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A tale of two energy visions: China and Australia

Over the past few weeks China and Australia have both released white papers on energy. The two documents could not be more different. Australia’s white paper is largely about our continued obsession with…

Energy planning is complicated, but China is way ahead of us on creating a future energy system. Triin Noorkoiv

Over the past few weeks China and Australia have both released white papers on energy. The two documents could not be more different.

Australia’s white paper is largely about our continued obsession with becoming an alternative “Saudi Arabia” of gas. It has a view we should take over as the world’s largest exporter of gas before the year 2020.

The White Paper has extensive sections on building up the gas and petroleum sectors, as well as coal for export, and allowing market forces to work in the national markets for liquid fuels. In all this, the White Paper has a single paragraph on the country’s disastrous increasing dependence on petroleum products imports.

The chart 2.4 (p. 18) says it all.

This chart reveals how poorly Australia has been served by the oil majors. While Woodside et al have been focused on the export market for bulk liquid and gaseous fuels, Australian motorists have been left in the lurch by the rundown in refining capacity. The result: the blowout in imports of “refined petroleum products”.

But this is not the only glaring inconsistency in the White Paper. Its almost exclusive focus on export prospects for oil and gas (and to some extent coal) is achieved at the cost of any serious consideration of the building of the only long-term sources of energy security, which are renewables.

In place of outlining the steps needed to transform our energy structure from one depending on digging up and burning fossil fuels to one that employs sophisticated technologies – so that solar, wind, geothermal and bioenergy could play an important and growing role – we find instead mere gestures towards the issues. There are no quantitative goals apart from the already announced Renewable Energy Target of 20% by 2020 (itself under constant attack).

There is nothing new in the White Paper concerning building a solar industry, a wind industry, a “smart and strong grid” or even an industry for building the vehicle charging infrastructure needed for electric vehicles. There is no discussion of export prospects for Australian producers of renewable energy technologies and equipment – even though the Australian Trade Minister was instrumental in gaining acceptance for lower tariffs for such exports within APEC at the last leaders' summit in Vladivostok. In other words – no ‘whole of government’ thinking.

The contrast with China’s Energy White Paper could not be starker. China clearly views its energy security as the most fundamental feature of its future prosperity. It is building renewable energy industries as fast as is economically and technologically possible, as its major ‘nation building’ 21st century project. All government departments are focused on achieving the energy goals.

The energy targets announced in the White Paper speak for themselves:

  • 100 GW for wind (more than doubling the current capacity).
  • 21 GW for solar PV (a seven-fold increase).
  • massive expenditure on the electric power grid to make it the backbone of China’s 21st century industrial economy.

The State Grid Corporation of China, for example, has announced a roll-out of its “strong and smart grid”. It is investing 4 trillion yuan up to 2020 (around US$600 billion), involving state-of-the-art high-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission lines bringing power from the west, where it will be generated by huge wind and solar farms, to the east, as well as digital switching stations. Among other goals there will be diffusion of over 300 million smart meters, made and designed in China to Chinese standards. This is how to build an industry.

By contrast, Australia has less than 2 GW in installed wind capacity, most of which is in South Australia. Our solar PV capacity is still tiny, and much-heralded efforts like the Solar Flagships program have come to nought. (The collapse of the last remaining project, due to withdrawal of federal government support, was announced just after the release of the White Paper.)

China’s goals are being framed in terms of energy security and creating a 21st century economy where clean-tech industries will form the core of its energy independence and energy abundance. These industries will also create the export platforms of the future.

The renewable energy industries and associated clean-tech sectors are identified in the current 12th Five Year Plan for active promotion. Their contribution to GDP rises from less than 4% in 2010 to an anticipated 8% by 2015 and 15% by 2020 – meaning that these core industries would be growing at more than 20% per year. Total investment in these core industries could be as much as 10 trillion yuan (or around US$1.6 trillion). And the strategies and targets outlined in the Energy White Paper (as well as the 12th Five Year Plan) will ensure that China’s carbon emissions plateau and start to fall, in line with international expectations.

