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Energy Charades

A previous post, Energy Realities, showed in clear, graphical detail, the status of energy production and consumption, both globally and for two key nations; the USA and China.

In this post I’ll link to a number of detailed reports, all published recently, that provide more context to the graphs presented in that previous post.

But first there are a number of points about the current energy situation that can be taken from those graphs and their data:

  • As of 2019, almost thirty years after the Kyoto Treaty was signed, the world still overwhelmingly relies on fossil fuels for its energy needs, from electricity production to transport, to the tune of 87%.
  • Renewable energy forms a small percentage of global energy, and the majority of that is traditional biomass and hydro.
  • Nuclear power forms an even smaller fraction.
  • In the USA, fossil fuel dominance is at 80%, even as coal has fallen to about 11% of total energy production.
  • Despite this, the USA’s CO2 emissions per person is 18% less than it was in 1949 and 50% less than the peak in 1973.
  • China’s coal production has exploded in the last twenty years by a factor of almost 400%.
  • The efficiency of wind power is very low, with actual output being a small fraction of installed capacity, and often falling to zero. The same is true of solar power.

So let’s look at some of the reports from just this year alone that explain those graphs, noting that fossil fuels already generate 86% of China’s primary energy consumption.

China’s 2020 coal output rises to highest since 2015:

The world’s biggest coal miner and consumer produced 3.84 billion tonnes of coal in 2020, data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed on Monday.

China’s new coal power plant capacity in 2020:

China put 38.4 gigawatts (GW) of new coal-fired power capacity into operation in 2020, according to new international research, more than three times the amount built elsewhere around the world

Including decommissions, China’s coal-fired fleet capacity rose by a net 29.8 GW in 2020

There’s more to come:

China will invest more in coal to power its economy over the next five years, according to a government plan released Friday that only modestly increased renewable ambitions.

Two specific reports on that.

China’s Economy Is Based on Fossil Fuels:

China plans to build 250 gigawatts of coal-fired generating capacity to add to its current coal-fired fleet of over 1,000 gigawatts—more coal-fired capacity than the entire U.S. generating fleet. Last year, China opened the $30 billion Haoji Railway line, a 2,000-kilometer (1,243-mile) conduit to haul 200 million tons of coal a year directly from central coal mining basins to regions in the southeast.

The Chinese gap between Green and coal:

China approved the construction of a further 36.9 GW of coal-fired capacity last year, three times more than a year earlier, bringing the total under construction to 88.1 GW. It now has 247 GW of coal power under development, enough to supply the whole of Germany.

It’s sad to see in that last article, the claim being made that China is still holding to its commitment for reaching peak CO2 emissions by 2030 and the claim that these coal plants will become stranded assets, even as those actual figures are shown. Nobody, not even in infrastructure investment-mad China, would be stupid enough to build assets costing tens or even hundreds of billions of dollars that will be “stranded” within a decade. These things are built for thirty to forty years of life.

And it’s not just China.

Asia snubs IEA’s call to stop new fossil fuel investments:

Asian energy officials on Wednesday disputed the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) call for no new oil, natural gas and coal investments for the world to be able to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, viewing that approach as too narrow.

Europe turns to coal-fired generation as gas prices rise:

Europe is so short of natural gas that the continent — usually seen as the poster child for the global fight against emissions — is turning to coal to meet electricity demand that is now back to pre-pandemic levels.

Coal usage in the continent jumped 10% to 15% this year after a colder- and longer-than-usual winter left gas storage sites depleted

The return of coal is a setback for Europe ahead of the climate talks in Glasgow later this year. Leaders of the world’s biggest economies failed to set a firm date to end coal burning at the meeting of the Group of Seven at the weekend in Cornwall, U.K.

I assume this means the EU will be giving Poland less shit about its refusal to trash 65% of its energy supply as they attempt to recover from four decades of Communism and reach the wealth levels of the Western EU nations.

INDIA – Coal projected to be its largest source of power in 2040.

Coal is projected to remain the largest single source of electricity in India in 2040, according to Michelle Manook, Chief Executive, World Coal Association.

You would expect such a person to make such a claim, but their energy minister sounds like he’s backing it up, according to the BBC:

India lambasted the richer world’s carbon cutting plans, calling long term net zero targets, “pie in the sky.” Their energy minister said poor nations want to continue using fossil fuels and the rich countries “can’t stop it”.

