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39 responses to “Coal Seam Gas: Behind the Seams – what we did while Labor imploded”

  1. Doug Evans

    The project is very important but to judge by John Quiggin’s first excursion (that I know of at least) into the field he had better bring himself up to speed. http://www.businessspectator.com.au/bs.nsf/Article/CSG-climate-gas-energy-coal-shale-politics-renewab-pd20120221-RNV8D?opendocument&src=rss
    A long way below the Prof’s usual standard of discussion.

  2. Sam

    That photographer of yours needs to be put back in her box.

  3. Kim

    I think Pandora’s photographs are brilliant, technically well executed and designed well to tell a story.

    I suppose it’s beyond you to think of a single positive before you launch into criticism, Sam?

  4. Sam

    Mark and Kim

    Think about it.

  5. Kim

    We’re too tired, Sam! Been working hard on this 😛

  6. Sam

    Well done, by the way :)

  7. billie

    I find the ‘courier’ typeface on the faq website too hard to read. I am sure the website is chock full of important information

  8. akn

    A good intiative folks. I look forward to reading tomorrow with a fresh mind :)

  9. paul walter

    Re Doug’s comment, first up, I presume he is referring to Prof Quiggin’s final comment that CSG may have a place in future energy, it being not a lot more harmful than other fossil fuels, as per the lost cause of global warming.
    Presumably this must mean the stuff is more easily or economically recoverable than other energy sources; that savings arising from this allow for more research on the overall problem in coming years, say.
    I think another problem worries many, and that seems to be the careless and gung ho way about which the stuff is mined, Koch bros style, with little concern for water table pollution and impacts on people who have to submit to the presence of explorers and processors adjacent to where they live.
    This is worrying, given the collapse of enviro as an issue for politicians across the political spectrum as the headlong rush to attract miners seems to discourage impositions of rational EP laws

  10. murph the surf.

    “Our natural heritage of land and water and its ecology must indeed be protected and a way of mining gas found that is in complete harmony with this heritage. I am a member of the NSW Greens and opposed their policy of ”blanket” opposition to coal seam gas.
    Of course some strategic areas of prime farming land and national or state parks should be preserved. But as an engineer, I don’t accept that the problems of water contamination and treatment, and of gas leakage, are insurmountable. These are engineering problems and can be resolved at a cost. If the cost for any gas mine is too high, it won’t be mined”.
    Have your investigations lead you to think at this stage that a balanced and controlled development can be done?
    I found Dr Hunter’s description of the Australian economy as declining a little hard to fathom – does regional Qld have pockets of relative decline within the generally strong overall economy?
    Great effort – one slight wobble – on one article I needed to be a subscriber to Crikey to get access.Is this going behind a paywall soon?

  11. Brian

    Murph, Mark, I’ve found some articles paywalled for a time and then not at others. I think their is wierdness going on.

    Murph, thanks for the link. Unfortunately he is right about this:

    Renewable installations usually look impressive because the capacity to produce energy is quoted rather than the actual energy produced.

    As to the possibility of a “balanced and controlled development”, my opinion is that unfortunately you can’t remove all risk, and you can’t quantify the risk absolutely in advance.

    The Interim Senate Inquiry report suggests that no further production approvals should be given pending the completion of the Queensland Water Commission’s Surat Basin groundwater model and the CSIRO and Geoscience Australia basin scale investigations of water resources.

    It further suggests that companies should contribute to a trust fund to repair damage or provide compensation if deleterious effects appear decades later, which is possible.

    Both of these are good suggestions.

  12. Brian

    paul w, I think there is more work to be done to assess the greenhouse implications of CSG, and Quiggin perhaps didn’t capture all the issues. He’s right, I think, in the major point that he makes in that climate change is the prime environmental issue and gas has a potential role in dealing with it.

    The big advantage of gas is that it can be fired up or down quickly and so can be used to provide for the intermittency of renewables such as wind and solar. In the long run it should be there as a little-used back stop. It would then become a reserve capacity for which you have to pay whether you use it or not.

