June 08, 2013 | Ronda Jambe

Divest and reinvest

The bad news is we are cooking the planet by burning fossil fuels.
The good news is we are running out of fossil fuels.
end of story, no problems, right? —
Except that the big money has now moved into fossil fuels, heedless of the bad news above. When the housing mess collapsed, searching for oil and building coal terminals became the next best investment. In the rush to turn the Great Barrier Reef into an industrial estate, investors include the major banks in Australia, many foreign banks, and many super funds and universities.
It seems the stability of the global economy partly depends on something called ‘capital formation’, which I guess means generating enough investment surplus to fund other things. (Help me here, because reading the Economist regularly hasn’t really enlightened me all that much about economics, but I read it for the arts, too.)
Since the advice of just about all scientists and the World Bank, and the military, and the UN and PWC, etc, is that climate change poses enormous, perhaps insurrmountable obstacles for security, food and survival (have I left anything important out?) it then follows that any and all efforts to shift the world’s money flows away from things that will destroy us and into things that might help save us are both sensible and urgent.
Bill McKibben’s efforts in this direction have met with some success, as big institutions see the writing on the wall, (or maybe the burning bush) and are eyeing the returns on renewables with some comfort.
And here, at Canberra’s unis, already students and academics are asking questions of the Vice Chancellors about divesting of fossil fuel stocks. These questions are not always coming from the high moral ground or paranoia about climate change, either. Some are coming from business and marketing disciplines, that ask about the reputational risk and even ROI if this movement gets mainstream.
Here is one of of the big numbers McKibben presented in his ‘do the maths’ tour, he was most charming:
“We can emit 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide and stay below 2°C of warming …Burning the fossil fuel that corporations now have in their reserves would result in emitting 2,795 gigatons of carbon dioxide – five times the safe amount.”Bill McKibben 350.org

Posted by Ronda Jambe at 2:44 pm | Comments (15) |
Filed under: Uncategorized


  1. This crap is dressed up as “managing risk” so as to allow these funds to be able to listen to them without running the risk of being accused of not acting in accordance with their fiduciary interests.

    Comment by Don — June 8, 2013 @ 3:15 pm

  2. not sure what point you are making, Don. Do you think fossil fuel investments will pay off? then maybe you should read beyond the hype of shale oil. which risks are you prepared to take with the planet? I’m the true conservative here.

    Comment by Ronda Jambe — June 8, 2013 @ 5:41 pm

  3. PS, Don, I have been told ethical investments, such as Morning Star, are returning 15%. Is that enough for you?

    Comment by Ronda Jambe — June 9, 2013 @ 9:12 am

  4. I am with you Ronda,

    Cant understand any argument against the need to do anything.

    When the US military expresses warnings, you know that there is a real good chance we need to do something.

    Most people here and elsewhere want to do something, but answers proving difficult (just like the economy).

