Bloody Hell! Fuel Economy Of Australian Cars Has Been Getting Worse Since 2015!

Australian vehicle fuel efficiency

We urgently need to reduce emissions of CO2 and particulates. But car efficiency in Australia is getting worse. WTAF?

I’ve got some bad news about vehicle efficiency in Australia.  It’s going backwards.  And I don’t mean cars are now driving in reverse, sucking up smog and spitting out petrol.  Despite the fact that we urgently need to slash our emissions, the average fuel efficiency of Australian vehicles has been getting worse.

I’m pretty confident about this because I have a report here on my desk1 by Robin Smit from Transport Energy/Emissions Research (TER).  Robin’s report has 5 main findings:

  1. Average new vehicle efficiency improved from 2008-20142
  2. New vehicle efficiency3 stopped improving in 2014 and has gotten worse since 2015.
  3. Efficiency has worsened as cars have got bigger, heavier and more likely to be diesel-powered.
  4. The rate at which car efficiency is getting worse is increasing.
  5. Although diesel is more efficient than petrol, the average size of diesel cars is bloody huge. So diesel cars burn more fuel and emit more CO2 than petrol ones.

I’ve put the main findings from the report below in case you want to check my summary of them is accurate.  If you enjoy reading it you can check out the whole report here.

Real-World CO2 Vehicle Emissions Performance report

The fact that the average Australian car today gets fewer kilometres per litre than it did 5 years ago is both embarrassing and shocking. Especially given the opposite is occurring in every comparable economy.

How did we earn this badge of dishonour?  By having no vehicle fuel efficiency standards. This sets us apart from every other OECD country with the partial exception of New Zealand — which sometimes copies us way too much. 4

As Australia has committed to cutting emissions by at least 50% per person from 2005 levels by 2030, this is a serious problem for the government.

Or it would be for a government that gave a shit.5

4 Reasons Poor Fuel Efficiency Is Bad For The Nation

Four months ago, when it was an election issue, I wrote about why Australia should adopt fuel efficiency standards.  Four big reasons are:

  1. So we won’t die so much:  Vehicle emissions are deadlier than coal power station pollution because they pump their pollution directly into the air we breath. While we can’t be certain of the exact numbers, vehicle pollution results in thousands of excess deaths per year.
  2. So we won’t cook the planet:  The less petrol, diesel, and autogas we burn, the less we warm the earth with CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions.6
  3. We’ll be richer:  If our vehicles use less fuel per kilometre (or use electricity, which is much cheaper) we will have more money to spend on other things.  Since we will be getting the same amount of transport at less cost we will, effectively, be richer.
  4. We’ll be safer:  Australia imports about 90% of the oil used by vehicles.  Thanks to very limited reserves, if imports were interrupted we’d only have autogas and a very small number of electric vehicles available for private transport. Oil would be restricted to “essential services” such as getting food to cities.  Even with no oil for private transport, Australia’s production only covers a fraction of the demand from heavy vehicles, agriculture, mining, and shipping.  So next time a politician says Easter eggs or whatever are a threat to national security, just remember they’re doing bugger all about this real life problem.

Mad Max: When the oil runs out and the gangs take over the highway, pray that he’s out there. And that he refrains from sexist and antisemitic remarks.

22% Or More Of Australian Emissions From Vehicles

According to the report, the percentage of Australia’s net CO2 emissions7 that came from road transport8 in 2000 and 2017 was:

  • 2000: 16% of net CO2 emissions.
  • 2017:  22% of net CO2 emissions.

From 2000 to 2017 Australia’s population increased by 28%, so a 22% increase over that time means emissions declined per capita by over one fifth.  But one-third of that decline was simply due to the number of kilometers driven per capita declining.  This means the actual reductions in emissions per kilometre driven were only around 14%. This all occurred before 2015.

Smitty Found New Vehicles Doing Worse

Smitty did a lot of research and used calculations so complex I couldn’t even manage them with 12 fingers. He found that — contrary to the figures used by the government — the fuel efficiency of new passenger vehicles stopped improving in 2014 and have been getting worse since 2015:

New car fuel efficiency graph - Australia

This TER graph shows Robin Smit’s adjusted figures for new car fuel efficiency. The graph of his unadjusted figures gives similar results.

This means in 2018 the fuel efficiency of new vehicles was as bad as it was back in 2010 and, by extrapolation, new cars are now probably about as bad as they were in 2008:

Vehicle fuel efficiency 2018

The red line indicates that new passenger vehicle fuel efficiency in 2018 was equal to what it was back in 2010. (The thin red line of stupidity was added by me. I also truncated the graph, as I’ll truncate any graph that gets in my way.)

The results Smitty obtained are estimates, as detailed information doesn’t exist; but I find them convincing.

Car Manufacturers Are Dishonest Arseholes And Our Government Doesn’t Seem To Care

There are two main reasons why we ended up in a situation where new car fuel efficiency was getting worse, but didn’t know about it:

  1. The government stopped vehicle emission testing in 2008.
  2. Car manufacturers are lying, cheating, thieving bastards.

No Publicly Available Oz Emission Testing For Over 10 Years

Australia doesn’t have vehicle fuel efficiency standards, but we do have emissions standards.  Testing CO2 emissions also measures fuel consumption because the only place the carbon can come from fuel.  But Australia stopped testing vehicle emissions in 2008.

This means that in the same year oil hit its highest price ever, $147 US a barrel, Australia decided to stop keeping track of things like vehicle emissions and fuel consumption.  But I guess it’s our own fault since I have no recollection at all of anyone complaining about the price of petrol or the security of future oil supply in that year.  So I suppose it’s only fair they assumed there would be no downside to saving a few bucks by ending emission testing.9

Car Manufacturers Engage In Fuel Efficiency Fraud

I am so old I can remember the days when you could buy a car and actually get the fuel efficiency promised by the sticker on the windshield.10  But those days are long gone for internal combustion engine cars.

In 2001, the average driver would get about 90% as far per litre as the sticker promised.  But in 2017 you’d only get about 70% as far.  This is atrocious and the result of car manufacturers being lying, cheating bastards.

Despite some of these lying cheating bastards paying billions in fines for faking emission test results, fuel efficiency fraud is still rampant. Fortunately it’s easy to fix.

Australian Consumer Law Prohibits Fraud

Australian Consumer Law says manufacturers can’t lie about their products. This includes vehicles. Car manufacturers should be required to specify the number of kilometers per litre they believe their vehicle will get when driven normally in Australia. If it turns out to be less than this they must compensate everyone who bought one of their vehicles.

Properly enforced, our existing laws could end fuel efficiency fraud.

Government Action Not Expected Soon

Four months ago I strongly suggested Australia should introduce vehicle efficiency standards.  I thought it was downright rotten of the Coalition to oppose them.  I don’t expect politicians to always do what’s good for the country, but this was a very blatant example of them picking soundbites over sound action.

I hope Scomo realizes the US is approaching 100% self sufficiency in oil while we’re approaching 0%. Expecting Trump to protect our access to overseas oil is like expecting Brazil to protect our access to nuts.

Electric Vehicles For The Win

It doesn’t matter how fuel efficiency is improved, just so long as it happens.  But I’m not going to kid you.  There is only one technology that’s going to significantly cut Australia’s transport emissions and oil dependency. Electric vehicles11.

Tesla electric vehicle efficiency sticker

EVs have zero tailpipe emissions. A great way to bring the average emissions down. Image: Simon Hackett

It’s cheaper to go electric than to squeeze further efficiency out of internal combustion engines.  This is why Toyota developed electric-hybrid technology for their Prius  22 years ago, rather than use some other fuel saving technology.

In the four months since the Federal election and the Coalition’s ridiculous scare campaign about fuel efficiency standards and electric cars, Volvo has revealed they pay under $150 per kilowatt-hour for battery cells.  Presumably any EV manufacturer that buys enough can get them for a similar price. Tesla may even be producing them for less.

With costs falling and production increasing it’s clear where the main improvements in fuel efficiency and air quality will come from.  Any technology-neutral fuel efficiency standards are going to effectively be pro-EV.  I understand this may scare some politicians who think cars that don’t run off fossil fuels must be powered by witchcraft, but they are the way of the future.  Or rather, they are the way of the now.

If you’re the type who’s fine with dropping $40,000 on a new car I strongly suggest you look at getting an electric vehicle.  You may need to pay more than $40,000 at the moment, but it’s likely you’ll find the extra performance and low fuel cost make it worthwhile.  Because our current government has made it clear they don’t want to do anything, it’s up to the rich and the reasonably well off to lead the way.  With luck, it won’t be long before the pretty average will be able to do the same.


  1. Yes, the report is just ones and zeros, but those ones and zeros are on my desk… top.
  2. Specifically the average amount of CO2 released per kilometre driven decreased on average from 2008-20014 but by less than government figures claim
  3. on average
  4. While New Zealand doesn’t have fuel efficiency standards for passenger vehicles, they appear to have them for trucks Also, I’m just repeating what others have said about OECD nations and I haven’t actually checked every one of them has fuel efficiency standards.  I wouldn’t be surprised if some are pulling a New Zealand and half arsing it.  But at least that’s better than Australia’s no arse effort.
  5. Seriously, I expected the Coalition to introduce car fuel efficiency standards and then use that as an excuse to do nothing about coal.  Instead they decided to mock fuel efficiency standards and do nothing about coal also.  If only I had their energy I’d never get anything worthwhile done.
  6. Trust me, if young people blame you for melting the ice caps you will re-Greta it.
  7. Net CO2 emissions ignore the natural cycling of CO2 and only considers the amount our civilization is adding to the atmosphere.
  8. In 2017, road transport emissions were 54% from passenger vehicles, 27% from light commercial vehicles, and 24% from trucks and buses.
  9. Actually, now that I think about it, maybe around one or two people actually did complain about petrol prices at that time.  If only it had been three or four we might have got vehicle fuel efficiency standards back then.
  10. The stickers say litres of fuel per 100 kilometers, which is stupid since we pay for range by the litre, not the 100 kilometres.
  11. Hydrogen powered cars are not in a position to compete with electric cars at the moment and I doubt they ever will.  But if this changes, let me know.
About Ronald Brakels

Ronald was born more years ago than he can remember. He first became interested in environmental matters when he was four years old after the environment tried to kill him by smashing fist sized hailstones through the roof of his parents’ Toowoomba home. Swearing revenge, he began his lifelong quest to reduce the harm the environment could cause. By the time he was eight, he was already focused on using the power of the sun to stop fossil fuel emissions destabilizing the climate. But it took him about another ten years to focus on it in a way that wasn’t really stupid


  1. Daniel Debreceny says

    Diesel may be more “carbon” efficient than petrol, however, Diesel cars also emit nitric oxide, which then makes the rain kill our trees, and dissolve our buildings and roads.