So here we have a tale of two visions of the future of a country. In Australia, according to the Energy White Paper, we still have a vision of ourselves as a country that digs stuff up and ships it out, or burns it. There is minimal regard to the processing value-added that can be done here (even to the extent of allowing the refining of petroleum for domestic use to be run down) and none to the export potential of renewable technologies. The building of new renewable energy industries as the core of a 21st century economy barely rates a mention, and no targets other than those already announced are mentioned.

In China, by contrast, there is a vision of an economy that is rapidly making itself independent of fossil fuel imports (which are still rising, but can be anticipated to start falling within the decade). It is ensuring its long-term energy security by building the industries that will be able to supply power in abundance generated from super-abundant natural resources.

There is a strong awareness that the infrastructure needed to accommodate these renewable inputs has to be supplied by government or a government-run corporation, and that massive investments are called for – which as they bear fruit, will translate into industrial and economic leadership.

Australia used to have such a vision. It lay behind the creation of the Snowy Mountains scheme and the industrial spin-offs it created. Sadly that vision is long gone. The current Energy White Paper makes fossil fools of us all.

Join the conversation

55 Comments sorted by

  1. Michael Pulsford

    Lecturer, RMIT School Of Art

    A polite question for you all:

    Is moving towards energy independence for Australia a goal (or at least an aspiration) we here might be able to agree on, whatever our various view are on the merits of fossil fuels and on climate change? I may well be missing something, but it seems to me like this would be a good idea whether you think using fossil fuels right now is a good or a bad thing. Please correct me if I'm assuming wrongly, I'm genuinely interested.

    (I'm separating it out, also, from the question of exactly how achievable it is. Maybe you think we could only be a little bit independent, maybe a lot. But I'm more interested in whether it's potentially a rare point various commenters here can agree on, whatever our other differences. Let me know your thoughts.)

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    1. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Michael Pulsford

      Michael,

      I suggest we cannot pick out just one requirement. I suggest the requirements for energy supply are:

      1. security of supply (for the long term)

      2. reliability and quality of supply (minimise power disruptions, power and frequency variability). This is essential for modern society

      3. cost of energy should be as low as possible (subject to the above two constraints). Energy is one of the fundamental inputs to everything mankind has. It is one of the most important factors influencing human well-being. Cost must be kept as low as possible for every region on the planet.

      4. externalities should be included in the cost of energy to the extent practicable, to the extent is is done fairly and equally across all industries, and to the extent it provides a net benefit to society. Achieving this is extremely difficult and not going to happen soon.

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    2. Robert Merkel

      Lecturer in Software Engineering at Monash University

      In reply to Michael Pulsford

      "Energy independence" is a bad idea imported (as so many of our bad political ideas) from American political discourse.

      The first problem with it is that most people who use it don't bother to define what it means. If we take a definition of "energy independence" as "a net energy exporter" Australia has been energy independent since coal exports began. Currently, we are among the world's biggest net energy exporters.

      In practice, what most politicians talk about when they mention "energy…

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  2. John Newlands

    tree changer

    What a curious omission that China has 25 nuclear power stations under construction to add to the 14 already built. By 2050 they aim for 400 GW of nuclear, some 10X Australia's total (mostly coal) capacity. Then there's the 30 GW Three Gorges hydro which displaced whole communities. I suggest these are the sort of power projects that will do the heavy lifting.

    The Chinese may claim to go clean and green but they reacted badly to the proposed EU airline tax. Clive Palmer's new coal mine is to be called 'China First' suggesting that country is not in a hurry to decarbonise. Yesterday's Guardian newspaper says China plans another 558 GW of coal fired generation.

    As for liquid fuels they are just as screwed as the rest of us. It's hard to say who will win the bidding war for the remaining oil supply. If the West does it hard there goes China's exports.

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  3. Gerard Dean

    Managing Director

    Well Professor Mathews,

    Something jumped out at me in your statement, ' involving state-of-the-art high-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission lines bringing power from the west, where it will be generated by huge wind and solar farms.'

    That something is 'huge...solar farms.' How huge is a huge solar farm? How much power does a huge solar farm make? I suggest an American term might answer - jack shit.

    I suspect that the Chinese white paper was written to appeal to gullible western academia…

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    1. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      "Chinese white paper was written to appeal to gullible western academia"
      21GW of Solar PV is " jack shit"

      One of the advantages of being a climate science denier - reality does not have to intrude into your arguments.

