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Net Zero and a world without power

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UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said this week that drilling for oil and gas is ‘moral and economic madness’ and that if we do not take action the result will be devastating flooding, heatwaves and droughts.

The United Nations was established to prevent wars (an objective it has singularly failed to achieve). It was not set up to lecture the world’s population on eating less meat, driving and flying much less and abandoning the very resource that has enabled the comfortable lifestyles we now take for granted.

Consequently I am imagining Australia (where I now live) in 2050 when there is no oil, gas or coal production or importation; green pressure, capitulated to by weak politicians, has ensured that nuclear power generation is still illegal. (Nuclear fusion, the holy grail of power generation, is still ten years away and always will be. It’s not known as the holy grail for nothing.)

Picture a night when there is no wind blowing, so the only electricity generation is by the Snowy 1 and 2 hydro plants plus maybe another one or two hydro projects yet to be built or even thought about. All vehicles will have to be EVs by then because there’s no petrol or diesel. If there were a couple of cloudy, windless days before that night most EVs will have low batteries. The only answer to this lack of generation is battery storage. It is a fantasy to think that battery technology will have advanced so far as to be able to produce enough electricity from storage to cover such huge requirements over a long timescale. All today’s windmills and solar panels will have expired by then (average life expectancy 20-25 years compared with 50 years for fossil-fuel power stations). Thousands of new ones will need to be built in time, and the nation criss-crossed with power lines like a gigantic spider’s web to deliver electricity from sunny and windy places to where there’s no sun or little wind.

Wait. Where does the aluminium for the power lines come from and the steel to build the pylons? Both metals take huge quantities of electricity to produce.

Perhaps, as some people think, hydrogen is the answer. So-called blue hydrogen takes more power to produce than it provides when burnt; green hydrogen is better because it would be produced using wind and/or solar power (if there is any in the location) taking power from the grid when it will all be needed for business and domestic use. Hydrogen has low power density, and is costly and difficult to transport and store in viable quantities, so it’s another fantasy. 

Alice Springs in daytime may be able to export some solar electricity to Adelaide, but 2,800 miles away to Singapore (as has been proposed by two Australian billionaires), Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane, Darwin as well? 

As all fossil fuels are phased out electric trucks will be transporting food, goods and other products around Australia by road. But the network will rapidly become dirt roads as there will be no bitumen produced from crude oil to resurface them. Never mind, there won’t be much food to transport anyway because most fertiliser is produced from crude. Hospital power supplies will be weather dependent but never mind, there won’t be many medicines available to treat patients as most of them are fossil-fuel derived.

Happy days (!) as the UN perpetrates the hoax.

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David Wright
David Wright
David Wright is a former Royal Navy engineer officer, then an expatriate senior manager in the Far East for many years before running his own business in the UK. He now lives in Australia.

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