    Moving to Diesel to solve our “carbon” issue just makes new (worse?) issues?

  2. also keep in mind the uncountable number of cars and motorcycles with modified exhaust systems to make them more loud and ego pleasing.

    those modifications usually have filter systems removed, so even a single car like that is harmful as 10-20 regular cars.

    Australia will beat any country in this category because it is simply illegal in most of the civilized world.

    So realistically those CO2 figures in the article have to be doubled.

    • It would be a very foolish individual who removes the catalytic converter from a road using vehicle. Commonly referred to as a DeCat.

      The fine is $20,000 if caught.

      Realistically very few do this but many will fit breathing modifications to improve engine performance like after market inlet and outlet piping.

      Mufflers also restrict engines but their removal/replacement does not affect emissions.

  3. Ronald
    Unfortunately for you and no doubt many of your readers along with ill informed politicians, cars do NOT EMIT CO² (Carbon dioxide), combustion engines as in cars, emit CO (carbon monoxide).
    So please gets your facts right.
    Any student studying basic chemistry will know the difference.
    CO² is a natural gas in the atmosphere and part of life building blocks. CO is a deadly gas.
    All plant life on this planet depends on CO² and in return through photosynthesis, produce oxygen (O) which we humans vitally depend on.
    Our atmosphere consists of nitrogen (N) 78%; oxygen (O) 21%; Argon (Ag) <1%; and carbon dioxide (CO²) <1%.
    Carbon monoxide does not constitute part of the atmosphere as it is man produced.
    Without plants, man cannot live, without man, plants would thrive.

    • Ronald Brakels says

      Yeah… I think you might need to get your car tuned if it is mostly putting out CO instead of CO2. That’s quite a health risk you’ve got there.

      • Without comment:-
        Carbon monoxide (CO).
        This odorless, colorless, and poisonous gas is formed by the combustion of fossil fuels such as gasoline and is emitted primarily from cars and trucks. When inhaled, CO blocks oxygen from the brain, heart, and other vital organs.Jul 19, 2018 of Concerned Scientists › vehicles-air-pollution-and-human-health

        A typical passenger vehicle emits about 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. This assumes the average gasoline vehicle on the road today has a fuel economy of about 22.0 miles per gallon and drives around 11,500 miles per year. Every gallon of gasoline burned creates about 8,887 grams of CO2.May 10, 2018 States Environmental Protection Agency (.gov) › greenvehicles

        • “A typical passenger vehicle emits about 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. ”

          Because the US has lax emissions laws, and a public intent on buying large SUVs.
          EU fleet regulations for 2020 are 95g/km. Emissions total 1.74 tons over 11,500 miles. A 100kWh BEV battery produces 17.5 tons when manufactured, to be added to the charging emissions produced by Australia’s 80% fossil fuelled grid.

          • Ronald Brakels says

            Just to be clear, electric vehicles are part of how Europe is meeting its fuel efficiency standards.

    • Rubbish

    • You might be on to something David Knox Jp. Your car is not contributing to the greenhouse effect as much as everyone else’s is.

      My cars and pretty much all cars (and trucks) on the road produce CO2 as one of the major products of combustion. Water being the other.

      CO is a product in much smaller proportion than either of those gases%.

  4. By strange coincidence, in response to a Ronald Brakels post, I mentioned this very issue just ysterday ~ which was rejected by the censor. I will try to repost it here:-

    Yeah. Right….. About 60 years ago my technique for getting into girls’ knickers sounded just like this copout:- ‘It’s OK: It won’t hurt: I’ll only do it a little bit.’
    How about the people that go off-grid for the GOOD reason that they NEVER add ANY greeenhouse gases to the environment…. and that includes the lethal CO /other pollutants spewed into the air by vehicles etc. used by those who operate power-stations ~ not forgetting the crap spewing out of their exhaust-pipes whilst driving to work.
    ie. The grid NEVER “has to respond” to stand-alone operators.

    I have (and am dying from) emphysema and am acutely conscious of the effects of ALL sources of pollution. Sunlight on solar-panels feeeding into a battery-bank is BY FAR the least offensive of these.
    What’s more, the stand-alone power-users are conscious of and pragmatically RESTRICT the open-slather use of their electrical power: unlike the the profligate dearies who can’t exist without 24-hr-a-day air-conditioners, electric hotwater-services, etc. Hands up who have an electric toothbrush!… and an electric blanket…. and a rechargeable remote-control and a CCTV ‘security-system’, etc etc etc…. (and include office-buildings lit up like xmas trees all night long, 6-carriage trains carrying about a dozen passengers, and endless advertising hoardings blazing away 24/7.)

    And as has been shown repeatedly, going off-grid is also very GOOD for one’s finances (personal ie prices & official ie taxes) and perhaps even more GOOD for one’s self-respect on any level, including their sense of individual independence.
    Rationalising copouts are no more useful than preaching to the converted.
    The message recently sent around the world was valid then and is valid here:- “How DARE you?”

    • Des Scahill says

      hi Jackson,

      Sorry to hear about your health issues, hang in there mate.

      I mostly agree with your comments about ‘the profligate dearies who can’t exist without 24-hr-a-day air-conditioners, electric hotwater-services, etc. Hands up who have an electric toothbrush!… and an electric blanket…. and a rechargeable remote-control and a CCTV ‘security-system’, etc etc etc…. (and include office-buildings lit up like xmas trees all night long, 6-carriage trains carrying about a dozen passengers, and endless advertising hoardings blazing away 24/7.)’

      Of course, some no doubt have solar panels in order to fund power bills in excess of $2000+ per quarter.

      On the public transport side of things (trains, buses etc), the operators of transport networks do have to cope with daily ‘peaks’ and troughs which occur throughout the day.

      So, depending on scheduling, its possible that while a train might be ’empty’ now, in half an hours time, elsewhere on another route, the same train might have to cope with a temporary peak caused by shift workers ending their shifts in another suburb.

      Network operators have to optimize things ‘globally’ for the whole network overall, plus manage things such as drivers going on and off shift and so forth, cope with disruptions caused by idiots who ignore flashing lights at rail crossings, or run red lights and get clobbered by a train or bus, any signal or other equipment failures that might occur.,and the odd horde of pensioners and housewives rushing to the major department store sales all at once complete with prams doubling as ‘rug rat transport device’ and ‘large shopping bag’ on wheels.

      As yet, there are still lots of people to whom the ‘concepts’ of ‘sustainability’ and ‘pollution avoidance’ seem non-existant, although that is changing. It’s surprising how much difference even small changes in personal behaviour can make over time to the volume of ‘non-recyclable rubbish’ you generate.

      I found it quite easy to reduce mine by about 75% initially, but beyond that, a lot depends on what sort of rubbish bin system your local council provides, and how much effort you make to reduce ‘waste’ by never buying useless short-life junk in the first place. ( do your kids really need another plastic ‘Batman’ mask and nylon outfit for their birthday? )

      I’m a long way from having my own merino sheep and then building my own loom and making my own wool in order to knit woolly jumpers and socks for winter though.

      No way in the world I’ll be buying another petrol vehicle. Given the international scene and the way it’s heading, there’s every likelihood of major supply disruption and huge price increases. For the time being I’ll keep my ancient Corolla that (a) still starts every time I turn it on, (b) no problems with air-bags (c) still get 11 km per litre (d) no useless electronic aids, no GPS system, quad speaker stereo ,nor internet screen for back seat passengers to tweet twaddle.

      I usually know where I’m going and how to get there BEFORE I leave, simply by looking at a map and working out the best way to get there, don’t need a compass to tell me which direction is North. Nor do I need some electronic assistant called ‘Jane’ who will announce loudly at 5 min intervals that I have (for example) exactly 23.1784 litres left in the fuel tank and will need to fill up again before I travel another 254.962 kms, and she has sent an encrypted SMS text to my mobile to confirm this riveting bit of information just in case the car’s electronics have been ‘wireless hacked’ by some chubby teenage miscreant with the alias of ‘Fonald’ and its not really ‘Jane’ at all.

      Anyway, a bicycle is going to be my next transport choice, they are the most efficient device so far as ‘distance travelled per input unit of energy expended’ is concerned.

      • Thanks for the sympathy, Des, but we all have to die of something: it’s the deal we make at conception. I think going out on your own terms is important…which is how I’ve spent my whole life.
        I only mention my condition (and associated conditions: heart/vascular) to make the point that I have a first-hand awareness of what pollution is all about…. and how concentrated it is ~ by how my body responds. ie. ‘environmental factors’ are not just an academic issue.
        You’re quite right about the considerations involved in public transport and wouldn’t suggest doing away with it (it’s a marvel compared what was available when I was growing up!) though I do think it could be done better. This very morning @ 7am I watched about 200 cars idling at a level-crossing while a six-carriage train went through without one single passenger aboard Apart from the wasted/polluting fuel burnt from idling, even more was use in overcoming the inertia to get all those cars moving again. (Multiply by perhaps thousands any weekay morning and you’ll get my dift.) And overnight, every night, the same trains are parked waiting for the morning rush with all their lights on and the motors ‘idling’. And all the while some power-station is churning out out all sorts of nasties to allow it to happen.
        As always, there’s no such thing as a free lunch, but my main gripe is the waste beyond what is necessary; most often the result of non-thinking, but often also as a result of ‘social competitiveness’/status. eg. 2.4-ton 4-litre 4WD monstrosities have NO business on suburban roads. And who needs the much-vaunted torque (which most devotees don’t even understand) of a thumping diesel to climb the occasional hill when a smallish petrol engine can do the job simply by dropping a gear or two. (eg… a 50cc trailbike can get up tracks a landcruiser wouldn’t even look at!….. and Shanks’ Pony can take you places that would stop a trailbike 😉 )
        The same line of argument applies to the other things you mention ~ including ‘rubbish’. Even growing up on the fringes of suburbia I don’t recall anyone having a ‘rubbish bin’. A use was found for just about everything… and the very small amount of what couldn’t be used (including for compost and chook-feed etc.) was buried deep in the backyard (remember them?!) ~ perhaps a dozen bucketfuls a year. I recall an occasion when my father got into a row with the Council for growing spuds on the nature-strip, and was sternly told to stoppit!…So the following year he grew his spuds in the backyard……… and peas, beans and carrots on the nature strip. I ‘d say feeding his family used a minimal effective amount of energy… with none wasted. .and provided other benefits of the non-energy-consuming kind.
        It’s all swings and roundabouts: but willingly or otherwise we’ll get back to those principles. Or go extinct in the defiance of them. (I’ve mentioned previously a website titled ‘Calamity Jill’. Google it up and have a look. Not everybody’s cup-of-tea: but an insight into the alternatives. (half her solar array were panels I had on my first house 35 years ago… and are still producing at about 80% ~ all without a solitary ‘expert’/approvals/fees and charges/etc. involved at any stage.