As a result the following analysis is probably right on the money:

The world’s coal producers are currently planning as many as 432 new mine projects with 2.28 billion tonnes of annual output capacity, research published on Thursday showed, putting targets for slowing global climate change at risk.

China, Australia, India and Russia account for more than three quarters of the new projects, according to a study by U.S. think-tank Global Energy Monitor. China alone is now building another 452 million tonnes of annual production capacity, it said.

More stranded assets I guess!

You need to understand that the developing world is not simply being obstructive in all this. It’s not just that they need to develop their economies fast and that fossil fuels will power the way forward just as it did the West, it’s also the simple fact that renewable energy cannot do the job because of its inefficiency and base load instability, both a result of laws of physics that cannot be avoided, no matter how low the cost of wind turbines and solar panels fall.

Moreover, these nations are beginning to notice some of the problems arising in Western nations and regions that have pushed hard into renewable energy. Some more headlines:

GERMANY – Chipmakers lament high taxes and levies on electricity:

“The high electricity price makes the location unattractive,” Christoph von Plotho, head of chip supplier Siltronic, told Handelsblatt. Another main reason were high personnel costs in Germany. At the same time, a spokesperson of Germany’s largest semiconductor producer Infineon told Handelsblatt that a secure power supply without fluctuations was also a major factor in keeping production in Germany and Europe.

That comes after Germany has spent twenty years and some 500 million Euros in its Energiewende program to build a wind and solar power system. This has resulted in a huge amount of installed capacity that just does not produce and actually requires the old power system to continue beside it:

In 2000, Germany had an installed capacity of 121 gigawatts and it generated 577 terawatt-hours… In 2019, the country produced just 5 percent more (607 TWh), but its installed capacity was 80 percent higher (218.1 GW)

The new system, using intermittent power from wind and solar, accounted for 110 GW, nearly 50 percent of all installed capacity in 2019, but operated with a capacity factor of just 20 percent. (That included a mere 10 percent for solar, which is hardly surprising, given that large parts of the country are as cloudy as Seattle.)

The old system stood alongside it, almost intact, retaining nearly 85 percent of net generating capacity in 2019. Germany needs to keep the old system in order to meet demand on cloudy and calm days and to produce nearly half of total demand. In consequence, the capacity factor of this sector is also low.

The average cost of electricity for German households has doubled since 2000.

All this has not been helped by their insane decision to shut down nuclear plants. The result is that coal still generates some 37% of electricity and Germany has missed its CO2 emission reduction targets. This won’t get better either:

Germany’s solar farms will have to be rebuilt every 15-25 years. The wind farms will need to be rebuilt every 20-25 years.

Higher investment costs, higher running costs, both short and long-term, resulting in more expensive electricity – and all to deliver poorer CO2 reductions than the USA, which has done nothing nationwide like the acclaimed Energiewende.

But while the USA has largely relied on switching from coal to gas for generating electricity (thanks frackers) , California has been another of these “Green Energy leaders” – and the results are the same, Blackouts Loom in California as Electricity Prices Are ‘Absolutely Exploding:

Two inexorable energy trends are underway in California: soaring electricity prices and ever-worsening reliability—and both trends bode ill for the state’s low- and middle-income consumers.

Texas is not as well known for pushing wind power but it has, and the results – blackouts – were already seen during the February cold snap, and could be seen again with this summer’s heat.

New York is also not well known for Green Energy, but they’re trying. On April 30 it closed the Indian Point nuclear power plant, which reliably produced 1,036 MW of electricity.

And so just the other day…

There is no way that China and India or the rest of the developing world are going to accept the same results.

Written by Tom Hunter

July 4, 2021 at 7:08 am

Energy Realities

There have been some terrific graphs published recently that tell us much more about both the global energy situation and efforts to reduce AGW than any number of lengthy articles.

All these graphs but one are historical, showing how energy use has changed over time since the start of the Industrial Revolution.

First, some history of our reliance on different types of energy over the last two hundred years. Note that coal usage peaked around one hundred years ago and oil in the 1970’s. But note also how important they remain.

The reason for those changes can be seen in the next graph, which effectively demonstrates the energy content of the different types. It’s interesting to see that Biomass is churning out slightly more energy than ever, but as energy demands have risen it and other renewable energy sources have simply been left behind. Those fuels with higher energy density have taken over by massive margins.