  13. Patrickb

    To me it looks like our leaders aren’t seriously considering any energy source other than fossil fuels. CSG is the latest attempt to avoid retooling century old industrial processes and continue with business as usual. It looks like we will eventually have fossil fuel extraction in urban areas, it already appears to be happening on the US. Not that that is new or novel, I was fascinated by the oil pumping machines scattered around Los Angeles and other settled areas of California, something we just couldn’t contemplate here where mining is at present carried in far away locations where it only disturbs the quiet enjoyment of a few. As that engineer said, it’s not about people, it’s about solving the engineering problem.
    I expect that we won’t be able to stop it, that is unless it encroaches on the quiet enjoyment of the wealthly (note: recent proposed coal mining project at Margaret River howled down by the local gentry, James Price point goes ahead. You be the judge).

  14. Quoll

    Great work.
    Been enjoying the wellhead interviews and everything else.
    The mix of personally self-depricating humour and extreme confidence in his mission and the destiny of his party from Bob K is something to behold even when you don’t agree.
    The debate is certainly heating up south of the border too.

  15. Terangeree

    I think Sam’s point at (3) might be that the photograph accompanying this post, with the national flag in the foreground and the speaker’s raised arm in the background, has rather unsubtle overtones of the propaganda from a certain central European country and a certain Mediterranean country in the 1930s.

  16. BilB

    I’m with your thinking, Paul Walter.


    “It further suggests that companies should contribute to a trust fund to repair damage or provide compensation if deleterious effects appear decades later, which is possible”

    is just plain naive gullibility.

    Remember asbestos? Remember James Hardy? How well did that work out? The culprit has fled and our community continues to pay the cost. I have a pile of asbestos sheeting sitting in my driveway and a lot more yet to strip out of my house. Is James Hardy going to swing by and do that work for me?

    To suggest that a marginal accommodation from the proceeds of CSG could possibly be enough to “repair” the damage of a contaminated water table or the subsequent methane releases from a disturbed coal bed is total foolishness. It is the sort of rhetorical packaging that is used by vested interests and compliant politicians in “reports” to gloss over inconvenient truths.

    Here is an extract from Caroline Pidcock’s architectural website to remind us of how “far” we have come down the path of environemntal degredation.

    I (Caroline) found this very profound and inspiring speech given by Seattle, Chief of the Suquamish (and other native Indian tribes around Washington’s Puget Sound), in 1851. Although delivered in response to a proposed treaty to sell 2 million hectares of native American land for $150,000, this proclamation is as relevant today as when it was first written. These words have been referenced from Buckminster Fuller’s legendary book Critical Path[Fuller, R.B.,1981], cataloguing the history behind the environmental problems of our present time and innovating solutions for the future.

