Can Australia become carbon neutral by 2020 ?


While having a look at the RSS feed of TreeHugger I found something that made me smile : How Australia Could Be Carbon Neutral in 10 Years. Let’s be honest : it really can’t be done. Let’s see why here.

The plan outlined by Beyond Zero Emissions states that all the energy consumed in the country would come from 60 percent concentrated solar thermal in the deserts and 40 percent of wind power.

This sounds cool but their price estimates are of $360 billion (265 billion euros). To the Mother Nature Network (MNN) it would be “ significantly more than that”.

Here are a few reasons why this plan – and similar ones – can’t be carried out :

Decreasing greenhouse gases emissions will cost huge amounts of money, and so these investments have to be spred over several decades, not ten little years. Because besides the obvious replacement of coal-fired plants and the likes come the necessary smart grids and replacing all vehicles with electric ones.

Second point : Oil, natural gas and coal took decades to install themselves at the center of our societies. They have been there for centuries and are now totally ubiquitous : our cars, our electricity, our houses and so on. We can’t wipe that out in ten or twenty years. I believe this will require half a century at best. What we are talking about here is literally building a new society.

Third :  it takes years for simple energy efficiency laws to be passed and applied. So any large energy efficiency or low carbon requirements will have to be discussed, discussed again and may finally get passed. An example of this is the Climate and Energy Bill in the United States.

Fourth : I believe going carbon neutral without using nuclear really can’t be done, and this even with huge efforts in energy efficiency. As I already stated : “ Nuclear isn’t the answer, but there is no answer without nuclear”. Indeed, even if they are in meteoritic rise, renewables won’t be able to answer all our needs as soon as we need them to do so.  Energy sprawl and intermittency are also major problems faced by renewables.

The fifth point that will slow the process : coal and oil lobbies. These companies and people have no interest in such plans and will put millions to stall or stop the process. These people are so powerful they still are subsidisied, and this albeit their huge annual profits.

The sixth and final point may be the most important : It will be difficult for a single country or group of countries to go towards becoming carbon neutral. This kind of project has to be carried out globally to avoid market distortions and similar financial issues. And given the results of the COP 15 at Copenhagen, one can be skeptical.

And you, do you see additional reasons for such plans to fail ? Do you instead believe it can be done ? I look forward to reading your opinion !

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