      China is on track to become the world's largest economy - there is a fair chance they might have implemented a few "white papers" to get to that point.

      The 3 Gorges hydro dam is rated at 22GW. Australia's total grid connected generation capacity is around 51GW. Even allowing for capacity factors 21GW of Solar PV is a lot.

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    2. Gerard Dean

      Managing Director

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Mr Newton

      Suggest you catch up with the latest news on solar thermal power:

      The last chance for the Solar Dawn consortium led by French nuclear giant Areva for the construction of a 250MW solar thermal plant in Queensland, or even a scaled down version of it, was removed when the Australian Renewable Energy Agency rejected its funding proposal – after the federal government had done so under the previous Solar Flagships program." (Renew Economy,Giles Parkinson, 12 November 2012)

      Sorry Mr Newton, you lost this round.

      Gerard Dean

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    3. Gerard Dean

      Managing Director

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Mr Hansen

      You claim I don't argue the facts. Let's look at China's Energy Mix (US Energy Energy Information 2010)

      Coal 70%
      Oil 19%
      Hydro 6%
      Natural Gas 4%
      Renewables Less than 0.5%

      Professor John Mathews might like to explain why China's "Vision" their white paper is so at odds with their energy 'Reality'.

      Furthermore, readers should be aware that most government white papers are 'wish lists' that have little or no impact on government policy or funding. We only need to look at the continuous Defence White Papers in recent years whose recommendations have been ignored or unfunded.

      Sorry boys, you just have to realise that Chinese White Papers are just like Australian White Papers in that they are often worth no more than the paper they are written on.

      I must away, my 7 litre V8 calls for action.

      Gerard Dean

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    4. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      @Gerard Dean
      "I must away, my 7 litre V8 calls for action."

      That sums you up Gerard. Even by climate denier standards, you are quite infantile.

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    5. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      The Good News, Mr Dean, is that your 7 litre V8 could be (climate-neutral) biofuel-powered sooner than you might think.

      Have you been keeping up with biofuel research as I've previously suggested? If so, then you'd already know about "Biofuel Breakthrough: Quick Cook Method Turns Algae Into Oil"
      ScienceDaily (Oct. 31, 2012) http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121031123504.htm

      "ANN ARBOR—It looks like Mother Nature was wasting her time with a multimillion-year process to produce crude oil. Michigan Engineering researchers can "pressure-cook" algae for as little as a minute and transform an unprecedented 65 percent of the green slime into biocrude. ..."

      Stay up to date at http://www.sciencedaily.com/news/matter_energy/

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  4. Dan Fashaw

    Student

    Suppose that China does become energy independent within the next century. It probably won’t happen but lets say it does. As a country with 23 million people and huge natural resources wouldn’t it make sense to sell as much of our resources as possible before China doesn’t need it?

    China is obviously trying to cut down on imported energy, America has shown its interest in being energy independent, and if these two countries go out of the energy market in the next century what will happen to the…

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    1. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Dan Fashaw

      Dan, rather than export as much fossil fuel as possible while there's still demand for the stuff, it would be better for Australia to start building its post-coal export industries.

      The major post-coal export opportunities that I see are steel and aluminium, provided they are extracted from iron ore and bauxite without using fossil fuel ie electrolytically.

      This is already done with bauxite for aluminium in France using nuclear power. The same basic concept (electrowinning from a molten salt bath) has been done for iron.

      Now, this means that there could be a role for nuclear power in Australia, with reactors on the Pilbara coast, and near Nhulunbuy and Weipa on the Carpentaria coast. Althernatively, the power requirements could be met at these locations with solar PV and thermal, or even tidal power.

      Another benefit of all this would be a large expansion of Australia's economic base.

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  5. John Mathews

    Professor of Strategic Management, Macquarie Graduate School of Management at Macquarie University

    To Dan and Michael – excellent comment (and question) re resource security. Of course the giant emerging economies see energy security as a top priority, and countries like Australia and Brazil are benefiting from supplying the needed commodities. But White Papers are about setting strategic directions. One very good strategy for Australia to secure its energy independence is to build the solar farms (PV and concentrating solar), wind farms, geothermal and bioenergy and the industries supplying such…

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    1. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to John Mathews

      Gary Murphy,

      Each time you post that same comment (or similar) I've pointed out to you do not understand what you are saying. No point doing it again. You must know by now, which I can only assume means you are being deceptive.