        • Ronald Brakels says

          The empty train problem could probably be easily fixed by making fares free or almost free during periods of low usage.

          • Variable fares might make some difference, but I suspect there’s more to it than that. The Great Unwashed operates far more consistently on habit than brains. My current lifestyle provides many insights I’d not normally come across ~ including seeing a huge amount of traffic ‘performances’ ~ road and rail.
            eg. More recently I’ve noticed trains go by with the middle carriages crammed beyond belief, with at least as many standing as sitting, while at either end there are a lot of vacant seats. Either they’re just unthinking creatures of habit or they get a good start to the day by rubbing up against each other. (??) (in either case, keep in mind that these are the same people who elect the politicians who run YOUR life! 🙂
            One solution that occurred to me ~ and today’s supercomputers could make it work ~ would be to run trains of just one or two carriages during the day/late at night, and as many as the platforms could accommodate at peak times (which my observations indicate only last about 90 minutes morning and evening), and to cater for events like football crowds. Given that each carriage weighs 25(?) tons and uses huge amounts of energy to both stop and start, the energy savings ~ and reduced pollution ~ could be enormous. The only complicated bit would be working out how to arrange enough carriages being parked at both ends (and other points) to accommodate the peak-hour traffic. That’s where the computers come in.

          • Ronald Brakels says

            Probably a lot less than 25 tonne, though it will depend on the type of carriage. (They have gotten a lot lighter over time.) Regenerative breaking would make stopping and starting much less wasteful of energy, but Australia is apparently very slow to implement this. Mainly because it’s not that long in terms of train infrastructure change since we had some of the cheapest electricity in the world.

          • Interesting variables ~ between early models @36 ton, some more recent ones @17 ton, and the newest ones in the pipeline (from China) @ “carriages, which weigh at least 21 tonnes each”~ which I’d never looked at before. Wouldn’t quibble as long as (1) It wasn’t parked on my foot and (2) nobody starts waffling about the ‘potential energy’ of a parked train….. 🙂

  5. This past week has seen the World Solar Challenge when a whole bunch of cars went from Darwin to Adelaide running purely on electricity generated from sunlight.

    The winner did the 3020 km at an average speed of 86.6 km/h.

    The Cruiser Class was introduced in 2013 to bridge the gap between high end technology and everyday driving practicality, and is about much more than speed. Cruiser Class cars are judged on energy efficiency, passenger kilometres travelled, and design criteria that include interior comfort, features and marketability. This class was won by Dutch entry, Stella Era.

    Describing its car as an ‘opportunity seeker’, Stella Era is a charging station on wheels – she can charge for herself, supply power for the driver’s personal devices and charge other vehicles around her. She’s smart too being able to autonomously seek, find, and drive to the sunniest spots due to eight inbuilt radars which can detect the intensity of the sun.

    Wake up Australia – and in particular its politicians!! In more ways the one, the future is knocking on your front door.

    • Of course, the figures improved since they’ve raced from Darwin to Adelaide ~ after someone looked at a map and realised it was downhill all the way. 😉

  6. Hopefully this fad of driving ludicrously large and unfit for purpose SUVs will pass sooner with fuel costs rising and the AUD dropping.

    An affordable locally built or assembled EV would be very popular.

    A little more cycling infrastructure would be nice to take advantage of the excellent electric bikes now available.

    • Some SUVs aren’t terrible fuel performance wise. Mine is under 10 litres/100km. Sure a camry could get me to 6 litres/100km but sometimes the size is required.

    • ” An affordable locally built or assembled EV would be very popular. ‘

      Where have you been for the last five years? All the Australian car manufacturers closed down because they could not make a quid even with vast government subsidies. The market is not big enough to sustain car (or EV) manufacturing here.

      An “affordable locally built of assembled EV” is a contradiction in terms

      • If the AUD was 68c v USD back then, the auto industry would still be here.

        The low AUD makes imports very expensive.

        EVs have far fewer moving parts than ICE equivalents.

        If you think a little deeper you may understand the possibilities.

    • Lotsa people have a need to drive a SUV/4WD to prove they have ballls; and that includes both genders….And the more crap hanging of them (winches/snorkels/massive off-road tyres/bullbars/1500kgroofracks, huge heavy
      arrays of radio-masts, etc etc etc., the bigger the claim go virility. I sometims emin these o-yos that rabbits do it better!

  7. ” We’ll be richer: If our vehicles use less fuel per kilometre (or use electricity, which is much cheaper) we will have more money to spend on other things. Since we will be getting the same amount of transport at less cost we will, effectively, be richer. ”

    Last year, I saw a video on U-Tube in which some guy drove his Tesla for 143,000 miles and used 343Wh/mile (It was an American video)

    I worked out the running cost for a Tesla and for the wife’s Mitsubishi Colt which over ten years has averaged 7.0 litres/100km (ie 41mpg)

    The Colt cost 13.85 cents / mile (based on 91RON at $1.50 per litre).
    The Tesla would cost anywhere between 17 cents/mile and 4 cents/mile depending on what assumptions you make about recharging it.

    The difference between 91RON and 100% off-peak for recharging was about $14,000 in favour of the Tesla, over 143,000 miles.

    But the cost of the Colt (or its equivalent these days) is $20K, drive away, no more to pay.

    A Tesla 3 will cost at least $66K, according to

    That price excludes dealer delivery and on-roads and may also exclude import duty, and luxury car tax (which kicks in this year at $67,5250)

    So a Tesla costs $50,000 more to buy, and will have a much nastier depreciation curve than a conventional petrol car.

    Even if off-peak electricity were FREE, the purchase price of a Tesla 3 would still be about TWICE the cost of buying a Jazz or a Swift or a Rio and running it for 143,000 miles.

    If you want a top of the range Mazda 3 or a poverty pack Merc or Beemer, the “purchase price plus fuel” figures look better, but cost of maintenance, and poor residual value are certain to make the Tesla still a wildly uneconomic proposition.

    Only true believers and the economically illiterate need apply

    • Why do you use a Tesla as an example and not a $50k Kona?

      There were ignoramuses telling me PV would never be affordable for the masses back in 1999

      Fortunately, I was a true believer and I can assure you I am economically literate.

    • Old Fogey, Not a fair comparison. Car Size/Trim Level/ Performance??
      Regardless, your calculations for EV charging cost is way out.
      Tesla Model 3 SR plus range based on EPA standard (most accurate) has an efficiency of 160Wh/km. 95% of charging will be performed at home- overnight off peak at $0.12/ kWh.
      In conclusion, cost per km for Tesla is 1.9 cents, with sports car performance 0-100 km in 5.6 seconds.
      Model 3’s have hardly no maintenance (2-3 years brake fluid check/service & 6 years air conditioner service) . Tesla’s drivetrain motor is designed to last 1.6 million km and battery about 800k km.
      Demand + lifecycle = high resale value.
      Just my 2 cents (per km) worth.

  8. Geoff Miell says

    Hi Ronald,
    Where do you get the idea that “the US is approaching 100% self-sufficiency in oil”?

    Per “BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2019”:
    • US proved Reserves-to-Production (R/P) estimated at end-2018 was 11 years;
    • US production in 2018 annualised average was 15,311 thousand barrels per day (16.6% global share);
    • US consumption in 2018 annualised average was 20,456 thousand barrels per day (20. 5% global share).

    Per “SHALE REALITY CHECK: Drilling Into the U.S. Government’s Rosy Projections for Shale Gas & Tight Oil Production Through 2050”, by J. David Hughes, published Feb 2018, the Executive Summary ends with:

    “There is no doubt that the U.S. can produce substantial amounts of shale gas and tight oil over the short- and medium-term. Unrealistic long-term forecasts, however, are a disservice to planning a viable long-term energy strategy. The very high to extremely optimistic EIA AEO2017 projections impart an unjustified level of comfort for long-term energy sustainability. As sweet spots are exhausted, the reality is likely to be much higher costs and higher drilling rates to maintain production and/or stem declines.

    The “shale revolution” has provided a reprieve from what just 13 years ago was thought to be a terminal decline in oil and gas production in the U.S. It has sparked calls for “American energy dominance”[2]—despite the fact that the U.S. is projected to be a net oil importer through 2050, even given EIA forecasts. This reprieve is temporary, and the U.S. would be well advised to plan for much-reduced shale oil and gas production in the long term based on this analysis of play fundamentals.”

    Per a post headlined “World crude production outside US and Iraq is flat since 2005”, dated 10 Jun 2019:

    “The EIA predicts further shale oil growth but this may be too optimistic, especially if there is another credit crunch or oil prices go too low because of a global recession.

    The Norwegian consultancy Rystad Energy calculated that only 10% of US shale oil companies are cash flow positive…”

    See also:

    The evidence I see indicates the US shale oil boom is likely to end soon. The US is not currently near 100% self-sufficiency and is highly unlikely to be in future. When US oil production peaks, it’s likely global oil production will peak.

    You may have noticed that the price of diesel fuel has gradually increased relative to petrol and LPG over the last several years. There are some indications that diesel fuel supply may have peaked.

    Ronald, you state:
    “There is only one technology that’s going to significantly cut Australia’s transport emissions and oil dependency. Electric vehicles.”

    Correct, but it seems to me many pollies apparently don’t want to know.

    • Ronald Brakels says

      Two reasons:

      1. US oil production was around 5.5 million barrels a day in 2011 and now it’s over 12 million. That’s a big increase.
      2. Americans are buying a lot of electric cars. They like their Teslas.

