The Australian Government and Carbon Dioxide Emission

Introduction

Energy can be defined as the capability to work. Energy comes in different forms such as light, motion, heat, electricity, among others. Energy can be stored, amplified or converted for use in different ways. The energy sources can be split down into two different categories (i.e. renewable and non renewable). Renewable energy resources are found naturally such as wind, sunlight, water, and geothermal. They are referred to as renewable because they can never be depleted. Most of the renewable sources are environmental friendly and are not exhaustible, that is they do not cause a lot of pollution although their power generation is limited to an extent that they can not be able sustain large scale power generation.

They consume a lot of money to put them up and also their maintenance is costly. Non renewable energy sources are available naturally and cannot be produced or reused. They exist in rather inflexible amounts and individuals tend to consume them at a faster rate than they can be created by nature. The frequently used nonrenewable energy supply is fossil fuels. There are many different forms of fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas and petroleum. These fuels have been used for along period of time since industrial revolution. They are easy to use because they just need an easy combustion. Although they are easy to use, this combustion results into air pollution which greatly affects the environment. Both the energy sources can be exploited for the production of secondary energy sources such as hydrogen and electricity.

Most developing countries use renewable energy whilst the developed nations depend on non renewable sources such as coal and natural gas. However, with the change in global climate facilitated by the emission of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, there is an urgent need to consider the renewable energy sources for sustainable development. This paper will look at the reaction made by the Australian government in its effort to reduce the impact of carbon dioxide emission, the advantages and disadvantages of increasing carbon dioxide, types of renewable energy that can be used to minimize the effect of carbon dioxide emission and the methods that can be used to reduce the emission of carbon dioxide.

The Australian government reaction to the emission of carbon dioxide

Climate change is the greatest environmental challenge facing the world today. The Government’s goal is to play an active part in global efforts to stabilize atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations to avoid reaching dangerous levels, and to adapt to the climate change that is now inevitable. Australia has a vital role to play as a leader in the drive to tackle climate change and so the Government is working through the EU for processes to reach global agreement on action. The Government agrees with the Committee that the timely and effective development of CCS technologies requires a strategic approach across the whole innovation chain, from research and development through to commercial-scale demonstration of a number of CCS technologies, including pre and post combustion technologies (Commonwealth of Australia, 50).

The 1995 National greenhouse Gas Inventory reported that, he net annual discharge of greenhouse gases in Australia was more than four hundred million tones of carbon dioxide. The highest percentage (about 18%) was contributed by agriculture activities while forestry and land use contributed about 12%. Other activities that led to the increase in carbon dioxide were rice cultivation, use of fertilizers, and burning of waste.

Anticipated carbon dioxide emissions gradually augmented from 1988 to 1995 and it is probable that it may increase further by the end of this year. Holding back the increase in emissions, as agreed under Kyoto protocol, is going to necessitate grave changes in management. In its National Greenhouse Response Strategy, the Australian government is on the lookout for supporting agricultural practices that lessen greenhouse gas emission and preserve or improve greenhouse gas sinks. Suggested procedures include but not limited to, reduced soil interruption and soil erosion through enhanced soil tillage, consequently upholding the usefulness of the soil as a sink for greenhouse gases (Commonwealth of Australia 57).

In devising its reaction strategy, the government has put emphasis on so-called ‘no regrets’ measures, those which offer industry net benefits as well as addressing the greenhouse gas outcome, or at least those that have no net cost in the long run. It gives the impression that a comparable no-regrets strategy will as well be necessary to persuade farmers to espouse new practices, and the linking of emission lessening through preservation tillage with enhancement of soil quality will be indispensable (National Greenhouse Gas Inventory Committee 72). The objectives of tillage require the use of manifold cultivations, the frequencies of this cultivation being dictated by the existing climatic conditions and understanding of the farmers. Even though the traditional tillage practices in Australia were at first imported from European agriculture, they have advanced into an assortment of locally modified practices.

In the modern times, there is escalating understanding that the soil is not only a significant constituent of our production system, but that it plays a vital role in the preservation of local, regional and international environment quality. At the farm level, conservation farming has become more and more conventional, and it is anticipated that some form of this structure is accomplished on more that fifty percent of land across all states. In Australia, conservation tillage is increasingly and appropriately practiced as part of conservation farming which may include crop rotations, particularly with legumes or pastures. The net gain or loss in soil organic C from the balance between organic mater inputs and losses through oxidation associated with tillage is dependent on the prevailing temperature and rainfall combinations.

In regards to Australia’s economy, on the surface, it would be best to continue the utilization of coal. The Commonwealth of Australia (10) states that ‘coal in Australia is abundant, conveniently located near major population centers and of relatively high quality’. They have also indicated that nearly all of Australia’s electricity is produced by fossil fuel-fired power stations.

Current clean coal technologies (CCTs) are mainly concerned with the reduction of harmful emissions including, sulphur oxides (SOX), nitrogen oxides (NOX) and other particulates. While these technologies are proven and effective and are contributing substantially to the reduction of pollutants from existing fossil fuel units, limited developments have occurred in regards to Coal power plants representing one of the largest sources of carbon dioxide emissions worldwide.

The Australian Government has authorized the Kyoto Protocol in 2008 and has committed funding for the R&D of GHG reducing systems with very strong partnerships with coal industries. In Australia, development of carbon dioxide technologies directly related for post-combustion capture are mostly managed by the Cooperative Research Centre for Greenhouse Gas Technologies (CO2CRC), a collaboration of government, industry, and academic institutions (Commonwealth of Australia 20). The life cycle assessment of carbon capture and storage generation from coal-fired power plants is accountable for a large percentage of (carbon dioxide) emissions throughout the world. As increased amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are considered to contribute to global warming, it is imperative that such emissions are reduced.