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    2. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to John Mathews

      By my reckoning based on actual reactors planned in:

      http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf63.html

      China will be generating 670 TWh/yr from nuclear by 2020 and about 36 TWh/yr from solar PV with 260 TWh/yr from wind. So I'd characterise their policy as "Nuclear for energy, solar and wind for jobs." With 1.4 billion people, of course they will be building solar pv and wind.

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  6. Peter Lang

    Retired geologist and engineer

    “so that solar, wind, geothermal and bioenergy could play an important and growing role”

    Rubbish. Another totally biased, ideologically driven and ridiculous post.

    Isn’t the author aware that any amount of renewable energy is very expensive? Doesn’t the author realise that renewable energy avoids far less CO2 than claimed by its advocates? Isn’t the author aware that renewable energy requires an order for magnitude more material per TWh of electricity delivered than nuclear power? Isn’t…

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    1. Zvyozdochka

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Peter Lang

      Why is wind driving down the wholesale cost of power in South Australia?

      Why is solar PV doing the same in Germany with households paying an approximate 2.3% of household budget to own their stake in energy generation?

      Why are fossil generators complaining so loudly about their business model being eaten by renewable introduction?

      Do you accept that fossil fuel continues to receive and that new nuclear require subsidy?

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  7. Ben Heard

    Director, ThinkClimate Consulting

    "...the building of the only long-term sources of energy security, which are renewables."

    Was with you to that point.

    How is it even possible to write about China's energy future and omit discussion of nuclear power? That is just an extraordinary bias. And how is it possible to support the above statement given that no nation of any size on earth is remotely achieving energy security using only renewables?

    "...super-abundant natural resources.". Yes, and also super dispersed, super low grade…

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    1. Zvyozdochka

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Ben Heard

      The reference to "long-term sources of energy security" appears to me to be a specific reference to Australia.

      Your comments on renewables are noted. They appear pretty close to a dismissal.

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    2. George Takacs

      Physicist

      In reply to Ben Heard

      Ben,

      Long term was the key phrase. If you accept the findings of the MIT 2009 update to their 2003 "Future of Nuclear Power", then nuclear is not long term. Current technologies, without reprocessing, would give about about 50-80 years of nuclear if we increase the global reactor fleet to around 1000, from the current 440.

      Nuclear is currently aorund 13.5% of global electricity production. If it supplied all of current baseload, then we would need a six-fold increase giving around two decades before needing something else to replace it. This would mean that using nuclear at that scale would render the reactors useless after less than one half of their operating life. This does not do much for the economics of nuclear.

      Without reprocessing, or advanced technologies such as thorium or accelerator driven systems, nuclear cannot be claimed to be long term. At the best it buys us some time, but with a significantly increased proliferation risk.

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    3. Chris O'Neill

      Victim of Tony Abbotts Great Big New Tax

      In reply to Ben Heard

      "Current technologies, without reprocessing,"

      Is anyone seriously considering wasting 99% of the energy in Uranium?

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  8. John Canning

    Professor at University of Sydney

    This is a good article. Perhaps the important question to ask is why is this particular White Paper so limited in vision? Irrespective of one’s views on renewable, what is limiting Australia’s capacity to form its own story or vision today?
    This is a particularly pertinent consideration in light of the introduction of extraordinarily restrictive defence legislation on technology which could make the development of alternative resources extremely challenging if our engagement with China and others…

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  9. Chris McGrath

    Senior Lecturer at University of Queensland

    Thanks for writing such an interesting article John. I didn't know about China's Energy White Paper, so I learnt a lot from reading your article.

    It is a shame that the comments have been mugged by people pushing nuclear as the silver bullet to solve energy problems.

    I thought your reply was fairly made in the context of what you had written that your "point was that China views renewables not as oddities or as window-dressing niceties but as solid power sources that have the advantage of…

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    1. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Chris McGrath

      Peter Lang is a climate science denier and anti-renewables fanatic who attacks anyone who does not accept his view that climate science is a left-wing plot and renewable energy is the spawn of the devil.