      Perhaps US oil production will never be higher than it is now, but the trend for the past nine years has been a rapid upwards rise.

      • Geoff Miell says

        You state:

        “1. US oil production was around 5.5 million barrels a day in 2011 and now it’s over 12 million. That’s a big increase.”

        Indeed, see US Energy Information Administration statistics here for US crude oil production (from Jan 1920 through to Jul 2019):

        US Field Production of Crude Oil in Jul 2019 monthly average was 11,806,000 barrels of oil per day (down from 12,123,000 in Apr 2019).

        But that is only looking at the oil production side of the equation, and ignores the consumption side.

        US liquid fuel consumption by sector in 2018 was averaged:
        • 14.16 million barrels per day (69% share) for transportation;
        • 5.13 million barrels per day (25% share) for industrial;
        • 0.56 million barrels per day (3% share) for residential;
        • 0.48 million barrels per day (2% share) for commercial;
        • 0.11 million barrels per day (1% share) for electric power,
        • 20.5 million barrels per day TOTAL.

        You then state:
        “2. Americans are buying a lot of electric cars. They like their Teslas.”

        Ronald, what is that in proportion to total vehicle sales in the US? It seems it has just gone past 2% in 2018. Perhaps the numbers will be much higher in a few years time? IMO, sales of EVs in the US will need to increase much more to significantly reduce US liquid fuel consumption. The $64,000 question is whether this will happen before US oil production begins its inevitable decline.

        You finish with this statement:
        “Perhaps US oil production will never be higher than it is now, but the trend for the past nine years has been a rapid upwards rise.”

        Without an understanding of the reasons contributing to enabling the upwards rise, IMO it would be foolish to accept the trend will continue indefinitely. In other words: “Past performance is no guarantee of future results”.

      • Geoff Miell says

        Here are a few things I’ve come across in the last few days that I thought I’d share with you:

        “U.S. oil production increased by less than 1% during the first six months of the year, according to the Energy Department, down from nearly 7% growth over the same period last year.”

        “With almost half of U.S. fracking firepower expected to be sitting idle within weeks, shale specialists including Patterson-UTI Energy Inc. and RPC Inc. are retiring truck-mounted pumping units and other equipment used to shatter oil-soaked shale rock. Whereas in previous market slumps, frackers parked unused equipment to await a revival in demand, this time it’s different: Gear is being stripped down for parts or sold for scrap.”

        “The so-called resource replacement ratio for conventional resources now stands around 16%, which is the lowest seen in recent history.

        “This means that only 1 bbl out of every six consumed is being replaced by new sources. This is the lowest replacement ratio we have witnessed in the last 2 decades,” Shenga added.”

        “HOUSTON – Conventional oil and gas discoveries during the past three years are at the lowest levels in seven decades and a significant rebound is not expected, according to a new report by global business information provider IHS Markit.

        The low levels in discoveries come as a result of a pullback during the past 10 years in the wildcat drilling that targets conventional oil and gas plays—most drastically after oil prices collapsed in 2014. The report, entitled IHS Markit Conventional Exploration Results in Early 2018 Through 2019: No Rebound in Activity or Results says that these trends have far-reaching implications that could limit future conventional reserves additions.”

        What does this mean?
        – We (i.e. humanity) are consuming more conventional oil than we are finding new additions – roughly 6 times as much – that’s clearly not sustainable.
        – US oil production growth is slowing – are we about to see it peak soon?
        – US shale oil equipment is being retired – reduced drilling means shale oil production will soon start to decline – continued drilling of new wells are required just to maintain rates of shale oil production because the well production decline rates are so steep.
        – The US (plus a little help from Iraq) are the only significant oil producers keeping global oil production increasing – if US oil production peaks, then it’s likely global oil production peaks (i.e. global ‘peak oil’ supply).
        – The sooner we rapidly reduce our oil dependency, the more energy secure we will be in order to mitigate the effects of a post- ‘peak oil’ supply world.

        IMO, the current rate of uptake of BEVs is not fast enough to reduce our oil dependency in any meaningful way. We are living in interesting times.

        • Erik Christiansen says

          Yes, even Tesla’s production of 96,155 BEVs in 3Q 2019 is not enough to quickly reduce fossil fuel burning, but it is a beginning of the ramp up to the tens of millions of BEVs per annum which will soon be viewed by children as the way it has always been. Just like mobile phones.

          At least the slow learners won’t be parroting the “intermittent supply” mantra on this one. Most drivers are at work or home during the middle of the day, so charging points in car parks can exploit solar power at its cheapest and most plentiful.

          BEV semitrailers already out-accelerate the old diesel powered climate wreckers. And they have room for a long range battery. (Maybe LiTi, as it charges faster, at the expense of being a bit less energy dense.) If there were a booster battery in the trailer, it could be ready-charged at load pick-up.

          We had electric cars before the climate-burners, and the return to them is not only cleaner and immune to shipping disruption in times of geopolitical instability, but will give us extra months before we have to move large chunks of world cities to higher ground. (OK, it’s too late for Jakarta, and Copenhagen airport is only 1m above sea level, so it’ll be under before 2100.)

          California, NSW, and Queensland are perhaps more conscious than most that we are not only burning our future, but burning our present food production capacity on an oil-fueled grill. Yes, it will help to bring in peak population at a lower level (9.7 billion by 2050, if the food and water hold out),
          but the next three centuries may require war-like mobilisation to rehouse hundreds of millions of coastal city dwellers, and maintain food and water supplies in an increasingly hostile climate. (Mind you, this year’s loss of 1/4 of the world’s pigs is mostly an issue for 1/5 of the population, so at 7.5 billion, we still have some freeboard on that front.)

          The interesting times pick up significantly as this century unfolds, so stay on this planet if you like excitement.

  9. What is not mentioned is that electric vehicles takeup will be hindered by their own success on two fronts. OPEC mindset changes from rationing the supply of oil to selling as much it can before it becomes relatively worthless, they are even starting to trial electric engines on planes.

    Secondly sure thing the government is going to sit back and allow its excise tax to collapse and not bring some sort of road tax in which reflects kms travelled.

    On a pure economic basis then there could be a sweet spot in the future of a few years for fossil fuel motorists where petrol is at 10 cents a litre say and rapid advances in battery technology means EV vehicles have a high depreciation rate.

    Every new technology starts out a breakthrough idea which then gets endlessly refined and becomes more and more complicated.

    • Ronald Brakels says

      For petrol to be 10 cents a litre oil would have to be around $10 Australian a barrel which, after a little time, would eliminate most of the world’s production. The only oil would come from existing wells with low extraction costs. The fuel excise is per litre so that would add another 42 cents for 52 cents per litre. So while I expect oil to become cheap, I don’t expect it to become that cheap. But it could still be far cheaper than it is today.

      The solution is simple, vehicle fuel efficiency standards which mean new cars will either be electric, hybrid, or failing that extremely fuel efficient. Alternatively, internal combustion vehicles could simply be made to pay for the cost of removing the CO2 their use releases into the atmosphere and pay for the negative health effects of the air pollution they cause.

  10. Gef van der Sluysz says

    Without getting into all that polite techie stuff, the elephant in the room: what do you expect from a culture that feels it needs to compensate for its inadequacies by having the size of its cars, complete with symblic gooseneck representation, in inverse proportion.

  11. Andrew Selby says

    Ronald, You made a comment about vehicle efficiency being measured in litres per hundred km, and suggested that km/liter would be a better measure. The US use the equivalent miles/gallon (or similar) measure, but the big problem with this measure is that you can’t work out the effective difference between, for instance, a car that gives you 40 miles/gallon and one giving you 50 miles/gallon. Imagine you’re in the new car lot, comparing these two numbers, what’s the practical difference?

    To work out the difference in fuel consumption between the two vehicles you need to do (1/40 – 1/50), to get a difference of 0.005 gallon per mile, which bears little obvious relation to the original numbers. The original numbers translate to 0.025 gallons/mile and 0.02 gallons per mile, which gets everything back to a consistent unit, but a different unit to the original efficiency measure. Few people will have the mathematical understanding to be able to do this manipulation.

    However, if you have a car that uses 5.5 L/100 km, and one that uses 7.5 L/100 km, then the comparison is dead easy – the difference is 2 litres/100 km, and just as easily priced as approx $3/100 km at $1.50/litre for petrol. The Australian efficiency measure is the right one to use.

    • Ronald Brakels says

      I don’t see it myself, but then I was educated in Toowoomba and we often do things backwards there just out of boredom. But if you say it’s easier for the average person I’m willing to take your word for it.

      • I’m with you Ronald.
        I’ve never understood why we chose to use l/100km rather than km/l.
        To use the example above, wondering what the practical difference is between 40 & 50 mpg, it’s easy – you get to go an extra 10 miles for every gallon in the car that does 50!

        How far can you drive before you run out of petrol in a car with a 60 litre tank, that does 9L/100km? Given that information, there would be plenty of people that say “I don’t know”.
        Then tell them the car actually does 11.1 km/L, and they’ll say “about 660km, that was easy!”

        The student is a bit short on cash, and can only afford to put 15 litres in his car, but wants to know how far this will get him. The km/L unit is a much easier one to calculate in your head than the L/100km. Using the figures from the car above, he says 15L x 11.1 km/L gives a little over 165 km.

        These are real work examples of how fuel consumption figures are used.
        And obviously, if you are comparing the consumption figures between two different cars, the numbers are easy to understand. One can get 11.1km for every litre, the one beside it will only get 9.8km’s.

  12. EWW - EV Wait a While says

    EV Vehicles have a long way to go yet. Range is limited and replacement costs are still too dear. Don’t get me wrong, I like the concept, but not practical. There is a verified story around on a person who bought a EV vehicle 7 years ago for $52k. It recently only operated for 45min from a full charge. so really stopped. The owner was given a bill for $32k to replace all the batteries. Ouch !

    It is too early to see if EV are as cost effective as people claim them to be.

    I prefer my touring Diesel 4WD vehicle for now, with a range of 1800 km from a full tank.
    But I may consider an EV vehicle as a second car for city driving, when battery replacement costs become more manageable. Until then, petrol it will be.

