Monday, 11 April 2005

The Kyoto Perpetual-Motion Fur Farm

From the keyboard of the Late, Great Robert Heinlein :
You feed the rats to the cats, skin the cats, and feed the carcasses of the cats to the rats who are in turn fed to the cats. The perpetual motion fur farm.
By His Bootstraps
And from Miranda Divine :
TrustPower wants to pump the headwaters of the Waitahuna River and nearby Bungtown Creek uphill out of the valley and over two ridges into a lake to feed the existing Waipori hydro-electric power scheme.
The pumps are, of course, powered by the hydro-electricity the water helps generate.
Martin says the proposal makes little commercial sense, except that it is subsidised by valuable carbon credits the New Zealand Government has awarded for the project and a similar but smaller one near the North Island province of Taranaki.
No matter that most, if not all, of the extra power is consumed by the pumps. We don't know how much because it's not known what the relative rises are, but the difference would have to be pretty substantial - a factor of three or more - merely to break even. However, this wasteful inefficiency "makes sense" under the Kyoto regime. Why? Because the generation of hydro-electricity, even if it's all wasted, earns Valuable Prizes Carbon Credits, which can be traded on the world market.
Carbon credits or "emission units" have been called the world's newest commodity. They are a measurement of the amount of carbon dioxide a company or country is allowed to emit into the atmosphere each year under the treaty. They can be traded, and companies, such as TrustPower, can be awarded carbon credits for investing in "clean" energy projects that replace greenhouse gas-producing projects, such as those fired by coal or gas. They can then sell these credits on the world market.
This month, carbon credits were being traded at €9.50 ($16) a ton (0.91 tonnes), up from €7 in January, according to the Associated Press.

So the New Zealand Government, in an effort to meet its Kyoto target, effectively uses carbon credits to subsidise companies that invest in "clean" electricity generation schemes that would not otherwise be commercially viable. TrustPower's pumping proposals for Waitahuna and Taranaki have won it a reported 114,258 carbon credits, worth almost $2 million on today's prices.
If the price of credits keeps on going up, it may actually be worthwhile constructing dams just to pump water straight off the spillway and back up again. The perpetual motion fur-farm.

But wait, there's more!
Howard told the National Press Club that Australia would meet a self-imposed target to keep greenhouse emissions to 108 per cent of 1990 levels. He cited another potential example of unintended Kyoto consequences. If Australia signed the treaty it would be disadvantaged when competing to provide liquefied natural gas to meet Asia's growing demand. Less industrialised competitors such as Indonesia, "that do not face Kyoto constraints and that have gas resources with high levels of carbon dioxide", would win new LNG investment. "The global environment would be no better - indeed it would be worse - and Australia will have lost out."
The stated aims of Kyoto - to reduce Global Greenhouse Emissions - are worthy ones. But the treaty itself is merely a cosmetic "feelgood" document, that is already having the opposite effect from that intended.

Hat Tip : Tramtown, who also has an interesting link to the possibly significant contribution of dandruff to Global warming.

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