    Comment by Chris Lewi — June 9, 2013 @ 9:59 am

  5. In just the last thirty years, we have lost half the Great Barrier Reef.
    Some of it down to star fish, the rest to global warming, flood run-off and ocean acidification?
    Various published industry expert estimates, would have us believe, this area, or the northern half, is maybe the last remaining repository, of easily accessed oil/hydrocarbons?
    With one I read in the seventies, postulating that we may have, to our immediate north, hydrocarbon reserves (oil, NG, LPG) to equal or even surpass the entire known middle east reserves?
    This based on the sheer number of otherwise unexplainable mystery oil slicks and the vast area affected?
    The good news with regard to Australian traditional sweet light crude, is the actual amount of carbon produced, from well head to harvester; when compared to current import of twice refined petroleum products, (petrol/diesel)!
    Which when tracked from well head to harvester, produces four times as much Co2 emission
    To reiterate, our own traditional, virtually sulphur free, sweet light crude produces four times less carbon!
    This is because Australian sweet light crude leaves the ground as a virtually ready to use diesel. Needing just a little insitu, chill filtering, to remove sand particles and soluble wax; which then produces a superior product.
    We are looking at marine areas, only 200-400 metres deep, and lots of it close enough to the surface, to produce said mystery oil slicks.
    It would be highly unusual for oil provinces not to be accompanied by even larger gas reserves.
    Gas wells are usually valued on the sub zero condensate, (LPG) they also produce, as a virtually free by-product!
    Most of the petroleum products we import, arrive by transiting the reef.
    And if Exon Valdise has taught us anything, it teaches that this very traffic that threatens the marine environment, much more than environmentally sensitive drilling.
    But particularly, when that very drilling relives the very pressure, actually creating already existing oil leaks, in cracked or broken ground/seabed.
    And yes, we need to remain vigilant, to ensure no cost cutting short cuts, result in oil leaks.
    The very best way to ensure that those shortcuts aren’t taken is to keep these prospects in public ownership, and oversight!
    We used to own a gas and oil corporation, until IDEOLOGICAL CONSTIPATION, obliged us to divest ourselves of the responsibility, for effectively and competently managing the same!?
    We have just two viable choices, as things stand!
    Continue to import, double refined oil products, or replace them with much more benign local resources.
    But particularly if in replacing the fully imported product, we reduce our traffic created carbon output, by as much as 400%.
    If the resource is as large as some believe it is, we could export much of it!
    And in so doing, put paid to things like much dirtier tar sands production in Canada, and shale oil production in the US. Which simply couldn’t compete!
    One notes it was Canadian and US activists, that came over just a few years ago, encouraging us to lock up vast swathes of our own marine environment, and climbed all over our heavily subsidised, fledgling pilot shale oil project, plastering it with protest banners; even as Canada/the US were opening up their tar sands, deep water wells, and shale oil projects?
    Tar sands and shale oil projects, producing in total, four times more carbon pollution, than traditional products, due to the additional energy dependant refining/processing stages involved!
    Its not that we produce some Co2 that is the problem, as you rightly say Ronda; but rather, the total volume we produce.
    Converting our economy to a carbon free or carbon neutral one, can only be achieved, if we strengthen our current and decidedly fragile, teetering on the brink economy!
    Part of the solution is to replace imports with exports!
    And if in so doing, we dramatically lower our own carbon output, as well as current transport costs, then that’s exactly what we should do! No ifs, buts or maybes!
    There is virtually no vehicle currently plying road or rail, that can’t be converted to run on locally available/produced CNG!
    Just this much change would reduce traffic cause Co2 emission, by at least 40%!
    One cubic metre of NG has the same calorific value as a litre of petrol, and local suppliers are already on the public record, claiming, even with a fuel excise imposed, they could retail high grade automotive NG, for just 40 cents per cubic metre.
    Moreover, we have a locally invented ceramic fuel cell, as an extremely viable option.
    Economies of scale, would allow us to replace the conventional engine in the hybrid vehicle, or most of the half ton plus, of lithium batteries in the fully electric one, with a solid state ceramic fuel cell, with the much lighter NG powered fuel cell, regenerative braking and capacitors providing electricity.
    The energy coefficient of 72%, of the methane powered ceramic fuel cell, the best in the world, would also make the combination, far and away, the most economical!
    Power to weight ratios, and a very low centre of gravity, created by placing motors inside wheels, would probably produce sub 3 second acceleration rates, superior range in comparison to conventional variants; and, quite massive torque! Even more so, with 4X4 or 6X6 combinations!
    Given this super silent combination could be refuelled almost as quickly as any LPG powered vehicle; it effectively eliminates the recharging delays, that currently reduce the electric vehicle’s range.
    And given the exhaust product of the NG powered ceramic fuel cell, is mostly water vapour; this combination vastly reduces carbon emission and particulate pollution to virtually nil.
    We currently lead the world in moulded carbon fibre construction, which ought to make it possible to make carbon fibre car bodies, at least or almost as cheaply as we currently produce steel ones? What we need to make that possible, is a Govt., ready willing and able, to finance an employee owned cooperative into existence, which by the way, would likely be a far more effective way of not just subsidising car manufacture, but robustly rebuilding our locally based high tech manufacture as well?
    Particularly if we can develop economies of scale, that would be ours, if we would just bite the bullet, make NG> ceramic cell> electric powered carbon fibre bodied, motor vehicles, and then export them to the world.
    We could even consider building things like B doubles/road trains, trams and very fast trains, replete with their own inboard CNG powered ceramic fuel cells, that in effect, would electrify, minus the usual and often inordinately expensive overhead wires or quite massive battery banks!
    And let’s not forget, very large agricultural machinery, minus the usual expensive running costs or maintenance bills. Or the fact, that the very next boom will likely be a food one!
    Alan B. Goulding.

