Coal seam gas mining documentary to air

It was a film that first prompted Forster’s Holly Rankin to educate herself about Coal Seam Gas mining (CSG) and she aims to use the same medium to help educate others with the screening of ‘Bimblebox’ a documentary about CSG in Australia.

“I went to a screening of Gasland in Sydney in 2010 and it really scared me,” Holly recalled.

“I was completely unaware of it (CSG) what it was and what it did and afterwards I really wanted to see what coal seam gas mining was going on in Australia.” 

The 2010 film directed by Josh Fox focuses on communities in the United States impacted by CSG mining and features one memorable scene in which a farmer sets his running tap water alight. It was nominated for an Oscar in 2011. 

Opponents of CSG mining are concerned that hydraulic fracturing (known colloquially as fraccing), the process by which the gas is extracted, poses a threat of contamination of water sources.

“ Having grown up in Forster around our beautiful waterways I feel they need to protected from contamination and people need to be aware of the dangers CSG poses.”

As state and federal governments continue to investigate the possible expansion of CSG mining and with numerous wells already sunk in the neighbouring Hunter and Gloucester areas Holly and her group Youth Against CSG Mining in the Great Lakes, which boasts 300 members on its facebook site, have organised a screening of Australia’s first comprehensive documentary about the practice.

“It’s primarily about education,” Holly said.

“I’m not a scientist, I’m still learning about what it is and the impact it can have but we want to encourage people to find out before it ends up here.”

Bimblebox, directed by Michael O’Connell, looks at the effects of CSG around the country including the in the Hunter Valley and the Illawarra regions with interviews with residents and experts on the issue.

The film features many prominent members of the debate against coal expansion in Australia including Guy Pearse (Global Change Institute), Ove Hoegh-Guldberg (University of Queensland) and Matthew Wright (Beyond Zero Emissions) and sets shots of the Australian landscape to the music of indigenous musician Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu (known primarily as Gurrumul).

Go LED and kill Hazelwood?

By Trent Hawkins

According to analysis conducted by Beyond Zero Emissions, lighting in homes is responsible for about seven per cent of household electricity use, and around 30 per cent of electricity for commercial and retail buildings.

That's quite a large amount of energy use, but it could be about to fall drastically, perhaps by as much as a large coal power station's worth of electricity demand. That's a hefty amount when energy utilities are already seriously challenged by falling electricity demand.  

As reported by Gerard Wynn, LEDs (light emitting diodes) are now set to dominate the global lighting market. In the general lighting market the consultants McKinsey & Company forecast a 45 per cent market share for LEDs by 2016, up from 9 per cent in 2011. 

Electronics giant Philips has completely ceased research and development into fluorescent lighting technology, recognising that the future is in LEDs. Other companies in the semiconductor business, not traditionally in lighting, are getting in on the act. In Australia, companies are springing up that come into your home or business and do a full change-out to LEDs. Even McDonald’s restaurants are making the switch.  

Beyond Zero Emissions' Buildings Plan research is proposing a full switch to replace all existing lighting with LEDs within 10 years. This would result in up to 80 per cent reduction in lighting energy use for most building categories.

These energy savings are in the order of 15 terawatt-hours of electricity per year: more than Victoria's notoriously polluting Hazelwood power station could produce if it ran flat out, non-stop, for an entire year. Avoiding the burning of all that brown coal would avoid CO2 emissions of over 20 million tonnes of CO2 per year. 

The US Department of Energy chart below shows the trajectory of improvement of LED lights as compared with other technologies. There is a lot of further improvement to be had, with the US DOE supporting a realistic goal of reaching 200 lumens/watt (compared to 60-90 lumens/watt in products on the market now).

Chart from US Department of Energy (USDOE) - “Solid-State Lighting Research and Development: Multi-Year Program Plan”, April 2012.

And this improvement in light output only begins to tell the story of why LEDs are taking the lighting market by storm.

Australia Could be Powered by 100% Renewable Energy Within 10 Years

By Charley Cameron

It’s perhaps a bit surprising that Australia—with its sunny self-presentation—is not only the world’s largest exporter of coal, but at 28 billion tonnes of CO2 per year creates the highest per capita greenhouse gas emissions in the world. In tandem with this, the country also has immense potential for generating renewable energy; it really is quite sunny, with large areas of open land and surrounded by water. So much so, claims a report by the University of Melbourne and the collaborative Zero Carbon Australia Project, that the country could be powered by solar and wind energy alone within 10 years—if the political will existed.


australia renewable energy, carbon emissions, green house gases, university of melbourne, zero carbon project, wind energy, concentrated solar thermalPhoto via Shutterstock

A turn for the better

If there’s one thing Wonthaggi has plenty of it’s wind. Energy researcher BEN COURTICE looks at whether it could prove to be one of the shire’s biggest assets.

IF YOU install solar panels to offset your entire electricity use, you pay no electricity bill – you may even get a credit. There are options to achieve this on a larger, regional or town scale, if communities work together.

Wonthaggi could supply all its own energy, on an annual basis, from a small wind farm. In fact, it could easily be a net exporter of large amounts of renewable energy, via the electricity grid, as the wind resource in the region is better than most parts of the country.

Crunching the numbers based on the existing information makes this clear.

The small existing Wonthaggi wind farm has a nominal capacity of 12 megawatts (MW) from its six turbines. Its annual output in 2011 was 28.3 gigawatt-hours (GWh).