    • Ronald Brakels says

      I think we’ve moved past the point where it makes sense to wait. At least for people with money. In this country many people’s revealed preference is for performance and electric cars can give better performance than anything else in their price range. And if you look at current warranties battery warranties for electric cars you’ll see they are good. We’re now looking at 8 years and many more kilometers than the average Australian car is driven in that time at the moment.

      Of course, there are people for whom a hybrid will make more sense at the moment and plenty of people who can’t afford a new car at all or only the cheapest ones available.

      And it would be even better for the environment if someone who normally buys a $50,000 car bought a $20,000 one instead and spent the different on rooftop solar, but most new car buyers aren’t going to make that choice.

      • How are BEVs any better? Model 3 uses 26kWh/100 miles. Using Australia’s grid, produces 146g/km. The 40kWh/100 miles ‘SUV’ Model X results in 224g/km. Battery manufacture adds more ghg. Then, the other pollutants including particulates. More range, bigger battery.

        The deception isn’t BEV v ICEV, but that idea cars can make a difference to the ~49,000,000,000 metric tons of annually added ghg. Like solar (and the home batteries you know increase ghg and consumption) are appealing palliatives.
        Solar encourages more consumption. Perceived savings are spent on new toys, like bigger cars or SUVs.

        • Ronald Brakels says

          The benefits of electric cars and hybrids are discussed here:

          That only goes into CO2 emissions. The average internal combustion vehicle also results in thousands of dollars in health costs over its life time, given an Australian life is valued at a few million dollars.

          Fossil fuels only represent a few percent of the economy, so if someone reduces spending on something that is heavy emitter of CO2 and pollution, such as grid electricity and spends the money on stuff at random instead, it is likely to reduce overall CO2 emissions and health effects from air pollution. Of course, the sensible response is to charge fossil fuels for the cost of their environmental and health damage.

    • “I prefer my touring Diesel 4WD vehicle for now, with a range of 1800 km from a full tank.”

      Just for curiosity’s sake how big is the tank and how much do you pay to fill it?

      • EWW - EV Wait a While says says

        140 liters, filling cost vary depending on the price you get. You get pretty good at using those fuel best price saving apps and it is surprising how much you can save on fuel when you use those apps.

        On my last tour over 1.5 months from Sydney -> Port D->Alice->Kimberly->NT->Winton->Sydney I ended up saving just over $5000 on fuel, by buying smart (at main fuel points) and carrying 240ltrs.

        Yes I invested that saving on a 9KW rooftop solar system. Best money I have ever invested.

    • Liz Harris says

      Your info is out-of-date, in that ev batteries are now bigger and longer-lasting. I owned one of those first generation Nissan Leafs, and the battery did degrade, and was replaced under the five-year warranty. Nissan now charge $10 000 to replace the battery outside of warranty, still a lot, but not $32K. I’m now driving a Hyundai Kona Electric, with a larger liquid-cooled battery, 450 km range per charge, and an eight year warranty. I expect the battery to go for many years beyond that. In the meantime, battery prices are coming down, and it is expected that EVs will hit price parity with fossil fuel cars by the middle of the 2020s. I drive for 2c/km, so the savings in running costs are substantial.

  13. Our peugeot 207 1.6 litre turbo diesel 6 speed manual does 5l per 100km. Assuming worse case scenario petrol is $1.50 per litre then we are paying $7.5 per 1ookm and you are paying $2 per 100 km.

    Assuming 20,000kms a year you are saving $1,100 a year on fuel. Your car cost $50K and an interest rate of 5% then you are paying $2.5K in interest.

    Our car has cost us $10K approx after major repairs so we are saving $2K in interest.

    After five years you may have lost $30K in depreciation we would have lost say $6K.

    We are way ahead even though we pay a few hundred dollars in services every year. You bear the risk of a road tax being introduced.

    Not worth the switch at this stage. When EVs come down to a reasonable price range of $20-$30K which it probably will in a few years then it will be.

    You are an early adopter on the bleeding financial edge.

    • Geoff Miell says

      Matt, what do you think you (and many other people in the same situation) will do when diesel fuel prices continue to rise (or supplies become scarce)? Do you think that can’t happen?

      Matt, have you noticed the price of diesel fuel relative to petrol and LPG has been steadily rising? I would suggest this trend is not going to stop – read on.

      There’re some indications that global diesel fuel supply has already peaked.

      Most of global crude oil production growth this decade has been due to US shale ‘unconventional’ oil production growth. Global ‘conventional’ oil production has been flat since about 2005.
      See Figure 16 in post:

      US shale oil is a light oil not suitable for producing diesel fuel unless extensively blended with “heavy oils”.

      Despite the rapid growth in US shale oil production from about 2011 to now, see Figure 18 in post:
      US distillate fuel oil production has apparently plateaued.

      Liquid fuel security for Australia is a BIG ISSUE. The ADF know the risks.

      Some pollies (like former Senator Jim Molan) have raised concerns about Australia’s liquid fuel security.

      IMO, the rest of Australia appears to be sleepwalking towards the ‘energy cliff’. “Past performance is no guarantee of future results”. IMO, so far, it’s been dumb luck that Australia hasn’t suffered an energy supply shock.

      • EWW - EV Wait a While says

        no need to be such a pessimist. BIO-Diesel industry will eventually rise up, there is a huge market already growing in Europe. The issue will be then that price for food will also rise as vegetation/crops are used to produce Bio Diesel. So does a farmer sell his produce for eating or a Bio-Diesel plant ? In a free economy it will be who ever pays the most.

        So for those who need long range BIO-Diesel will be the answer, until EVs can meet the demand, match or better the price of ownership and the need for long range travel.

        The ideal EV for me would be a solar cell coated body, with long range storage capacity and a Hydrogen fulled generator on board for emergencies and low light conditions. Then we would be seriously thinking about swapping.

        City EVs are already here and most are just waiting for their price to come down to an affordable price compared to fossil fuel vehicles.

        The change is coming, it all takes time.

        • Geoff Miell says

          EWW – EV Wait a While,
          You state:

          BIO-Diesel industry will eventually rise up, there is a huge market already growing in Europe. The issue will be then that price for food will also rise as vegetation/crops are used to produce Bio Diesel.”

          Is there and will it? What’s the proportion of biofuels relative to petroleum-based fuels? This should give you an idea:

          Global biofuels production in 2018: 95,371,000 tonnes oil equivalent total (p53)
          1 million tonnes oil equivalent = 6.842 million barrels oil equivalent (p60)
          Global biofuels production in 2018: 652,528,382 barrels oil equivalent total

          Global liquid fuel consumption in 2018: 99,843,000 barrels equivalent per day (annualised average, p20) or 36,442,695,000 total

          If my maths is correct, biofuels represents about 1.8% of total liquid fuel consumption in 2018. I would suggest biofuels have a very long way to go to significantly replace petroleum-based fuels. I think you will find there is simply not enough arable land available on planet Earth to enable biofuels to become a large-scale petroleum fuel replacement.

          The fundamental problem with biofuels in general is Energy Return on Investment (ERoI, also known as Energy Return on Energy Invested, or ERoEI). Biofuels usually have poor to very poor ERoI.

          The paper titled “Twenty-First Century Snake Oil: Why the United States Should Reject Biofuels as Part of a Rational National Security Energy Strategy”, by T. A. ‘Ike’ Kiefer, published Jan 2013, (although now a little dated) IMO outlines the fundamental problems with biofuels. The Executive Summary includes:

          “This paper presents a physical evaluation of key characteristics of liquid transportation fuels across the domains of physics, chemistry, biology, and economics, and highlights the deficiencies that preclude biomass from becoming a primary energy source and biofuels from replacing petroleum as a national-scale transportation fuel. These factors include fatal petroleum-dependence, poor energy return on investment (EROI), low energy density, abysmal power density, huge water footprint, demonstrable food competition regardless of feedstock, increased environmental damage, promotion of land confiscation and human rights violations, and the supreme irony of increased lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This paper argues that biofuels do more to harm the causes of national and global security than to help them.”

          You state:
          “So for those who need long range BIO-Diesel will be the answer, until EVs can meet the demand, match or better the price of ownership and the need for long range travel.”

          Unless ERoI dramatically improves for biodiesel (and all the evidence I see indicates that’s highly unlikely) then what you are suggesting won’t happen. IMO, hydrogen has a better chance. Land grabbing to make biofuels that competes with food production (as you have also indicated) makes biofuels unviable as a large-scale petroleum replacement.

          You finish with this statement:
          “The change is coming, it all takes time.”

          Time is rapidly running out to transition away from petroleum-based fuels, from both a climate change perspective and a post- ‘peak oil’ perspective. If the transition is not fast enough, and a post- ‘peak oil’ world arrives, then we will fall off the ‘energy cliff’.

          These issues have been known about for decades and nothing much has been done about it, so if I seem a little pessimist, then it’s because I’m telling it as I see it. People need to wake from their slumber, see the reality, and demand urgent action for the things that can be done, to mitigate what is coming.

      • Des Scahill says

        Hi Geoff,

        According to this article in the Newcastle Herald at:

        1 out of every 11 households have had their electricity disconnected because they can’t afford to pay their electricity bills any more.

        I’d suggest the ‘energy supply shock’ you mention is already arriving, and won’t apply just to fuel supply.

        Like most things, there is usually more than one causative factor involved, but ‘promises’ of future cheap electricity made by the Liberal’s seem unlikely to be fulfilled in my view, unless they achieve it by hidden subsidies or by transferring the true cost away from their voters to other segments of the economy

        • Geoff Miell says

          Des Scahill,
          You state:

          “I’d suggest the ‘energy supply shock’ you mention is already arriving, and won’t apply just to fuel supply.”

          Indeed. Rising electricity prices are already nibbling away at the least economically resilient members of our society – food or electricity is becoming an unenviable choice for a significant group of people, as you highlight.

          My point is that petroleum-based liquid fuels have a much wider footprint over our civilisation – petroleum oil is embedded into just about everything our civilisation depends on to function – food production, transport, materials, etc. I would suggest a petroleum fuel supply shock will have a much greater impact on our society that will likely affect a much wider economic spectrum of people and businesses.

          Those people who live in areas that that don’t have good access to trains, buses, public transport, etc., with rising fuel prices (and perhaps increasing fuel scarcity), may find it increasingly tougher to live in. Many housing estates are currently dependent on cars, with little access to public transport, and that may mean these areas may become ‘ghettos of inaccessibility’, if a liquid fuel supply crisis emerges and there are insufficient transport alternatives. What will be the fuel threshold price that starts to restrict peoples’ activities – $2/litre? $5/litre? Tens bucks a litre?