The only exception to this is nuclear, which is still a pitifully small contributor despite having the highest energy density of all.

Those global figures have been driven by two nations in particular, the USA and China.

Here’s the US. Coal’s contribution has dropped by a huge margin in the last twenty years. The reason for that can be seen in the mirror-image increase in natural gas, which has steadily replaced coal for burning to generate electricity. That in turn has been driven by fracking and horizontal drilling that has unlocked huge reserves of gas on the continental USA, greatly reduced the long-term cost of gas, and thus caused power companies to shift over to using more gas, a process that will continue.

The result of all that has been the steady reduction of CO2 emissions per person in the USA over the last fifty years.

All without signing up to, and even rejecting, the Kyoto Treaty and Paris Climate Accord. So much for government “action”.

Unfortunately all this good work by the USA’s capitalist economy, with its relentless focus on increased productivity that demands getting more production with less energy, is being undone by China.

Not that you can blame them. They have 1.4 billion people that need to have their lives lifted to something approaching that of the West, and they are therefore following a similar path of energy production that the West has undertaken over the last two hundred years. It’s the only way for people to become more prosperous and comfortable in all aspects of life, especially food, housing, health, work.

Note how even the impact of a government lockdown of the economy had no effect on the burning of coal in China in 2020.

India’s 1.2 billion people are following China as fast as they can, as well as the rest of Asia and Africa.

If you want one graph to explain why renewable energy forms such a tiny part of all this, even after hundreds of billions of dollars and Euros of investment over the last thirty years, then the following graph is as good as any.

You just can’t beat physics.

Written by Tom Hunter

July 2, 2021 at 7:00 am

How New Zealand should deal with China

This post follows on from a comment made by my co-blogger, The Veteran, in his post on China:

Tom … cheap shot in the context of ACT’s penchant for unloading cheap shots on National. Guess that’s part of your strategy for growing the vote … might just backfire one day. But there’s nothing but nothing in all your writings to suggest a pathway forward in our dealings with China …waiting.

Fair enough, although my hands-off approach to commenting on New Zealand is one reason I’ve not done this before, and I doubt that the ACT Party will be much better than National or Labour on the China issues.

Also to be fair, it’s the Green Party that has been more prominent in speaking out on various China issues over the years, but by the same token I don’t expect anything concrete from them when they join Labour in government post 2023, given how they’ve caved to Labour on various matters in recent years.

So, to some ideas for how New Zealand can deal with China.

  1. Focus on slowly reducing our exposure to them in exports and imports. Sure, this is easier said than done but I think the focus must be on increasing our export/import trade with other nations, starting with getting that Free Trade agreement with a Britain newly liberated from the EU. Deliberately trying to shrink our trade with China is not likely to work so the emphasis has to go on building trade with other nations so that our proportion with China shrinks.
  2. Increase the frequency and volume of our diplomatic work with the nations facing China. The diplomatic side is symbolism but that’s damned important: make the Chinese observe that we’re getting on well with nations that they are attacking, like Japan, Philippines, Vietnam, and especially India. By the same token start restricting our meetings with the Chinese and make them as cold and technical as hell. No more warm fuzzies in public. There’s no need for bad-tempered, Trump-style attacks, just a cold shoulder combined with warmth towards nations they’re unhappy with.
  3. Increased defence associations with those same countries. If there’s a military exercise involving them, join it in every possible way: Army, Navy, Air Force. Again, this is not being militaristic (whoever would believe that about NZ nowadays), it’s a matter of making it crystal clear to the CCP that we’re not on their side.
  4. We often boast about our ability to work behind the scenes on big, global issues so let’s do that by trying to persuade the likes of the EU, Britain, the USA and other rich countries to start helping out those nations in Africa and elsewhere that have found themselves getting in coercive hock to the Chinese. We’ve long claimed that we can be seen as an “honest broker” with the smaller, less-developed nations of the world so we work on that side of the same solution to bring them to the table (a quiet backroom table away from the cameras) with the rich folk. It’s not as if those nations are still unaware of the infrastructure stunts China has pulled on them so they should be attentive as we try to build some speed bumps into the Belt and Road initiative.
  5. Criticise those US corporations and entities – especially the likes of Hollywood and the NBA – that are crawling on their bellies to the CCP for access to all those hundreds of millions of potential customers. New Zealanders love America-bashing so there’s little downside and in case you have not noticed, young people are not particularly impressed with Hollywood nowadays anyway.
  6. Put the squeeze on the New Zealand influencing operations of outfits like the Confucius Institutes. They’re nothing more than a CCP propaganda front in the education field.
  7. Clean up our laws on electoral donations to eliminate, or at least reduce, the possibility that CCP money is being laundered into the NZ political scene via Chinese businesses and their connections to NZ businesses. I’m sure this will give China apologist Michael Barnett (Executive Director of the Auckland Chamber of Commerce) a bad dose of the squirts but that’s just a plus in my view.