With a population of just under 6900 in 2011, Wonthaggi has about a third of the Shire’s mainland population. Assuming a similar proportion of electricity use, that makes about 25 GWh per year energy use (using state government energy use figures from 2007).

That's less than the output of the wind farm. So six two-megawatt turbines can do the job now.

If the aim is energy independence, though, much more can be done.

If households in Wonthaggi reduced their own energy use, then more clean energy would be exported to other, less windy regions such as Melbourne's suburbs.

Renewable energy could 'run Australia'

All that stands between Australia and a future fuelled entirely by renewable energy, researchers say, is the political will to make the change – a notable finding for a country ravaged by an extraordinary heat wave.

By Paul Brown

LONDON – Australia could be self-sufficient in renewable energy in 10 years by converting to solar and wind energy if the country had the right social and political leadership, according to the Energy Research Institute of the University of Melbourne.

In a paper published before the current catastrophic heat wave, the researchers conclude that existing proven technologies could be deployed on a large scale to show an example to the world and to wean Australia off its addiction to fossil fuels.

Australia, the world's largest coal exporter, has one of the highest per capita emissions of greenhouse gases and has, until recently, resisted tackling climate change.

The report, the Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan, says that if there were the political will Australia's enormous renewable potential could be harnessed and within a decade both make the country carbon-neutral and create thousands of new jobs.

About 40 percent of Australian renewables would come from wind farms, but key to the success of the project is the empty landscape and the almost constant solar power of the interior.

Coal mining, civil disobedience and the public good


Commentators were outraged by activist Jonathan Moylan's fake media release that caused disruption to the stock market last week. But there was little concern about the the impact of coal mining on people's health and the climate, the issue that prompted what was called his act of civil disobedience. 

Decades ago, industry and government were slow to listen to the message of activists about the dangers of asbestos, and we are now paying the price. The effect of coal mining on the health of local communities is probably far less significant, but nevertheless overseas evidence suggests it could be serious and far-reaching. 

The Beyond Zero Emissions 2012 study Health and Social Harms of Coal Mining in Local Communities points to evidence of elevated mortality rates in Appalachian coal mining areas in the US. The authors stress the need to research the health effects of coal mining in the Hunter Valley and other regions. But instead governments appear to be granting mining licences indiscriminately and offeringfavourable treatment to the coal industry.

Another $27 Million Slung At 'Clean Coal'

There's a saying about throwing good money after bad - and some would consider the additional millions of dollars of taxpayer money recently given to the Callide Oxyfuel Demonstration Project might be covered by it.
According to The Age, the Federal and Queensland government and the coal industry unveiled the Callide Oxyfuel Demonstration Project over the weekend.
The project consists of using processes to capture carbon dioxide from power stations and then store it deep underground - essentially sweeping dirt under the rug (and hoping it stays there).
According to a statement issued by Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson's office, the Callide Oxyfuel Demonstration Project received the additional funding to extend its demonstration phase by fifteen months.
The Federal Government is kicking in $14 million dollars.
"This will allow the project to achieve the 10,000 cumulative operating hours required as a standard to demonstrate new technologies," said the Minister.
While there have been huge sums of money invested in CCS (Carbon Capture and Storage/Sequestration) in recent years, the $208 million Callide Oxyfuel Project is one of a handful in the world to move beyond concept into construction. 

Solar Funding Evokes Mixed Reactions

$83.5 million for solar research funding as part of the United States- Australia Solar Energy Collaboration (USASEC) was announced by Minister for Resources and Energy Martin Ferguson on Thursday.
$33 million will go to the US-Australia Institute for Advanced Photovoltaics led by the University of New South Wales. $35 million will be provided to the Australian Solar Thermal Research Initiative, led by CSIRO.
$15.5 million has been allocated to collaborative research projects under the Open Funding Round of the USASEC.
"Today's funding commitment supports the collaborative efforts being made by our governments to drive innovation, build research and technical capacity, and provide pathways to solar commercialisation," Minister Ferguson said. 

Demonstrating the future of 'clean coal'

By Peter Hannam

If there is a future to clean coal, it may well be found in Banana Shire in central Queensland.

There, amid open-cut coalmines and the odd Queensland bottle tree, federal and state governments and the coal industry over the weekend unveiled the Callide Oxyfuel Demonstration Project.

Callide power station 

Dubbed a ''vitally important step towards low-emission coal technology'', the 30-megawatt power plant was handed another $27 million to reach 10,000 hours of operations to prove the processes work.

By November 2014, funding for the formerly mothballed 43-year-old plant will exceed $230 million. Governments, federal and state, will supply almost 40 per cent, with about a third coming from a voluntary levy on the coal industry, and the balance from Japanese companies and Tokyo.

Australia joins US in $83m solar research plan

The Federal Government has announced an $83 million solar research program in partnership with the United States.

The eight-year project will bring together six Australian universities, the CSIRO and the US department of energy.

Its aim is to create new technology that will reduce the cost of solar power.

Energy Minister Martin Ferguson says it is the biggest solar energy research investment in Australia's history.

"The funding will see the establishment of two strategic research initiatives, the $33m US-Australia Institute for Advanced Photovoltaics and the $35m Australian Thermal Research Initiative," Mr Ferguson said.

"These initiatives will accelerate solar technology development faster than either country could do working alone."

US-Australian Institute for Advanced Photovoltaics director Martin Green told Radio National this morning that Australia was leading the world in development of cheaper, better photovoltaics, the technology used in most solar panels.

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