A full page feature recently appeared in the Waikato Times in which Press journalist John McCrone interviewed Solid Energy CEO Don Elder on the Southland lignite proposals. It was a thoughtful piece of journalism, and I wish I could provide a link to it but it doesn’t seem to have appeared on the Stuff website. It provided a good overview of the thinking behind Solid Energy’s pursuit of lignite development, along with objections levelled against it. I’ve already written on the question but it’s important enough to keep returning to.
Lignite is big. Briquetting should be under way next year in a factory which has been consented by Environment Southland. Hospitals, commercial greenhouses and Fonterra are expected customers. But that’s just a groundbreaker. On the drawing board is a phase two briquetting plant that will be ten times larger. Continue reading “Thinking Old-Style Big”
Gareth’s post on James Hansen’s talk at the University of Canterbury carried a link to a recent report that the Prime Minister supports the intentions of Solid Energy to develop the Southland lignite fields. The contrast between the warnings of Hansen and the bland assumptions of Key was painful.
Key speaks straight business as usual:
“At the moment companies like Solid Energy are growth companies and we want them to expand in areas like lignite conversion.”
“We know there is lots of resource there and we know they potentially have the capability [to convert lignite to urea or diesel] and so we will see how that progresses, but the briquette plant is a good starting point.”
Continue reading “Key contradictions”
Here’s a high quality video of Jim Hansen’s talk at the University of Canterbury last month (excellent work by the audiovisual team at UC). Well worth watching, if only because it provides a succinct summary of Hansen’s current thinking. As Dr. Chuck Kutscher of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in the US said:
If you want to know the scientific consensus on global warming, read the reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. But if you want to know what the consensus will be ten years from now, read Jim Hansen’s work.
Hansen has also published his open letter to John Key (at HT here), with added observations on his time in New Zealand. I particularly enjoyed his heartfelt reference (in a footnote) to his minder, former Green Party leader Jeanette Fitzsimons:
[…] slave-driver Jeanette Fitzsimons unceremoniously routing me out of bed at 6 or 7 AM every day to get moving to the next town – not exactly a case of sipping piña colada on a beach.
See also: R0B at The Standard draws attention to a podcast of Hansen’s talk at Otago University, who notes that he described his meeting with Environment Minister Nick Smith as “a very unpleasant discussion”. With the recent news that John Key has given his support to lignite mining in Southland, it’s clear that the disconnect between reality and the New Zealand government is growing ever greater.
[Climate Show interview with Jim Hansen here. Hat tip to Jason Box for the Kutscher quote.]
Since Don Elder thinks it inappropriate for the visiting James Hansen to comment on the morality of the proposed lignite development in Southland, let me, a fellow New Zealander, say that I find the morality of the development indefensible and all the special pleading offered by Elder doesn’t alter the case.
There is evidence that emissions of greenhouse gases from human activity are already causing hardship to some poorer populations of the world. There is little doubt that they will deliver today’s young and their children a world under pressure from immense and adverse changes which few of us would wish on them. That’s the basis of Hansen’s forthright comments on the morality of continuing to burn fossil fuels. If you want a more eloquent statement than he is accustomed to make have a look at what Norwegian novelist Jostein Gaarder said at a panel he shared with Hansen at the 2010 PEN World Voices Festival. I quoted him at some length in this post, but the essence of his speech was in these words:
“You shall love your neighbour as you love yourself. This must obviously include your neighbour generation. It has to include absolutely everyone who will live on the earth after us. The human family doesn’t inhabit earth simultaneously. People have lived here before us, some are living now and some will live after us. But those who come after us are also our fellow human beings…We have no right to hand over a planet earth that is less worth than the planet that we ourselves have had the good fortune to live on.”
Continue reading “On Lignite: Elder not better”
Two items during this week highlighted the continuing progress of Solid Energy’s intentions to develop the Southland lignite fields. I therefore provide this depressing update to two Hot Topic posts on the issue late last year. Don Elder (left), CEO of state-owned enterprise Solid Energy, appeared before the Commerce select committee during the week and announced that the proposed lignite developments will be worth billions. And it appears that this will be the case even if they don’t receive free carbon credits under the ETS, which they appear to nevertheless hope for. There was a slight acknowledgement that there were carbon footprint issues still to be resolved and some soothing suggestions, reported in the Otago Daily Times, that approaches such as mixing synthetic diesel with biofuels, carbon capture and storage, and planting trees, could reduce the net emissions. With a convenient fall-back – that the company could pay someone elsewhere in the world to do this for it. There is little evidence that carbon capture and storage will feature as anything more than talk in this scenario. The wildest extremity of the CCS option was touched on outside the committee when Elder spoke of the possibility of eventually piping carbon out to sea and pumping it into sea-floor oil or gas wells, after the Great South Basin has been developed.
Continue reading “Lignite: dirty brown forbidden fruit”