          Meanwhile, it seems to me both the NSW State and Federal governments continue funding infrastructure that is dependent on the false assumption that hydrocarbon liquid fuels will continue to remain abundant and affordable into the 2020s and beyond – IMO the Western Sydney Airport and support infrastructure is a prime example of apparent willful stupidity – high-speed rail (HSR) would have been a much better, long-term visionary spend.

          BTW, the website for the NSW Parliamentary inquiry into the “Sustainability of energy supply and resources in NSW” has published a new tranche of Submissions, with mine (#215) amongst them.

  14. Stuart Hartley says

    An interesting observation is the increase in fuel consumption is rising in line with the population in major cities. More people equals more vehicles on the road due to the time and cost to develop public transport that would offset the increase.
    Dramatically reducing the factors that increase the population such as government breeding subsidies and unplanned immigration must be included.

    • Des Scahill says

      Stuart Hartley,

      You said ‘dramatically reducing the factors that increase the population such as breeding subsidies and unplanned immigration must be included’.

      Your above line of thinking seems based on the typical ‘populist right-wing’
      inability to comprehend both real world realities and basic economic theory.

      The growth in city populations is in large part due to ‘migration’ from country areas to cities because of climate change related events such as drought, water shortages etc. Mingling with that is also internal population movements due to people either moving away from sea-side areas, or to cooler climates further south.

      As well, a major reason for Australia’s moderately successful navigation through the economic challenges of recent year compared to other countries has been the fact that ‘economic demand’ has been partially underpinned by modest immigration levels. Without that, demand would very likely have declined, helping send the economy into severe recession.

      But of course, none of this suits the populist narrative that ‘climate change doesn’t exist’ (so you have to come up with some other reason for the movement to cities) and that ‘immigration means people lose their jobs’ (when in fact the complete reverse is true).

  15. How many people actually “need” a car, rather than simply find it “convenient”? I used to pedal my bicycle along the cycle path beside the Mitchell Freeway in Perth, and at peak hour I’d see dozens of cars sitting bumper to bumper engines idling, spewing toxic gases into the atmosphere, with only one person in them. Not only that it was not unknown for me to go past the same vehicle 2 or 3 times within a kilometre. These days (I’m nearly 70 years old) I have an electric motor on my recumbent tricycle and I can go even faster than before. The e-motor will take me up to about 20 km/h before it cuts out, then I can pedal up to about 30 km/h. If I have a longer distance than say 20-30 km to travel, or need to be quick, I’ve got an electric scooter which, like my pedal vehicle(s) gets all its electric power from solar panels, either on my rooftop, or on the back of my tricycle. The trike will take me up to 80 km in a day, at an average speed of 15 km/h, recharging the batteries as I ride. The scooter is a 2012 model, and even at that age, it can do about 60 km per day – more if I stay on flat roads – recharging at home after about 30, free of charge, free of emissions. Yes, it will need batteries replacing, but hopefully not for another year or two.

    Twice in the past 15 years I’ve “needed” a car. It cost me $50 each time to hire one.

    • …. and raises another interesting point: ‘localisation’ for want of a better word. I mostly grew up in rural area (orchards and chookfarms) with a few large factories within perhaps 5km around the edges and a central ‘town’ approximately in the middle. It was a common sort of layout, and up until about the early 1960s such a set-up served pretty-much all the community’s needs: work/shopping/housing construction/socialising/etc. The ‘basic wage’ which most workers were paid was enough to raise a family, build a house in two or three years and build social structures along with infrastucture. Everything was close and could be reached on foot; even a pushbike was a bit of a luxury. Burwood Highway saw perhaps 50 vehicles a day ~ most of them local farm vehicles, and every one of them stopped to offer a pedestrian a lift.*
      A trip to Melbourne (about 20 miles away) was usually a twice-a year expedition and took all day: mid-year stocktaking sales for major purchases and at christmas, to see all the decorations and perhaps a movie. Even the process ~ home by about 6am and got home at about 8pm ~ was seen as a great adventure, and as part of our ‘christmas treat’. And it worked!…These people travel further than that to get a job that they often detest and come home stressed out. I’m currently living in the same area, and the traffic could be counted ~ at least ~ in the 50,000s.
      It is, of course, all MY fault. As a 15yo I taught my mother and my auntie how to drive (‘twould never have occurred to them!), and about 3 weeks later the roads were clogged with women drivers driving miles to spend the whole day shopping, instead of doing it all in a couple of hours locally, on foot. Sorry about that.

      *Life was still working like that in Northern NSW in the 1980s, and worked wonderfully well, when I lived up there among a horde of Hippies. Land was cheap (I paid $12000 for 160 acres with a creek, on the river, and 80km views from the top.) and they came in droves, built shacks and community infrastructure (eg a school/community hall/etc.) ~ all without ‘official’ interference. We had a wise and empathetic Shire Council. (as I recall my Rates were $24 pa.) Though remote, most people found it more useful to walk over/around the hill than drive umpteen km through the mountains on dirt tracks.). major shopping was done every week or two, and usually by one person who filled the shopping-list provided by the others ~ along with contributions for the fuel.

      We’ll have to get back to a more sustainable lifestyle or go extinct. (Get a copy of Soylent Green ~ or keep it in mind if you’ve seen it.

  16. correction: ‘LEFT home by about 6am’

  17. Erik Christiansen says

    The fuel efficiency of cars powered by infernal combustion engines will soon be moot. The glorious wunderkind ScoMo has not only shown that he can walk on election water, but now declares repeatedly that we’ll be using horses not only for transport, but also for industrial power. Missed him warning us that we’ll “do it at a canter”? 😉

    Personally, I hope that higher tech, including EVs, saves us from ScoMo’s word picture of a rustic return to equine locomotion, due to accelerating climate change. Mind you, the way we’re going, it could come true.

    As for moving to larger cars, I must plead guilty to switching from 4 cylinders to 6 when I bought the ute 21 years ago – but the 3/4 tonnes of biomass it brings back on each long trip, for domestic heating, offsets the CO2 output.

    Rough-in is done on the off-grid build, and I’m now poking the walls full of batts, with ceiling next. Won’t need to cart the biomass more than half a km then. It may be true that there’ll be savings when it’s done, but Crikey Moses, building is an expensive business now – even just in cement sheet and tin roof.

    The other blog post I read tonight spoke of seasonal energy storage. A well stocked woodshed provides me with a pile of that, fully green and net CO2 neutral. (Well, enormously negative, due to the 2 sq. km. wood plot being a bit more than I consume.)

    • Ronald Brakels says

      Sounds like ScoMo needs someone who knows a little bit about energy and a little bit about horses to explain to there will be no return to horses for agricultural work because a tractor that’s run off biofuel “eats” a lot less plant mass per unit of work done than a horse. This is mainly because you can’t turn a horse off when it’s not pulling a load. (Well, technically, you can. But the hard part is starting it again afterwards.) Of course, electric tractors powered by solar are much more efficient as biofuel, but maybe our PM thinks we’re not as advanced as India and so won’t be able to produce them.

    • …”… building is an expensive business now ”
      Depending on how you go about it your greatest expenses will go towards assorted ‘fees & charges’ and ‘Building Authority’ regulation. (All of which became MUCH worse when most of the processes were privatised.

      It sounds as though you’re well long they way, but for others just starting out it’d be worth keeping in mind the ‘energy conservation’ principles… and extend them to every bit of the process where possible. The last house I built was of 26 squares and cost a total of $8500 ….. and a lot of hard work (much of which you wouldn’t be allowed to do for yourself these days.)
      But aside from those sort of restrictions I could still build a decent house for under $10k. (Lateral thinking is essential.)
      Finding the best locality is a huge plus, and giving serious thought to recycling almost everything is a fundamental…. and could well have a large impact on the whole project.
      If you want to discuss some possibilities, drop me a mail —> [email protected]

    • Geoff Miell says

      Erik Christiansen,
      You state:

      “A well stocked woodshed provides me with a pile of that, fully green and net CO2 neutral. (Well, enormously negative, due to the 2 sq. km. wood plot being a bit more than I consume.)”

      Wood is renewable, but “net CO2 neutral”, or “enormously negative”?

      Per a Scientific American article headlined “Congress Says Biomass Is Carbon-Neutral, but Scientists Disagree”, dated 23 Mar 2018, it includes:

      “Burning biomass for energy releases large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere all at once. But depending on the type of tree, forests may take decades or even a century to draw the same amount of carbon back out of the air.

      “We call it ‘slow in,’ as in it takes a long time for the carbon to accumulate in the forest, and ‘fast out’—you’re burning it so it goes into the atmosphere rapidly,” said Beverly Law, an expert in forest science and management from Oregon State University.”

      The other aspect to consider is biomass draws out trace minerals in the soil that aid in soil fertility. Burn the wood and those minerals are potentially vaporized and may not be recycled back into the soil. My point is, the longer-term prospects for burning biomass is to potentially deplete the fertility of the soils – I’d suggest that’s not sustainable for future generations.

      • Minerals don’t vaporise.

        • Ronald Brakels says

          Well, depending on the situation, wood fires can burn at 1,000 degrees or more. This is above the boiling point of many minerals. Also, minerals in plants are often biologically active and incorporated into molecules that burn well.

          • Typical mineral found in organic compounds is sodium chloride. BP = 1465 oC..( Much too high for a wood fire – the hottest of which can get to about 700oC, If blasted with air it may get to 1000oC but this is highly unlikely in natural concitions.
            Minerals in plants may well be chelated or bound to other molecules but this is broken down at much lower temperatures than 1000oC.
            The only way minerals in plant become airborne is in as that may be attached to partly burned organic material but it quickly settles to earth.
            Your knowledge and understanding of many things solar is excellent but you are not right in this case.
            Minerals don’t vaporise.

          • Ronald Brakels says

            Okay, I didn’t want to go here, but you forced my hand:

            Technically, naturally occurring solid ice is a mineral.

          • Ice doesn’t have the crystal structure which is a defining property of a mineral. Even if a mineral vaporised in a wood fire it would recrystallise on cooling or react with another element. Either way they end up back on earth.