    The “Inner Mongolia Rider Horse Industry” may have sounded like a snickering insiders joke at first (wink, wink) but it’s not funny any longer.

Speaking of funny, if we did desire to be slightly more assholish to the CCP we could always trigger them by having this map displayed in a few key spots – Motorway billboards perhaps.

And with a great sense of timing here’s a Substack article that partially covers this, Why Republicans Must Rethink Antitrust:

In the early 1990s, we were reliably informed by neoliberal economists, including the Chicago School, that if China were allowed to engage in free trade and join multilateral organizations that the country would gradually democratize and embrace America as the world’s only superpower.

“We know now that this theory missed the mark by a wide margin. Instead of democratizing, China became a surveillance state (thanks in large part to the U.S. internet). Contrary to the Chicago School theory, China never engaged in free or fair trade. Three million jobs shipped from the U.S. to China over the past twenty years — and our children get defective toys and contaminated baby formula.

I once believed those things too. I no longer do. If the National Party wishes to continue living in 1980-2000 period then they face a Mitt Romney future.

Written by Tom Hunter

June 14, 2021 at 10:04 am

IF IT BLEEDS IT LEADS!

Emotive camera work so graphic it requires a pre-item warning, is leading local media as to how big a clusterfuck India’s covid handling has descended to. A nation of an estimated 1.4 Billion souls almost the equal of its northern neighbour China, since winning the right to self government in 1948 it has amassed a nuclear capability, had a seven decade state of armed conflict with Pakistan, and territorial disputes since independence over Kashmir yet here in the third decade of the twenty first century India has run out of Oxygen. Bottled O2 that is everywhere in abundance as a fifth of the planets atmosphere and relatively simple to separate and compress under pressure for medical use.

Yes it seems the mutant that is killing Thousands daily is revealing a mismanagement of colossal proportions with many even apparently healthyish younger persons, dying in the streets unable to even access hospital admission so of course it looks tragic unless, one might question exactly how that stacks up compared to little ole NZ. Well NZ has less than 20 persons per sq kilometer while India has nearly 450 in that small area.

How to lock down one and a half billion souls who in Mumbai live in a density of 20 000 per sq km.

So in an orgy of exposure the media is obsessed with an infection rate and deaths associated as gross numbers that seem end of the world stuff, yet no relevance as to how many Indian citizens statistically die every day before The Rona became the weapon of choice for a Government and its propaganda ministry to instill ever more doomsday scenarios for alarmism. Jeepers with almost 1.5 billion people and a death rate of 7.5 per thousand such media manipulation has been missing in action for years.

Does anyone still believe we were saved by Saint Cindy of the Pestilence behind our Moat of nearly 2000 Kms, and a population able to socially distance even in Malls and super stores. So far NZ has avoided pandemic scenarios as much as by good luck and in spite of an ever growing litany of potential disastrous incompetent decisions. Too bad that did not allow many small entrepreneurial units to survive the malfeasance, however we will not talk about that when by showing the unfolding disaster in India the facade of competence continues from The propaganda Ministry.

Written by Gravedodger

April 28, 2021 at 11:29 am

Posted in India

I FIND IT FASCINATING THAT

some among us still downplay Covid-19/20 as nothing more than a bad case of the flu.

Could I suggest that telling that to the people of India, Brazil, Canada, Germany et al and you might need PPE to guard yourselves against being tarred and feathered.

Some muvvers do have em.

Written by The Veteran

April 24, 2021 at 9:25 pm

Posted in Europe, India

Tagged with