    Comment by Alan B. Goulding — June 9, 2013 @ 1:07 pm

  6. Alan

    Some interesting ideas there but if we are to go down the natural gas route, we need to stop exporting what natural gas we have. We should have built a pipe-line from the NW Shelf to the population centres in the southeast and used our natural gas domestically. Let’s hope they cancel all the LNG ports within the GBR.


    You’re quite right and Bill McKibben is quite right. We need to keep four fifths of fossil fuel reserves in the ground and we might as well stop now exploring for more. And that applies to natural gas as well. I think we should forget CSG and maybe look at shale gas, but only after stringent environmental standards have been set. Gas is better than coal in greenhouse gas terms but generally only the natural gas that comes more-or-less naturally, as with the NW shelf. But in the end we have to get right off fossil fuels and depend on renewables.

    Comment by Jenny Goldie — June 9, 2013 @ 5:05 pm

  7. Jenny, if I could have my druthers, we would start relying on biogas.
    Each and every household produces enough biological waste, to power their abode.
    Ditto every high rise apartment building.
    Australian innovation has produced a smell free two tank digester system, about the size of two shipping containers, for very large high rise buildings, that converts our waste to methane.
    The necessary infrastructure roll-out would underpin a quite massive economic upturn.
    And just what we need in the non mining economy, at this juncture.
    Smaller household systems can be buried, to optimise confined space.
    After scrubbing, this bladder stored methane, can be fed into ceramic fuel cells, which then produce endlessly sustainable electrical power and free hot water.
    The addition of food scraps produces a saleable surplus.
    Other nations are already employing versions of this super smart technology.
    Yet we have yet to try even so much as a pilot plant?
    The waste product of this process is completely sanitised high carbon organic fertilizer, and nutrient loaded water.
    Which is eminently suitable as an endless source of agri-water suitable for nearby algae farming.
    Algae absorb 2.5 times their bodyweight in Co2 emission.
    Some types are up to 60% oil.
    Extracting that oil is as simple as sun-drying the end product and then crushing it to remove the ready to use as is, oil/diesel, or jet fuel.
    And given optimised closed cycle conditions, as would exist in the above scenario, literally double that absorption and oil production capacity every 24 hours.
    Yes gas is preferable to petrol or diesel, particularly when you include ceramic cell conversion.
    Which is a chemical process rather than carbon creating burning, hence the exhaust product is mostly water vapour.
    New solar technology produces Hydrogen, which can also be used in ceramic fuel cells.
    Many farmers are very happy to earn significant secure annual incomes from CSG.
    The other option to CNG, is far dirtier coal and great big holes in the ground.
    We need to export ceramic fuel cells with the gas we export, to completely remove it’s capacity to contribute to carbon pollution.
    The salt water created by CSG production can be a problem; or, cleverly utilised to grow various crops.
    Buried ag pipes can be wrapped in membranes, that filter out everything except H2o.
    The problematic salt water is then piped through, with the selected crops drinking up all they need from a constant and very reliable source.
    [The consequent highly concentrated saline liqueur, can be used to store solar thermal heat, or underpin any number of industrial processes, like salt dependant light metals smelting.]
    Various plants, have a water pulling power that’s literally superior to pumps.
    Growing said crops under-glass, would allow the continuous recovery of pristine reusable condensate, which could be reused again and again in any under-glass high value production, e.g. diesel tree seedlings, or domestic water supply etc?
    What we lack is, I believe, genuine leadership and politicians that put Australia and Australian interests first.
    Or people actually able to think outside the box, or their current chosen, or ideologically imposed locked and bolted mindset!
    Instead, of real leaders, we seem to be led by various Ideologues, that simply overlook our best ideas and our own people, in favour of either selling the family farm, or turning the clock way way back to a hand to mouth agrarian lifestyle, and the dawn to dark gut-bust that went with it? Particularly for mothers and wives!
    I agree, we need a national gas grid, that would then allow the average Australian, to convert piped NG into on demand power, via in-house ceramic fuel cells.
    And for just one third or less, than the current cost of coal fired power.
    Even then, a very possible 100%+ profit margin, would pay all operating costs and infrastructure/pipeline costs, over time!
    Just who would refuse that offer, if we had leaders, who would act to make just that very carbon free, very low cost scenario possible.
    But I fear that isn’t going to happen under the stewardship of either side of politics. And or, a green party, that is myopically focused on just making everything much more expensive, or turning back the clock to pre-industrial times?
    The billions already invested into LNG, prevent their shut-down or mothballing.
    Moreover, the Govt now needs the revenue to fund its budget.
    Shale gas production requires the injection of a highly toxic cocktail of chemicals, injected into the ground; and or, eventually, the groundwater.
    Some of which a reportedly highly carcinogenic?
    Certainly we should act to save what’s left of the reef.
    And continuing to import fossil fuel that produces four times more Co2, than our own indigenous supplies, isn’t going to do it!
    You know, Jenny, it strikes me that the rarest commodity of all, is simple common sense!
    Alan B. Goulding.

