MPU: Gas Industry

 In Economy & Jobs, Environment & Energy, Senate Speeches

Senator RENNICK (Queensland) (16:59, 15 June 2021): First of all, I’d like to touch on Senator Waters’ comments about public money being used for energy projects in this country. The Morrison government has committed billions and billions of dollars to renewable energy—not the least $10 billion in the Clean Energy Fund; $5 billion in the Snowy Hydro; $3.5 billion for the Climate Solutions Package; $2.5 billion for the Emissions Reduction Fund; $1.5 billion for the Australian Renewable Energy Agency; $1 billion for the Grid Reliability Fund, which has now become another fund; and $0.5 billion for the Hydrogen Strategy. That comes to about $24 billion all up.

My view is that you either nationalise the energy market or let the market rip. But this idea of going around subsidising energy producers regardless of the type of energy is not on. I think the private industry should pay their fair share of tax. If they make money, they should pay money. In terms of putting in roads to enable this to happen, I’m more than happy to argue that they should pay their fair share of tax on that. However, the Beetaloo Basin does have over 200,000 petajoules of shale gas in place. To put that in perspective, Australia currently uses 1,920 petajoules a year, both for domestic use and for export. So there is over 100 years of gas just for Australia in the Beetaloo Basin. So we’d be mad not to use our own natural resources where we can. We cannot rely on wind and solar alone. It’s intermittent energy, and, ultimately, it’s not renewable and it’s not clean either—which I’ll talk about in a minute.

The other thing I would like to talk about is this allegation of it being a ‘climate bomb’ and, in particular, the description of methane as being a ‘dangerous climate-heating gas’. We’ve got to get over this notion that greenhouse gases are somehow warming the planet. What warms the planet is the sun. The scientific equation for that comes under E=mc2. Every second, 600,000 tonnes of hydrogen is burnt and converted into 596 million tonnes of helium and four million tonnes of energy. That energy is transported in the form of a photon to planet Earth. Not all of it but some of it comes here to planet Earth. How long that takes depends on where it was created in the sun. If it was created internally in the sun—in the middle of the sun—it can take up to 170,000 years just to get out of the sun. Then, once it is out of the sun, it takes about eight minutes and 20 seconds to get here. But that will have a lot less energy than that of a photon created on the edge of the sun, which will get here with a lot of energy. That will come either as an ultraviolet ray or a gamma ray and that will have a lot of energy. Hence why we have to stay out of the sun, because ultraviolet light will knock out an electron—it has that powerful ionising effect—and hence could cause cancer.

On the infrared radiation, which is on the other side of the visible spectrum, you’ve got two parts. There’s near radiation and thermal radiation. The near radiation—the infrared radiation—is the incoming stuff and the thermal radiation is the outgoing stuff. Interestingly enough, methane, even though it stays in the atmosphere for about 20 years versus, supposedly, carbon dioxide for 200 years—but that ignores the photosynthesis effect and lots of it gets absorbed by the ocean to create corals, of all things—actually emits at about eight microns versus 15 microns of carbon dioxide, which I will talk about in a minute. I thought I would talk a little bit about the science, because we often hear people say how they ‘believe in the science’. Well, you don’t ‘believe’ in science; you either understand it or you don’t. Science isn’t a cult. It’s not a faith. You’ve got to actually understand the science.

When it comes to heat, you’ve got three forms of heat transfer—convection, conduction and radiation. I’d like to quote a paper that was released in 1917 that talks about the quantum theory of radiation. That paper was put out by a bloke by the name of Bert—Albert Einstein. In this paper he concludes that the ‘momentum transferred by radiation is so small that it always drops out as compared to that from other dynamic processes’. What that means is that radiation has such a minimal impact that it’s basically negligible in the overall transmission of energy on planet Earth. I love to quote these scientists, because we’re told that we’ve got to believe the science; well, here’s the science. Interestingly, he says at the start that ‘molecules will acquire as the result of their mutual interaction by collisions’.