    “How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them?
    Every part of this earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every clearing and humming insect is holy in the memory and· experience of my people. The sap, which courses through the trees carries the memories of the red man.
    The white man’s dead forget the country of their birth when they go to walk among the stars. Our dead never forget this beautiful earth, for it is the mother of the red man. We are part of the earth and it is part of us. The perfumed flowers are our sisters; the deer, the horse, the great eagle are our brothers. The rocky crests, the juices in the meadows, the body heat of the pony and man-all belong to the same family.
    So when the Great Chief in Washington sendsword that he wishes to buy our land, he asks much of us. The Great Chief sends word he will reserve us a place so that we can live comfortably to ourselves. He will be our father and we will be his children.
    So we will consider your offer to buy our land. But it will not be easy. For this land is sacred to us. This shining water that moves in the streams and rivers is not just water but the blood of our ancestors. If we sell you land, you must rememberthat it is sacred, and you must teach your children that it is sacred and that each ghostly reflection in the clear water of the lake tells of events and memories in the life of my people. The water’s murmur is the voice of my father’s fathers.
    The rivers are our brothers, they quench our thirst. The rivers carry our canoes and feed our children. If we sell you our land, you must remember, and teach your children, that the rivers are our brothers and yours, and you must henceforth give the rivers the kindness you would give any brother.
    We know that the white man does not understand our ways. One portion of land is the same to him as the next, for he is a stranger that comes in the night and takes from the land whatever he needs. The earth is not his brother, but his enemy, and when he has conquered it, he moves on. He leaves his father’s grave behind and he does not care. He kidnaps the earth from his children, and he does not care. His father’s grave, and his children’s birthright are forgotten. He treats his mother, the earth, and his brother, the sky as things to be bought, plundered, sold like sheep or bright beads. His appetite will devour the earth and leave behind only a desert.
    I do not know. Our ways are different from your ways. The sight of your cities pains the eyes of the red man. There is no quiet place m the white man’s cities. There no quiet in the white man’s cities. No place to hear the unfurling of leaves in spring or the rustle of insect’s wings. The clatter only seems to insult the ears. And what is there to life if a man cannot hear the lonely cry of the whippoorwill or the arguments of the frogsaround the pond at night? I am a red man and do not understand. The Indian prefers the soft sound of the wind darting over the face of a pond at night and the smell of the wind itself, cleansed by a midday rain or scented with pinon pine.
    The air is precious to the red man for all things share the same breath, the beast, the tree, the man they all share the same breath. The white man does not seem to notice the air he breathes. Like a man dying for many days he is numb to the stench. But if we sell you our land, you must remember that the air is precious to us, the air shares its spirit with all the life it supports.
    Yje wind that gave our grandfather his first breath also receives his last sigh. And if we sell you our land, you must keep it apart and sacred as a place where even the white man can go to taste the wind that is sweetened by the meadow flowers.
    You must teach your children that the ground beneath their feet is the ashes of our grandfathers. So that they will respect the land, tell your children that the earth is rich with the lives of our kin. Teach your children that we have
    taught our children that the earth is our mother. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. If men spit upon the ground, they spit upon themselves.
    This we know: the earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth. All things are connected. We may be brothers after all. We shall see. One thing we know which the white man may one day discover: our God is the same God.
    You may think now that you own Him as you wish to own our land; but you cannot. He is the God of man, and His compassion is equal for the red man and the white. This earth is precious to Him, and to harm the earth is
    to heap contempt on its creator. The whites too shall pass; perhaps sooner than all other tribes. Contaminate your bed and you will one night suffocate in your own waste.
    But in your perishing you will shine brightly fired by the strength of the God who brought you to this land and for some special purpose gave you dominion over this land ·and over the red man.
    That destiny is a mystery to us, for we do not understand when the buffalo are all slaughtered, the wild horses are tame, the secret corners. of the forest heavy with scent of many men and the view of the ripe hills blotted by talking wires.
    Where is the thicket? Gone. Where is the eagle? Gone.
    The end of living and the beginning of survival.”**
    ** Dr. Glenn T. Olds submitted Chief Seattle’s speech at Alaska’s Future Frontiers conference in 1979.

    Think about that in terms of America’s headlong rush to frack every single rock bed throughout their country, not just for Coal Seam Gas but also for Shale Oil.

  17. Huggybunny

    I am totally with Murph the Surf @15 on this one. CSM is the lowest CO2 emitter of all the fossil fuels and it fits very well with PV as at least an interim measure to bridge the gaps in PV production (and wind) until we build the Huggy HVDC linked solar farms that will provide 24 hour 100% solar power for the entire planet.
    Meantime the totally stupid greens will go out there and prance in font of the farm gates with the likes of Alan Jones, not even beginning to understand that once the penetration of PV into the grid exceeds about 30% we will have to turn off the PV tap – unless we can find a source of spinning reserve that can be cranked up and down within minutes..

  18. akn

    Yes HuggyB. But have you seen ‘Gaslands’? Or do you think that it’s just a case of ot getting the extraction techology right?

    I’m gonna fight CSG to a standstill if I can because of the impact on soil, water and landscape conditions. Seen any photos of the Pilliga forest under gas?

    Moreover, I’m ok with the Parrot being on board … until he gets an offer he can’t refuse from the gas miners whereon he will more thyan likely, on past performance, chage his tune. So, no-one’s naive about who he is and what he does.

    I’m not interested in carbon based replacements for coal even as a gap filler for renewable sourced supply drop outs. `If it was part of a whole of economy retooling to renewables and low power use lifestyles then maybe gas would be ok. But it is not. It’s going to be business as usual in support of profligate living standards, as usual.

  19. Huggybunny

    [email protected] by “It’s going to be business as usual in support of profligate living standards, as usual.” Do you mean the supply of electricity to the over 1 billion people who cook with wood and dried shit and find themselves with millions of sick kids due to the toxic smoke and fumes that this generates? Is that what you mean?
    Well AKN you will find that I will fight this selfishness to a standstill too.