    Comment by Alan B. Goulding — June 9, 2013 @ 9:24 pm

  8. Alan

    Thanks for reminding us of ceramic fuel cells. Much to be explored there. And of course hydrogen. Seems the latter could be used for energy storage. (Solar energy splits water into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen drives fuel cells when needed.)

    Meanwhile, progress in solar energy is remarkable so hopefully we can wean ourselves off fossil fuels sooner rather than later, with natural gas being a bridge in the short-term and a supplement in the long-term.


    Comment by Jenny Goldie — June 10, 2013 @ 9:25 am

  9. time to hold our pollies fully accountable, and make them take urgent action. how best to do this is another matter.

    I’ve also become aware (thanks to the wonderful ABC radio) of this article about what’s coming our way, from a sci-fi/historical perspective:


    Comment by ronda jambe — June 10, 2013 @ 2:53 pm

  10. ‘I’m the true conservative here.’

    Is that fiscal conservative like kevvy?

    Comment by keith kennelly — June 10, 2013 @ 6:05 pm

  11. Yes Jenny, one needs to restate that the action of ceramic fuel cells is a chemical one, that produces mostly water vapour, rather than Co2. Even when methane, (NG) is the fuel!
    That’s because the lighter than air methane molecule, is mostly hydrogen!
    Imagine 50-60 kg’s of CNG powered ceramic cells, replacing half a ton of lithium batteries in electric cars!
    These vehicles could then be refuelled almost as fast as one tops up LPG powered taxis!
    Thereby overcoming the usual, (tyranny of distance) objections to electric vehicles; or, lack of range.
    Imagine CNG powered ceramic fuel cells replacing all the very expensive overhead wires in very fast trains, trams and light rail. Roll-out costs would come way down!
    Why, we could even envisage the much safer Chinese built Magnetron, (no wheel bearings to burn out) and it’s cruising 450 Klm’s PH speed! Top speed being around 900 Klm’s PH currently!
    And wouldn’t ceramic cell conversions, be a boon for underground workers, currently subjected on a daily basis, to diesel engine emitted carcinogenic particulates!
    Imagine the diesel electric mining trucks, being re-jigged with CNG powered ceramic fuel cells, replacing both the diesel engine and the alternator.
    Ditto most on farm machinery, B doubles and road trains.
    And all electric caravans could have motors added to wheels, to make towing a breeze, and indeed, un-powered overnight stops or sites!
    And given these same solid state fuel cells, with no moving parts to wear out, work just as well on hydrogen or scrubbed biogas, they simply add other options, but little or no Co2, regardless of the fuel type!
    And the 72% energy coefficient, more than three times better than coal fired power, would make them the least costly to operate!
    Coincidently, one can produce endless copious hydrogen at little or no cost, utilizing modern solar thermal technology, and catalytically assisted water molecule cracking; and, endlessly reliable seawater.
    We already crack the hydrocarbon in relative safety, in refineries, in fairly close proximity to large population centres.
    Creating in the process, considerably more volatile substances, than hydrogen.
    In any event, these hydrogen producing facilities, could be built alongside largely uninhabited coastlines, or on uninhabited Islands.
    When we modernize and implement this older, mass production hydrogen technology, well might we conclude, that NG was just an interim measure.
    And the gas grid pipelines we create in the interim, will still serve when we replace NG, with mass produced hydrogen!
    Cheers, Alan.

    Comment by Alan B. Goulding — June 11, 2013 @ 12:27 pm

  12. After absorbing Dr Arnie Gunderson and our Dr Helen Caldicott’s scientific analysis of nuclear energy, I no longer think that nuclear fission even with Thorium is good for this planet. Fukushima is a disaster far worse than Chernobyl.

    Nikola Telsa was investigating alternate sources of energy over 100yrs ago. He had over 200 patents on his inventions.JP Morgan used his financial power to crush his scientific investigations because the concept of free energy would destroy the very power base of a few elites. Hence today we have not progressed beyond carbon or nuclear fission as a source of energy.