      Here is a comment from a poster that sums up Lang. It is to Barry Brook's eternal discredit that he continues to associate with Lang. As to whether he is currently banned from BNC who knows. He has been banned from more blogs than most people have had hot dinners.

      https://theconversation.edu.au/energy-myths-exposed-king-coal-or-king-solar-7611

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    2. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Chris McGrath

      "It is a shame that the comments have been mugged by people pushing nuclear as the silver bullet to solve energy problems."

      What a hypocritical comment. The vast majority of articles and comments on The Conversation are advocate renewable energy and are anti-nuclear (like yours). However, they are irrational on almost all basis. Yet you and the others ignore all that and continue spouting your beliefs. You simply ignore the facts. I wonder what is happening to academia. Does the far Left ideological bias displayed on the Conversation representative of the situation throughout our academic institutions?

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  10. Zvyozdochka

    logged in via Twitter

    In essense, the Chinese have the advantage of a superior political "system".

    We have gutless Martin Ferguson and clones in the LNP.

    Australia could do a DESERTEC and be the energy (and food) provider of Asia.

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    1. John Newlands

      tree changer

      In reply to Zvyozdochka

      Again we never get the full story. Desertec looks dead in the water now industrial giants Siemens and Bosch have left the consortium. The most likely international electricity transfer involving Australia appears to be if PNG hydro power is sent by cable under Torres Strait.

      Earlier you said wind power was driving down SA wholesale electricity prices. Shame that as of a few months ago SA retail electricity prices were the third highest in the world.

      Someone else mentioned CSP. The latest project Ivanpah US will cost $19/w whereas PV is now $2. Capacity factor is ~30% vs 40% for some prime wind power sites.

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    2. Zvyozdochka

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Zvyozdochka

      @ John Newlands

      There has been suggestion of SGCC (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SGCC) potentially joining DESERTEC which would really put all the leavers on the wrong side of history. It's difficult getting new ideas up wouldn't you agree?

      "Shame that as of a few months ago SA retail electricity prices were the third highest in the world."

      I seem to recall quite a wide-ranging discussion about what might be causing this lately.

      As I understand it, AEMO say that wholesale prices are falling in SA and is likely attributable to renewables. It's difficult to understand how introducing more expensive (at least 4x dearer) than NEM average baseload in the form of nuclear will cause retail prices to fall. Can you explain that mechanism?

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  11. Tony Xiao

    retired teacher

    And with the massive investment domestic consumers are still only paying 7 cents kWhr.

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  12. Neil Gibson

    Retired Electronics Design Engineer

    Having had Chinese partners in an international business I can vouch for their business acumen. China is doing enough in renewable energy to convince gullible westerners of their good intentions and to sell lots of renewable technology overseas. Anyone can produce a white paper but at the end of the day measure the ACTUAL energy generated by wind and solar in China and it is barely visible in an energy pie chart. It is like the "Free beer tomorrow " sign on the local pub which never changes. China has conned and is conning the West because they want to believe it.

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    1. Neil Gibson

      Retired Electronics Design Engineer

      In reply to Neil Gibson

      George
      Garnaut does not itemise solar and wind in the China figures and they are building a lot of nukes as well as coal fired stations so de-carbonising is definitely happening but in a smart way that the our dimwit government wouldn't understand, The Chinese wind and solar are window dressing so articles like this one can be written. They are too smart to have anything more than a token effort on energy sources so expensive and unreliable.The latest figures I have for China for last year show an installed capacity for wind of 6% capacity so probably about 1.2% delivered and solar at .2% capacity delivering maybe .07% actual energy as the sun doesn't shine at night. Two fifths of five eighths of very little !

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    2. John Canning

      Professor at University of Sydney

      In reply to Neil Gibson

      Having been to China and being aware of how there are many opportunists in just about every sector (hardly surprising), I think it is drawing a very long bow indeed to generalise across the entire renewable sector their motives - and to think they don't have more pressing matters than conning a vain west. When you visit many Chinese cities it is clear fossil fuel derived pollution is a major concern for them - irrespective of current performances of many alternative sources, they are being explored for genuine concerns. Obviously the many trying to exploit this for ulterior motives that undermine any possible new energy source deserve attention.