He goes on in this paper to talk about nitrogen and oxygen, which make up over 95 per cent of the atmosphere. They are heated up as well. Given that they don’t emit radiation, how is it that these things heat up if radiation is such a powerful effect? Effectively, they heat up because the major forms of heat transfer in the environment are convection and conduction. About eight million collisions a second go on; that’s conduction. Then convection is basically where the wind and the evaporative cooling from the ocean and everything cools the planet. We need to understand that because, unlike climate science theory—and that’s all it is; it’s a theory—there is actually a true science that has been around for about 200 years and that’s the science of heat, which is called thermodynamics.

There are two laws in that that really matter. The first applies to conduction—the first law of thermodynamics—and that says that energy can neither be destroyed nor created, only transformed or transferred. That’s important, because, when we have a collision with molecules, whatever one molecule loses in energy the other molecule gains. But overall there is no increase in energy in the system, because, ultimately, energy is kinetic energy. When we talk about heat it is kinetic energy which is the energy of motion, which makes a mockery of the whole ‘climate science carbon dioxide traps heat’ because nothing traps heat. As per the Stefan-Boltzmann law everything absorbs and radiates, absorbs and radiates. This idea that carbon dioxide is up-down and it’s sucking up all this heat is absurd. If it were sucking up all this heat, the question you’d have to ask yourself is: given it has been around for 3½ billion years, why don’t we get hotter and hotter? The answer to that is: effectively it emits as well.

Then we go to the second form and the major form of heat transfer in the atmosphere, which is convection. The second law of thermodynamics applies to that. Yet again I emphasise the word ‘law’ as opposed to ‘theory’, because laws have been proven through empirical science. That basically says the entropy of a system must always increase. What does that mean? That effectively means that if I’ve got half a cup of water here at 10 degrees and half a cup of water here at 20 degrees, and I pour one into the other, it’ll average out at 15 degrees. It’s a bit like the atmosphere. If you turn those two cups on their sides, effectively whatever heat is emitted downwards, by the so-called greenhouse gases, convection will naturally balance out. Why? Because the atmosphere is basically one big pressure gradient based on temperature differentials. Any change in the pressure or the temperature will always seek to increase the entropy of a system. As I said, if you’re putting heat downwards—so if we’ve got those two cups on their sides and carbon dioxide’s radiating downwards and suddenly the bottom cup increases to 21 degrees, using the first law of thermodynamics that means the upper cup will go back to nine degrees. If you combine the two again it still averages out at 15 degrees. Long story short: we really have to stop scaring the world with this whole climate change mantra, because the climate has always changed and the earth has always been able to balance it out as a result of the atmosphere, pressure gradients, evaporative cooling and so on.

The other thing I want to touch on here is that the proposed solution to all of this is somehow renewable energy. Let me tell you, there is nothing renewable about lithium. Lithium is a one per cent ore body. What does that mean? That means that you’ve got to mine 100 tonnes of ore to get one tonne of metal. These ore bodies don’t sit in the ground in a nice, perfect shape where you can go in and just dig it up; you’ve got to go around and around and around. When you see those mining pits they will probably be 10 times the size of the ore. You’ve got to get down to the ore. You can’t just have a big truck driving down a steep gradient. You might have to shift 1,000 tonnes of dirt just to get one tonne of metal. To get lithium out of the ore it has to go through four intensive electrolysis processes—before it’s even ready to be put into a battery, right? That’s just one half of the battery. You’ve then got to use graphite as the cathode. Then you’ve got to dig all that up as well.

Interestingly enough, a guy by the name of Richard Herrington, who is the head of the earth sciences in the Natural History Museum, says, ‘Just to power of the UK fleet you’re going to have to use half the world’s available copper, the entire amount of the world’s available lithium and about three-quarters of the world’s available cobalt’, so it’s never going to happen.

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