    Nikola Tesla was an absolute genius but died a pauper.

    Comment by Ross — June 11, 2013 @ 10:07 pm

  13. Ross, you need to read, Thorium, cheaper than coal.
    Oxide reactors consume around 5-6% of their fuel source, the rest becoming waste, which is highly toxic.
    Sure we have devised means to store this stuff in relative safety, and FBR holds some promise that we might be able to reuse the stuff; and in so doing, reduce the half life of the highly radioactive waste, to just 300 years?
    As one advocate remarked, surely we are smart enough to safely sequester this stuff, for just 300 years.
    Thorium, on the other hand, is vastly more abundant than uranium. Rejected in the fifties, because there is no weapons spin-off!
    We have enough of it to power the world for 600 years!
    A Thorium reactor consumes better than 95% of its fuel source, and produces a vastly less toxic waste product, which is eminently suitable as very long life space batteries. meaning, no disposal problems!
    While we can convert biological waste to enough electrical energy, to meet all our domestic needs!
    We will still need to create abundant cheap carbon free energy, for any number of industrial processes.
    Like say, building CNG/hydrogen powered ceramic fuel cells; and or, the next generation of fuel cell powered electric cars/motor vehicles etc.
    Ideally, we will create industrial estates, replete with their own locally provided power source, to largely eliminate transmission losses
    . Which at an average of around 50%, virtually double the energy component cost.
    And we could eliminate the transport component, given all allied production, could also be onsite? Which would reduce costs, which currently continue to rise!
    These savings would allow us to compete on a far more equal footing, with offshore manufacture!
    Given our industrial future will be energy dependant high tech, we needs must eliminate any energy wastage, or brown/black outs. All too often caused by lightening strikes on exposed transformers etc.
    Only made necessary by transmission line losses and the tyranny of distance. All virtually eliminated by local power generation.
    We may be able to replace some shipping with solar sailers.
    However, given a vastly changed climate, and unforeseeable sudden tempest, all future shipping will need to be submersible.
    Therefore, we will need other options.
    Algae sourced diesel is possible along with the snorkels we’d likely need to stay submerged almost indefinitely.
    Alternatively, we could consider the nuclear option in the form of helium cooled pebble reactors?
    Had Fukushima’s facility, been a pebble reactor, we likely would see it still safely operating today!
    Some so called coal advocates are saying we could keep coal-fired power, if we but geo-sequester the Co2 product they produce.
    This is an inordinately expensive proposal, with the necessary pipelines costing better than a trillion?
    Yes sure, a cashed up third party, (super fund/hedge fund) could build them and then lease them back to the power industry for a handsome and growing return.
    This almost insane proposal, will more than anything else, force us to adopt the nuclear option; or permanently kill off the coal industry.
    Whereas, if we advocated companion closed cycle algae farming, which would sequester carbon all while providing an additional source of virtually endless sustainable income! Coal fired power could continue, and compete favourably, with all the other options.
    I once heard an energy minister defend importing foreign oil, even though we likely own a source of as yet untapped hydrocarbons, to rival or perhaps even eclipse the entire known Middle East reserves?
    He explained that we needed to import some oil, as our own indigenous supplies were too light for the refineries, or heavy duty industrial lubricants.
    While that could have been valid at the time, recent innovations that use industrial sized microwaves, to convert waste tyres to crude oil, have provided us with a means to create our own heavy crude, up to 50,000 plus barrels of it, annually.
    And we have enough bituminous coal, to replace, much of the asphalt we currently import as very heavy crude, refinery waste product?
    Moreover, bitumen road surfaces can be endlessly recycled.
    By lifting, cooking and mixing in waste rubber particulate!
    All that’s missing is the very low cost power, as would be provided by a transportable CNG/hydrogen powered industrial sized ceramic fuel cell!
    Alan B. Goulding.

    Comment by Alan B. Goulding — June 12, 2013 @ 1:25 pm

  14. go for it, Alan, you are educating the masses, if common sense has any sway.

    Comment by ronda jambe — June 12, 2013 @ 3:30 pm

  15. Alan I hope you are right. Our present Uranium reactors are based on 1970’s technology and none of them are safe. The nuclear industry have really stuff it and we need a lot more accountability.

    Comment by Ross — June 12, 2013 @ 10:15 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.