      The fact is in China clean energy is much closer to good health than we realise in the west - what industries can deliver clean energy on a sufficient scale is yet to be seen but that does not mean excluding them from study and exploration.

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  13. Tony Xiao

    retired teacher

    The domestic wind industry in China is coming to a standstill due to over-capacity and power grid limitations and up to a third of China's wind generation remains idle.
    Manufactures of wind equipment such as Sinovel are currently standing down their workforce nationwide on paid leave until production picks up which will be dependent on the future expansion of China's power grid.
    .

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  14. Paul Cm

    logged in via email @gmail.com

    "The current Energy White Paper makes fossil fools of us all."

    I think a healthy dose of innovators, scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs and environmental pragmatists will prove John and governments wrong.

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  15. Gerard Dean

    Managing Director

    I just noticed the caption on the lead photo, 'Energy planning is complicated, but China is way ahead of us on creating a future energy system.'

    I beg to differ. In fact, I suggest that rollout of energy infrastructure in China will be handled just like the British handled their railway boom in the 19th Century - Boots and all. The railways rode roughshod over the country, destroying homes, villages, valleys and city blocks; but the result was a wonderful railway system for all to enjoy.

    China…

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    1. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Insight from Gerard Dean, climate science and reality denier.

      "I see the future and it is just like the past".

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    2. Tony Xiao

      retired teacher

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      It is correct to say that fossil, nuclear and hydro will be the mainstay of China's energy requirements and that's probably true globally.
      However, alternative energy generation from solar, wind, methane is currently transforming the lifestyles of many in western and remote regions that were previously energy dependent on petrol and diesal generators and coal.
      With the exception of the industrialized areas within the confines of the large cities of Xi'an, Lanzhou and Urumqi, the sun shines bright and strong and regular.

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    3. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      All very well, Mr Dean, except that the politburo has rather more scientifically competent personnel than your average Western planning department; for all we know, they might even have a subscription to Nature Climate Change. Even if they don't, they can download reports on rising sea levels and methane emissions from thawing permafrost from the Net.

      From these sources, they will know that they need to plan to stop using all fossil fuels as quickly as they can manage. If this means leaving…

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  16. Mark King

    Senior Lecturer, Psychology and Counselling and Researcher, CARRSQ at Queensland University of Technology

    Australia (both shades of government) has shown a reluctance to to grasp the nettle in terms of reliance on fossil fuel, which is not surprising given that almost everyone drives cars that rely on oil, that public transport is such a small part of total travel, and (crucially) that voters are very sensitive to day-to-day expenses like petrol prices. When voters blame corporations for petrol prices, the government feels compelled to respond; small wonder that they are reluctant to be seen to contribute to increased prices themselves, even though dampened demand would be of benefit both environmentally and to alternative energy demand.

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  17. michael russell

    electrical engineer

    Gerard, Peter, others,

    The constant bashing of anything other than your point of view is tiresome.

    Its not pragmatic, insightful or helpful to anyones debate.
    What is your purposed long term solution to the worlds energy problems, and do you really have enough faith in civilisation to look after nuclear waste in future generations - frankly i dont have the faith that we will keep ourselves going for that long without something becoming a higher priority... like food, or water, or someone…

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  18. John Knowles Stretch

    Arid Rangeland resident

    The high-efficiency (DC) and continental scale national grid is the key Chinese initiative that has the potential to integrate and otherwise ever-more piecemeal generation capacity - as the different non-carbon-emission alternatives come on line.

    Australia faces the same issue - for example, with her considerable but widely separated tidal power generation options. Abundant low cost power (relative low-cost power vis a vis the costs elsewhere in the world) is imperative if we are to continue to harness the full potential of our mineral heritage and our need to move away from reliance on coal is pressing.

    If we fail to act we will in hindsight come to understand that our already in-decline bauxite to aluminium processing capacity was merely an early warning - and the nation will become a hole-that-serves-the-world. No more.

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  19. Stephen Gately

    Founder Managing Director (BuyAustralianMade.com.au) at BuyAustralianMade

    Vision is something that has been lacking in Australia for sometime now and the decisions that have been made and are currently being made is testimate to that. There are too many people who are focussed on the here and now and do not care about the future. Energy is one of the key drivers of any economy and must be given the priority it deserves if Australia is to maintin and improve the standard of living for people living here.

