of success. The same problems faced in the development of semiconductors, now a trillion dollar industry that has changed our lives.
Fortunately, if Rossi’s device is genuine and scales up, as appears to be the case, it no longer matters what the Greens say or do, and whether government or academia supports this or not. Due to the low cost, transition to a zero-emission super-abundant energy future will be inevitable.
The entire raison d’être for renewable energy will be history.
Australia may be lucky in not adopting nuclear or renewable energies on a large scale, and be uniquely open to a new source of power at a fraction of the price, with a tiny fraction of the pollution. The science community in Australia, purveyor of all things green, could initiate a Manhattan-style LENR project overnight. If it wanted too.
Alternatively we can continue down the slippery slope with the alarmist anti-industrial pipers, mindlessly pursuing a futile agrarian vision. This is the challenge for the Greens: will they embrace a new, clean energy source which can preserve the current standard of living? Or will they ignore it, continue to promote the chimera of renewable energy and be revealed as just being intent on reducing living standards?
We Australians are by nature a practical, direct and industrious people, but we are falling behind. According to a 2009 US defense department review, Japan and Italy are leaders in this field, and Russia, China, Israel, and India are also devoting significant resources to this work.
A carbon tax now will simply gut our existing industries, putting us further behind.
Human innovation and energy infuses the future with hope. Let’s use our grey-matter to develop the expertise and facilities to make a realistic energy alternative a reality.
By David Stockwell and Tony Cox