    The facts are these:
    1. Methane is the most benign of the hydrocarbons, it is CH4 and burns to water vapour and some CO2
    2. It is to be found all over the world
    3. If you burn it to electricity in a combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) (off the shelf technology BTW) you get over 70% thermal efficiency.
    4. The response time of a CCGT is good enough to respond to the fluctuations of solar and wind thus you could achieve – in my estimation -over 60% energy penetration.
    5. Given a small amount dispersed energy storage you could probably get as much as 80% energy penetration in developing countries – on average.
    6. In all circumstances some CCGT will be needed to insure against the occasional low wind/low solar period.
    7. Dispersed PV and CCGT is an is deal energy solution for developing countries as it reduce or even eliminates the need for HV transmission networks and is the lowest cost option

    However AKN you will be fine in your myopic middle class energy hungry lifestyle (BTW Check out how much energy it takes to do a Google search)

    This furore about CSM etc is simply the sudden realisation by the effete middle class that the open slather exploitation of resources can impact upon even their cosseted lifestyle. Get over it and get control of it.


  20. Huggybunny

    OH BTW AKN I understated the situation:
    “Around 3 billion people cook and heat their homes using open fires and leaky stoves burning biomass (wood, animal dung and crop waste) and coal.
    Nearly 2 million people die prematurely from illness attributable to indoor air pollution from household solid fuel use.
    Nearly 50% of pneumonia deaths among children under five are due to particulate matter inhaled from indoor air pollution.
    More than 1 million people a year die from chronic obstructive respiratory disease (COPD) that develop due to exposure to such indoor air pollution.
    Both women and men exposed to heavy indoor smoke are 2-3 times more likely to develop COPD.
    But you will be all-right mate,

  21. akn

    HuggyB: talk about moveable goal posts. I assumed, reasonably enough, you were taking abot the CSG industry here in Australia. But it seems that you think that CSG is the solutio to Kenya’s fuel issues. And India’s. I think that is what you mean. Errr, do you mean to advocate CSG for those countries or that they buy Australian gas? And if you’re advocating CSG in, say Africa, would you hold up Shell in Nigeria as a typical example of how energy extraction is likely to develop there? Or is Shell just the exception? The bad boy on the block?

    In any event what you are advocating are the benefits of energy modernisation. This must be placed within the broader context of generalised modernisation and a close analysis of the political economy of each modernising nation to see who benefits, who doesn’t and at whose expense. Because there never is a free lunch. You could try Arundhati Roy’s polemic about big dams in India (one of two essays in her book ‘The Cost of Living’) for an antidote to your modernist hubris.

    As to my personal lifestyle choices: I’ve been figuring out how to live lightly on the earth since 1975. Low consumption has been one guiding principle for some time then. At present the garden is developing well towards self sufficiency except grains. No air conditioning at all despite a fierce summer environment – fans and aerosol water on the verandahs for cooling. A motor vehicle for sure but a lightly used, 2nd hand mv. Never owned a new one. Bad economics. Town water, on the grid but everything in the house except the freezer is wired to shut down with one switch.

    So, no middle class lifestyle here. Rather, a long term commitment to sustainable living by a member of the armed wing of the hippy movement. That is, someone, and there were and still are a lot of us around, who had developed a left (communist) critique of capitalism and industrialism and took the natural step to hippy self reliance to be an obvious way to sustain an ongoing immanent critique of dominant modes of living.

    Anyway, I reckon you’ve outed yourself here. Your response, ‘what about teh poor people who you would deny’ is stock standard developer speak for don’t get between an entrepeneur and a bucket of money.

    Besides, toasters are very energy hungry and if everyone in China wants one, we’re fucked. Think about that.

  22. akn

    HUGGYB: I’ve a sinbinned reply awaiting freedom that addresses your concerns.

    However, to clarify what I’m on about, I reckon the austere Cuban model of consumption with an emphasis on health care, education and self sufficiency is where we ought to be headed. It’s a utopian aspiration in Australia, of course, given the current dominance of consumption as the only legitimate path to self fulfillment.

    As to the future paths of people living in industrialising nations – let’s just say that I’m very sceptical about the ‘development’ industry, the ‘aid’ industry and their liberatory claims. All too often it goes awry when it gets on the ground in the beneficiaries countries.

  23. tigtog

    akn, you typoed your email address again! That’s why it went into moderation.