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  20. Arthur James Egleton Robey

    Industrial Electrician

    We're gonna be Rich, Rich beyond our wildest dreams!!
    We're gonna need to be Rich, Rich beyond our wildest dreams in order to pay for food after that gas and coal are burned and the consequences come back to bite us on the arse.
    And to pay for murderous thugs to butcher the inevitable climate refugees.
    We all know who wrote this paper, don't we? Oh, yes we do! You don't? Let me help. Follow the money, the filthy lucre.
    Communism 1, Capitalism 0.

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  21. Arthur James Egleton Robey

    Industrial Electrician

    I am a Cold Fusion nutcase. I had to get that out there before someone used his brilliant powers of deduction to point it out.
    What we are hearing is more of the same old, same old. Round and round we go, achieving Nothing.
    The Nanor has a COP of 14. The Nanor costs a couple of dollars. The $$$multi-billion ITER has a COP of what? Less than 1.
    How transportable are solar or wind? Can you drive a Mac truck with one to our Just-in-time supermarkets?
    Obama had to send solid state fusion experimenters behind the military fence because of the nostril-flaring outrage from the establishment. (They did pay for his re-election)
    The military aren't too sniffy about the prospect of never having to supply their Tanks and Drones and Big Dog robot hunter killers.
    And if the USA is not interested, you can bet that China, India, Russia, Italy, Greece and Japan certainly are.

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  22. Alain Mangan

    Masters student

    China wants 100GW of wind power servicing 1.2 billion people, 83.3 watts per person. Australia already has 2GW of wind for 21 million people, 95.23 watts per person. I think we're doing better than China.

    I'm not saying that Australia shouldn't do more, I just don't think your comparison stacks up.

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  23. Peter Redshaw

    Retired

    Professor Matthews, a worthwhile question you ask it, but the differences between Australia's and China's White Papers is not surprising. After all they reflect not only the difference between the sizes of their respective populations, they reflect the differences between their economies.

    Australia has more natural resources than its population needs. That means they are export focused of these natural resources and have not really moved beyond the reliance on living off the sheep's back as…

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    1. David Elson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Peter Redshaw

      There's not much Australia can do to compete in higher end value manufacturing when compared to China when our labour and energy inputs are so much (relatively) higher.

      (hell even South Korea and Taiwan have lower energy costs than us and they buy their coal from us).

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  24. Edward Henner

    Consulting Electrical Engineer

    Just as a comment on John Matthew's article, I see a fundamental difference in what the government white paper can do in Australia as compared to China. China is still basically a centrally planned economy with much investment based in goverment manufaturing corporations. So the Chinese Goverment can certainly be much more specifific as to what they want to achieve in the next 5 years.

    Australia, on the other hand, has mostly privatised energy industries. Power generation assets as well as the…

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    1. David Elson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Edward Henner

      This doesn't alter the fact that much of China's green energy will be powered by nuclear rather than solar and wind (not that I mind).

      Certainly cheap electricity is beneficial for the Chinese to continue increasing their people's standard of living.

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  25. Brian Harrisson

    brians-satchel.com

    It is disappointing that Australia’s production and use carbon based fuels are anticipated to grow so significantly. I suppose that given the vastness of our carbon fuel resources, the power of the carbon lobbies and the economic leanings of both major parties, this is not unexpected notwithstanding what the climate scientists are telling us.

    The statements of policy in the Australian paper about re-newable and clean energy are comforting but they are not backed up with the hard numbers, so the…

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  26. john tons

    post graduate student

    This is a comment about the responses rather than about the article. Looking at what little I can glean from the people posting it seems that the majority have a tertiary education and there is a preponderance of people with science/engineering degrees.
    Politicians on the other hand tend to have little in the way of scientific/engineering qualifications. Consequently they rely on scientists and engineers for advice when framing their policies.
    Since science and engineering are areas which purport to be value-free they can be confident that the advice they get will be objective.
    So I wonder what goes through their heads when they read a piece such as this and the comments it engendered.
    Clearly the idea that science is value free needs to be abandoned. The way data is interpreted, the way our understanding of the natural world is structured seems to be every bit as value laden as our understanding of the social world.

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