          • Ronald Brakels says

            If you don’t think ice should be classed as a mineral, that’s fine. If you have your own idiosyncratic method of classifying minerals that’s also fine. But it’s not fine to suggest that naturally occurring ice is not a mineral without making it clear that your opinion is different from what is commonly accepted in geology and mineralogy. This is because it can result in people being misinformed. Because I only want commenters who correct mistakes I’d like you to look it up and then write that you were wrong and naturally occurring solid ice is typically classed as a mineral.


            “Although many people do not think about Ice as a mineral, it is a mineral just as much as Quartz is. Ice is a naturally occurring compound with a defined chemical formula and crystal structure, thus making it a legitimate mineral. Its only limitation, in comparison to all other minerals, is that it is not stable at room temperature.”

          • Yes, ice has several of the defining properties of minerals – found in nature, in organic etc but it doesn’t have the ORDERED crystal structure required by definition. The crystals don’t have a regular shape because the angles between the molecules of water are not all the same when water freezes. What you or I think is a mineral is irrelevant. Ice is not a mineral.

            Quartz has the ordered crystalline structure typical of minerals.

            But to get back to the original point – minerals from combustion of wood don’t enter the atmosphere – the products are mostly oxides of the organic components of wood – N, C and H.

          • Ronald Brakels says

            I didn’t know there was a chemistry definition of a mineral. Sorry to be a pain, but can you provide a link to it? It must be pretty obscure because I can’t find it.

            And sorry if I seem a bit paranoid, but on rare occasions we get people who deny that adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere contributes to global warming and their characteristics are generally making statements that are not supported by the large majority of people working in the relevant field and never ever admitting they were mistaken. So sometimes I’m picky on little details as I’d rather find out early on if this is the case.

          • Water doesn’t fit the chemical definition of a crystal. It’s not what I think, it’s defined in chemistry. There are plenty of sites that will call ice a mineral but they are not following the chemical definition. You seem pretty particular about your facts so I thought you would want to be accurate.

          • Mineral by property
            From this ice is Not a solid at room temperature. Nor is It’s crystalline structure homogeneous.
            Water is not an ionic compound. Although before you start jumping up and down some minerals like silicate are made up of covalently bonded compounds.
            Has the five properties of minerals. Note that ice misses out twice.
            I go back to the original point and note that mineral content of burning wood does not end up on the atmosphere.

          • Ronald Brakels says

            Thank you.

          • Geoff Miell says

            Brain (re your comment on October 29, 2019 at 9:07 am),
            You state:
            “But to get back to the original point – minerals from combustion of wood don’t enter the atmosphere – the products are mostly oxides of the organic components of wood – N, C and H.”

            Here’s a list of some toxic substances emitted in the flue gases from coal-fired power stations:
            • Ammonia;
            • Arsenic & compounds;
            • Beryllium & compounds;
            • Boron & compounds;
            • Cadmium & compounds;
            • Carbon monoxide;
            • Chlorine & compounds;
            • Chromium (III) compounds;
            • Chromium (IV) compounds;
            • Cobalt & compounds;
            • Copper & compounds;
            • Cumene (1-methylethylbenzene);
            • Fluoride compounds;
            • Hydrochloric acid;
            • Lead & compounds;
            • Manganese & compounds;
            • Mercury & compounds;
            • Nickel & compounds;
            • Oxides of Nitrogen;
            • Particulate Matter 10.0;
            • Particulate Matter 2.5;
            • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons;
            • Sulphur dioxide;
            • Sulphuric acid;
            • Toluene (methylbenzene);
            • Total Volatile Organic Compounds;
            • Xylene;
            • Zinc & compounds.
            See: “Toxic and terminal: How the regulation of coal-fired power stations fails Australian communities”, by Bronya Lipski, et. al., Environmental Justice Australia, 7 Aug 2017, page 10.

            Vaporise (or vaporize):
            verb (used with object), va·por·ized, va·por·iz·ing.
            1. to cause to change into vapor.
            verb (used without object), va·por·ized, va·por·iz·ing.
            2. to become converted into vapor.

            I note that there are quite a few metals, inorganics and associated compounds listed – of minerals-based origin – that are known to be present in the flue gases of coal-fired power stations. This contradicts your apparently ignorant statement: “Minerals don’t vaporise” (in your comment on Oct 28 at 12:30pm, and repeated at 4:33pm) – clearly, they do!

            Coal is the result of organic matter (including trees) that has been compressed and heated over millions of years.

            If the burning of coal can produce these emissions, what makes you think the combustion of wood doesn’t release a similar range of these substances?

            Brain, what compelling evidence do you have that indicates “minerals from combustion of wood don’t enter the atmosphere”?
            Links please – You’ll forgive me for not accepting your word, particularly when I suspect you appear to be hiding behind a pseudonym, and have apparently made more than one preposterous statement already.
            I’d suggest you check this out first:

          • 1. Coal isn’t wood so you’ve missed the point for a start. Basic makeup of wood is similar, C, H and O yes but different minor elements. But for the point of the exercise let’s look at your list.

            “Here’s a list of some toxic substances”
            Without going through the whole list, I’m hoping you have the ability to check for yourself, the minerals in the list, which in a fire will mostly end up as metal oxides do not enter the atmosphere as vapour but may be carried into the air as particulates. Examples are chromium, lead, manganese and copper. As such they settle to earth due to their density. Just repeating they are not vaporised in the fire and do not enter the atmosphere as vapour.

            2. All the substances in the list that might be products of combustion of wood, that enter the air as vapour, are NOT minerals. Examples are ammonia, sulfur dioxide and oxides of nitrogen. Funny how you forgot to mention the chemicals that make up 99% or more of emissions from efficient burning of wood – CO2, H2O. Note these aren’t mineral either.

            4. And you might be right. For coal. Under efficient burning conditions minerals may vaporise at the temperature at which coal burns but the moment they hit the atmosphere they solidify. But the original debate was about wood which you must have missed.

            5. You will find evidence if you look up the temperature at which a wood fire burns and compare it with the temperature at which minerals vaporise. Minerals are defined in a previous answer to Ronald, feel free to check the links for yourself. As an example of the boiling point of a mineral from your list let’s look at Zinc oxide. BP 2360oC. Combustion temperature of wood under ideal conditions might be 1100oC, not hot enough for minerals to vaporise.*

            6. “If the burning of coal can produce these emissions, what makes you think the combustion of wood doesn’t release a similar range of these substances?”
            Because coal isn’t wood. Close but no cigar.

            7. To be clear I’m not claiming there are no toxic products vaporised in a wood fire. But minerals aren’t, which is where the original debate started.

            8. If wikipedia is the limit of your research no wonder you ended with data about coal when the debate is about wood. If you want to debate science go to science sites and check their credibility.

            9. And you sure are sharp, Brain isn’t my real name.

            10. Minerals don’t vaporise when wood burns.

          • Geoff Miell says

            brain (re your comment at October 30, 2019 at 1:32pm
            You state:
            “1. Coal isn’t wood so you’ve missed the point for a start.”

            It seems to me you’ve missed my point that “Coal is the result of organic matter (including trees) that has been compressed and heated over millions of years.” – Coal is DERIVED from trees/wood (and other organic matter). How convenient for you to ignore that bit, eh?

            Then you make these apparently emphatic claims:
            “…the minerals in the list, which in a fire will mostly end up as metal oxides do not enter the atmosphere as vapour but may be carried into the air as particulates. Examples are chromium, lead, manganese and copper. As such they settle to earth due to their density. Just repeating they are not vaporised in the fire and do not enter the atmosphere as vapour.”

            How does a heavier-than-air glider stay airborne? Answer: thermal updraughts. See:

            What limits various density gases from stratifying in the atmosphere? Answer: wind, downdraughts and updraughts that continuously mix the various gases, vapours and particulates within the atmosphere. My point is: PM10 and PM2.5 particulates and vaporised heavy metals can stay in the atmosphere for extended periods – the density of substances at the very small-scale has little stratifying effect in a mixing air column, so it’s possible that these substances can be conveyed for very long distances before settling on surfaces.

            And I see your responses don’t have any references/links in sight – we just take your word for it, eh, “brain”? It’s clear to me you have no compelling evidence, otherwise you would have presented it.

            Per an abstract of a scientific paper titled “Volatilization behavior of Cd and Zn based on continuous emission measurement of flue gas from laboratory-scale coal combustion”, it includes:

            “For the two metals considered in this study (Cd and Zn), the experimental setup was successfully used to continuously monitor the metal vaporization process during coal combustion independent of reactor design, and at different temperatures. Cd is more easily vaporized than Zn during coal combustion. Temperature significantly influences the metal vaporization process. In general, the higher the temperature, the higher the metal vaporization, although the vaporization is not proportional to temperature.”

            You state: “4. And you might be right. For coal.”

            Evidently, you are wrong. Clearly combustion of coal containing cadmium (Cd) and zinc (Zn) certainly can enter the atmosphere in a vaporised state. Are you claiming Cd and Zn aren’t in a mineral state in coal? What’s your evidence, “brain”? Links please. Your assumption that the boiling point of zinc oxide is too high to allow vaporization is evidently flawed.

            If I took a bit more time, I have no doubt I could find more scientific papers supporting this, but why bother, “brain”, you apparently don’t, eh? It seems to me you just make stuff up.

            So, “brain”, your original comment (on Oct 28, 2019 at 12:30pm) stated (without any qualification): “Minerals don’t vaporise.” – The evidence I see indicates that’s utter bunkum – they evidently do with the combustion of coal and it also appears to be the case with biomass.

            You also state:
            “Funny how you forgot to mention the chemicals that make up 99% or more of emissions from efficient burning of wood – CO2, H2O. Note these aren’t mineral either.”

            It’s a given that most of the emissions are CO2 and water vapour, that certainly aren’t mineral – Is there anywhere I have disputed this? But it seems to me you are attempting to imply I am. And where do you get the number “99% or more of emissions” from, or did you just make that up as well?

            My original statement that you’ve attempted to challenge without any compelling evidence was:
            “The other aspect to consider is biomass draws out trace minerals in the soil that aid in soil fertility. Burn the wood and those minerals are potentially vaporized and may not be recycled back into the soil. My point is, the longer-term prospects for burning biomass is to potentially deplete the fertility of the soils – I’d suggest that’s not sustainable for future generations.”