    Perhaps you need to have an open text file on your computer desktop from which you can just cut and paste it every time? Then you won’t keep on getting flagged as a first-time poster every time you typo it.

  24. akn

    Thanks t-t. No comment was meant on moderation The problem is down to my parsimoniousness and ongoing attempts to nurse along an eight year old if geriatric laptop.

  25. Huggybunny

    AKN ” Anyway, I reckon you’ve outed yourself here. Your response, ‘what about teh poor people who you would deny’ is stock standard developer speak for don’t get between an entrepeneur and a bucket of money.”
    You should apologise for such a totally bullshit and untrue statement.
    Nothing could be further from the truth.
    I stand by my reference to the WHO report it demonstrates the selfishness and narcissism of you and your ilk.


  26. Helen

    Huggy, I don’t think the people wanting to develop, and profit from, CSG give much of a shit about people who have to use shit to cook with. It’s becoming a bit of an industry standard to invoke these people whenever there is any criticism of fossil fuels. Historically, people in subsistence economies have never benefited from these largescale, sexy energy projects. There’s always a reason why the money has to go into profits (Oh, the mum and dad investors!!) and never gets to the subsistence economies. That’s why the “green revolution” didn’t feed the starving and why the Monsanto GMO revolution won’t either.

    A desire to skip the desperate hanging on by the fingernails clinging to the fossils in order to focus on the renewables here and now should not be viewed as some kind of moral failing, if people are convinced they can work. And hey, it’s a hell of a lot better for any poverty stricken communities who don’t happen to be sitting on a CSG rich site.

  27. akn

    H-B: Helen has it right IMO. A critical appraisal o north/south or centre/periphery conomic relations hows a very poor history in which the beneficiaries of investment and development hav usually been screwed. I am also critic of the ‘green revolution’. BTW as you mention narcissism, have you read Therese Brennan’s History After Lacan’? It’s a great argument that all epochs have a distinctive, dominant intersubjectivity and that in the west at the moment it is narcissism. Michel Houellebecq’s novels are a wry, dark and funny exploration of this. So, if you’re accusing me of being a member of a narcissistically deranged olitical economy I wouldn’ disagree. However, both my therapist and the magistrates have agreed that I’m not a narcissist. I reckon that’s a pretty clean bill of mental health.

  28. Huggybunny

    Helen, I agree with almost every word. The CSG seams here are being exploited by some rather ruthless operators in such a manner as to maximise profits. That is my point, regulate the shit out of it and most of the objections to this process will go away.

    I have been responsible for some largish renewable energy projects in developing countries that were funded by aid and government bodies. I designed systems that could be installed by the locals after some training.

    In order to expand these systems to encompass entire communities we need a source of backup generation. This can come from diesel generators or from some other source. CSG is found all over the world and can be accessed in responsible way if suitably regulated and scaled.
    I could take you to some sites not far from Australia where methane is actually coming out of the ground unassisted (sometimes it catches fire); burning it will reduce greenhouse emissions.

  29. akn

    Were these projects in countries where people were choking on the fumes from bullshit? Coz I have some sympathy for them.

  30. akn

    Oh yeah:

    CSG is found all over the world and can be accessed in responsible way if suitably regulated and scaled.

    And an example of where that has happened would be where?

  31. murph the surf.

    Having just read about Robert Manne and his success obtaining $240,000 from the ARC I hope your team approach them for similar funding.
    Professor Manne used this funding to conduct research about refugee issues and then commercialised the outcomes of the research and I can’t see why your project wouldn’t be an appropriate claimant for simiar funding.

  32. David Irving (no relation)

    murph, ARC grants are bloody hard to get, and if you wanted one now, you would’ve probably submitted your application a year or two ago.

    I’ve been peripherally involved in grant applications (I was a gopher for an academic in a past life) and it’s like everything else involving the government: you supply several tons of paperwork, with the expectation that you probably won’t actually get the grant.

    Mark and the various other academics around the joint may have more current information though.

  33. Tim Macknay

    [email protected]

    I think Sam’s point at (3) might be that the photograph accompanying this post, with the national flag in the foreground and the speaker’s raised arm in the background, has rather unsubtle overtones of the propaganda from a certain central European country and a certain Mediterranean country in the 1930s.

    No, his point was that the photographer’s name is Pandora.