            I note the words I used:
            • “draws out trace minerals” – implies small quantities relative to the overall mass of fuel;
            • “potentially vaporized” – implies it MAY be vaporized when burning biomass – it evidently happens with the combustion of coal – it appears it may happen when burning wood, but I wasn’t emphatic about it;
            • “potentially deplete” – implies it MAY be depleted over time, but I wasn’t emphatic;
            • “I’d suggest” – implies I suggested but did not indicate it was an irrefutable truth.

            But it seems to me you emphatically stated (i.e. with no wriggle room):
            “7. To be clear I’m not claiming there are no toxic products vaporised in a wood fire. But minerals aren’t, which is where the original debate started.”

            I’ll repeat again: Links please. What scientific papers support that emphatic statement of yours, “brain”? It seems apparent to me you are unable to offer any credible supporting data, only apparently baseless statements and flawed assumptions and logic. Put up or shut up! Is it any wonder you hide behind a pseudonym?

            IMO, whether metals vaporize and/or particulate in the combustion gases of a wood fire is a semantic distraction. You’ve apparently avoided discussing a far more important issue of whether the longer-term prospects for burning biomass is to potentially deplete the fertility of the soils. Perhaps that was your intent?

          • Or maybe, Geoff, you’ve been breathing too much mercury vapour.

  18. People are buying cars today that are much heavier than cars 20 years ago. They have less room cargo room that station wagons despite their bigger dimensions and the only load most of them carry is a couple of kids and some shopping. Totally unnecessary. The bigger 4wds weigh upwards of 2 tonnes. It should be no surprise that the average fuel consumption of cars in increasing when there is so much mass being driven around. For 99% of people a 1400 kg sedan would do the job better.

  19. Erik Christiansen says

    Geoff Miell, “slow-in/ fast-out” for parts of the natural carbon cycle are a serious problem when sequestered carbon, banked for millions of years, is released to destabilise the cycle’s current equilibrium. The accelerating spate of massive forest fires triggered by anthropomorphic global heating (i.e. cavalier consumption of fossil fules) is also “fast out”, and cannot be prevented by available means. Utilising that biospheric fuel before it cycles due to misadventure would at least avoid the double jeopardy of its fruitless loss to atmosphere AND burning an equivalent amount of coal to double the global heating contribution.

    Any serious consideration of the numbers will result in the understanding that one wood heater fed by (more than) 2 sq. km. of forest is the opposite of the norm, i.e. slow out & fast in, because there are tens of thousands of trees pulling CO2 out, and only a couple dead ones taking the next step in the carbon cycle some years early. Where the reduction in decaying wood reduces methane emissions, the benefit is even greater.

    As for supposed loss of nutrients. dead trees are essentially free of volatile nutrients. Yes, burning acacia leaves would lose nitrogen, but leafless dead eucalypts contain mostly carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, Potassium (more in the bark), Calcium, and a few other minerals. Black wattle has an annoying amount of silica in the wood. None of the minerals are volatile, and remain in the ash as carbonates, which I spread on the home paddock, with resulting improvements in grass production and therefore atmospheric carbon extraction. I’m sure the worm like sweet soil too. In Europe the lignin in wood acts as a moisture retaining, slightly nitrogenous, soil conditioner, but my 55 years of observation the 2 sq. km of dry sclerophyll forest is that it remains sandy and dry, with many of the lignous trunk centres eaten out by termites.

    Retention of forest for energy supply purposes then not only does little to deplete the soils if the ash is returned to site, it actively builds soil. An article in Scientific American, perhaps 40 years ago, described European agriculture stripping 6m of forest-created topsoil down to subsoil in a couple of millenia. Abandoned by man, the sites were naturally reforested, and a meter or two of topsoil was thereby created before renewed agricultural assault undid the forest’s work again. In any event, any marginal nutrient loss is miniscule compared to the torrent of nutrients flushed to sea by our large cities.

    It is the profligate consumption of fossil fuels which is unsustainable.
    Forestry for biomass is entirely sustainable, as the trees do not rely on retention of the lignin. Every gigatonne of foul fossil fuels kept in the ground by biomass cultivation is a priceless gift to our grandchildren, and a means of providing seasonal storage of solar energy.

    • It has been recently reported

      that China has a 50 year project which will involve planting 88 billion trees to try and halt desertification of land. Sounds laudable, but having great swathes of saplings all of the same size and species, the project is probably doomed to at least partial failure. They will all be fighting to get what little water there is (with China approaching a fairly severe water shortage – as well as, if there is a mono-culture of trees, they will, as in the report, be subject to attack by pests.

      For Australia to start going down the path of biofuel, by stripping even more vegetation from the land, is probably a folly, since we also are running out of water, which will be needed to replace the lost vegetation, either with food or fuel. I don’t think we can have both.

    • Geoff Miell says

      Erik Christiansen,
      You state:
      “As for supposed loss of nutrients. dead trees are essentially free of volatile nutrients.”

      Erik, where do you get that idea from? All manner of fungi, insect and microbial biota ecosystems utilise the nutrients in dead trees, breaking down the wood and leaf litter, slowly returning the nutrients back into the soil. Burning wood circumvents that process, particularly if the ash residues are redirected elsewhere.

      Biomass derived from wood and forestry industry by-products emits a greater mass of carbon dioxide per unit of energy produced than natural gas (if ‘fugitive emissions’ are excluded) or coal. So, I would suggest you are kidding yourself if you think “a well-stocked woodshed” is “fully green and net CO2 neutral” – that is, if you burn that stockpile of wood.

      You also state:
      “None of the minerals are volatile, and remain in the ash as carbonates…”

      Erik, what’s your evidence to support that statement? The combustion gases from a wood-burning heater are not only just CO2 emissions. There are also many nasty compounds (i.e. carbon-monoxide, NOx, SOx, tars, and a range of other organic compounds like formaldehyde, benzene and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) that are produced, as well as lung-busting PM10 and PM2.5 fine particulates, that rise and exit from the flue pipe to endanger public health.

      You state:
      “Any serious consideration of the numbers will result in the understanding that one wood heater fed by (more than) 2 sq. km. of forest is the opposite of the norm…”

      Erik, have you performed a serious analysis or are you just guessing, attempting to justify what you are doing? It seems to me you are using the argument “my emissions are too small to matter”. Professor Will Steffen, in his Expert Report to the Independent Planning Commission concerning the Bylong Coal Project Determination, outlined the fallacy of that argument. Statement 61 includes:

      “These arguments are, in my opinion, fundamentally flawed. The first argument (paragraph 57) is flawed because it ignores the fact that global greenhouse gas emissions are made up of millions, and probably hundreds of millions, of individual emissions around the globe. All emissions are important because cumulatively they constitute the global total of greenhouse gas emissions, which are destabilising the global climate system at a rapid rate. Just as many emitters are contributing to the problem, so many emission reduction activities are required to solve the problem.”

      Statement 62 includes:

      “A useful analogy for this first argument is the total tax revenue that a government agency collects each year to support the activities of the government. While there are certainly some large taxpayers (just as there are some large carbon emitters), there are also millions of Australians who pay a small amount of tax each year, compared to the total revenue. Each of these taxpayers could make the argument to the government agency that their amount of tax compared to the total revenue collected is so small that it does not matter. The government agency would very likely not accept that argument, and nor should decision makers, in my view, accept the argument that some activity’s greenhouse gas emissions are so small that they do not matter.”

      We all need to stop burning all carbon-based fuels. If we don’t all stop, and soon, then the risks for a collapse in human civilisation in the next two to three decades escalate.

  20. Des Scahill says

    In recent years, vehicle weight has been rising, due in large part to the added electronics – which these days includes such things as parking sensors, cameras, look-ahead radar, monitoring individual battery cells in the case of EV’s – and all the copper wiring and electronic boards that go with those things.

    One has to wonder if its all really worth it.

    I can still wistfully remember driving a 1939 Chev sedan in my younger days.. lift up the bonnet and all you saw basically was – a large V6 engine, a radiator and fan, the distributor and induction coil, and a few wires and connecting hoses, and not much else really. And – if I remember rightly you could even crank start it yourself if you ended up with a flat battery in the middle of nowhere, or get some-one to push it for you. And only 3 gauges to really bother about on the dashboard – fuel gauge, temperature gauge and speedometer.

    Do you really need a ‘tyre pressure monitoring sensor’ to tell you that one tyre has less pressure than another, and in addition, then have to spend big bucks getting the sensor repaired or replaced by a specialist technician when it mucks up? Modern vehicles can have a hundred or so of such sensors

    I suspect the ‘marginal benefits’ from all this electronic wizardry are quite low overall, and we’re probably getting somewhat ‘conned’ by the car manufacturers.

  21. I throw my hands up. Particles aren’t vapour.

    Look up some facts and figures yourself or find a high school chemistry book and have someone explain it to you.

    Either you are a troll, someone who can’t admit they are wrong or you are way out of your depth and are grasping at anything to stay afloat.

    Sorry but I’m going to let you drown in your own ignorance.

    • Geoff Miell says


      Which part of “Put up or shut up” don’t you understand, “brain”?

      You state:
      “I throw my hands up. Particles aren’t vapour.

      Look up some facts and figures yourself or find a high school chemistry book and have someone explain it to you.”

      From your statement above, it indicates to me you lack scientific understanding. It’s apparent to me you are unable to process new data, and are stuck with a fixed and wilfully ignorant mindset. How old is your “high school chemistry book”? Perhaps that’s your problem? It seems to me you are unable to research subjects using a wealth of more recent credible scientific data available on the internet.

      You also state:
      “Either you are a troll, someone who can’t admit they are wrong or you are way out of your depth and are grasping at anything to stay afloat.”

      Troll meaning:
      “In Internet slang, a troll is a person who starts quarrels or upsets people on the Internet to distract and sow discord by posting inflammatory and digressive,[1] extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the intent of provoking readers into displaying emotional responses[2] and normalizing tangential discussion,[3] whether for the troll’s amusement or a specific gain.”

      It seems to me that’s an apt description for you, “brain” – an internet troll. You hide behind a pseudonym, it seems to me you start quarrels to attempt to distract from the topics, attempt to provoke emotional responses with inflammatory and personal attacks, and attempt to normalize tangential discussion.

      I’m happy to learn new things and adjust my thinking when new and compelling evidence becomes available, but don’t expect me to accept unsubstantiated and baseless statements and flawed assumptions and logic.

      It seems to me you are unable to acknowledge your own ignorance and limitations – that’s your problem, not mine.

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