The advantages and disadvantages of increasing carbon dioxide

Carbon dioxide is one of the most used gases. By increasing it, we get both positive and negative effects. Carbon dioxide is one of the nutrients required in the growth of plants. It is used in the process of photosynthesis to manufacture food by plants. During photosynthesis, light is used to convert carbon dioxide and water into sugars. These sugars are then used for growth by the plant through a process known as respiration; the higher the amount of carbon dioxide in the air the faster the rate of photosynthesis, and hence the faster the rate of growth.

High growth rate increases the rate of production and thus better return for the farmers. Carbon dioxide is also used for refrigeration after being frozen into dry ice. This dry ice is also used in fire extinguishers to put off fire. Therefore by increasing its supply in the air, it will be frozen for more uses especially large scale refrigeration. Increasing carbon dioxide will result in increased production of carbonated drinks, such as sodas and candles.

Just as with human, the carbon dioxide that is in the air is breathed in and out by the insects that live in and harm stored grain. And just as with human beings, too much carbon dioxide and not enough oxygen will kill stored grain insects. If the level of carbon dioxide in the environment exceeds the level of oxygen, it will result in global warming which has become an immense problem in the present generation (USC “Clean Energy Blueprint” 2).

As greenhouse gases accumulate in the atmosphere global warming occurs. Carbon dioxide emission constitute the highest percentage of the total greenhouse gases and by increasing it, it will worsen the problem of global warming. The harmful sun’s rays are averted from reaching the earth’s surface by the ozone layer found in the atmosphere. Through global warming, this layer is continuously weakened thereby making the harmful rays from the sun to penetrate (to the earth’s surface). When these harmful rays get to the earth’s surface, they absorb most of the moist that helps in the growth of vegetation. As the growth of vegetation for instance, forest is interfered with, the water cycle changes resulting into shorter periods of rainfall. Growth of plants and vegetation declines consequently resulting in lack of food for both animals and human beings. This increases the mortality rate and some plant species may even become extinct.

Renewable energy sources

The clean energy blueprint investigated on ways of promoting diversity in production of energy and its conservation and looked into the cost effective methods. It recommended the use of alternative methods of generating energy and emphasized on the use of renewable sources such as wind and geothermal. The use of renewable is both cost effective and friendly to the environment (USC “Global warming “4). By use of these sources the greenhouses gases caused by combustion of fuel will reduce since most of the renewable sources are clean and inexhaustible. These renewable sources can not be exploited as compared to the non renewable because they are replenished naturally. The following are some of the renewable sources.

Hydroelectric power

Hydroelectric power is generated from the utilization of water and this has helped many industries. In America it has been used in industries since the early colonial period. This was due to the unavailability of other sources such as wood and coal and this forced American settlers to look for alternative sources. They found that falling water could be utilized to power gristmill and sawmills. The discovery of an electric generator in the mid 20th century increased the need for hydropower and more plants were built.

Running water is used to create electricity in the hydroelectric systems. This is done by the use of Fossil fuels which burns water into steam for turning turbines thereby producing electricity. Hydroelectric power is one of the cleanest sources of energy although in most cases it alters or damages the surrounding for example it leads to change of the quality of water and affects the aquatic life.

Solar power

Another type of renewal energy that can be used for sustainable environment is the solar power. Through the solar panels, solar power is directly sourced from the sun. This type of energy has been used for many years although some scientists have recently started to research on how it can be put into more use. These scientists invented (solar) electricity. This can be carried out through a procedure called solar thermal applications (where the sun heats air or liquid). It can also be done through photoelectric applications (Cubby 50). Solar energy is one of the cleanest sources of energy and has no harmful byproducts or threats.

Biomass

Biomass is one of the well established sources of energy and among the oldest in the world. Stored plant’s energy is converted to produce biomass energy that can be used for lighting and heating. This energy is produced from the use of organic substances. These organic substances are converted into biomass energy either through: burning, anaerobic digestion, or alcohol fermentation.

Sources of biomass energy can be classified into four that is from wood such as trees wastes such as livestock waste, crops such as sugar canes, and the aquatic plants such as water weed. Among the advantages of using biomass energy, some are that it is inexhaustible, has minimal environmental impact, and is available world wide.

Wind

Wind energy has been used throughout history. It has been used to power boats, to drive windmills, and many other uses. Differences in temperature and atmospheric pressure cause movements in the air which is known as the wind. This movement is then transformed into energy by use of a generator. For this to be effective the wind flow or the movement should be reliable. These generators have batteries where they store energy especially when the wind flow is strong to be used when wind flow is not reliable (Twidell and Weir 450).

Wind energy has a major problem in that the wind farms with the set ups for converting wind into energy consumes a lot of space and can badly affect the environment. The energy generated by these generators is relatively low compared to the cost incurred. Advantages of wind energy are: it’s clean to the environment; it is inexhaustible and can supplement other sources.

Geothermal power

Geothermal power is generated when the radioactive elements heats the earth’s crust. This heat is then carried by water or magma to the earth’s surface and it becomes detectable in the form of hot springs as geysers. This heat can be used to power turbines leading to the generation of electricity (U.S. Department of Energy, 3).

Geothermal power occurs naturally through vents and does not require any construction for collecting the energy although these vents are not available worldwide. This has led to the need of artificial vents which are not very effective because sometimes the source of heat is too deep. However, geothermal power is inexhaustible, clean to the environment, and can supplement other sources, such as the non renewable sources (Twidell and Weir 235).

Advantages and disadvantages of renewable energy resources

The major advantage of the renewable energy sources is that, they can never be depleted since they do not exist in fixed amounts like the non-renewable sources. They are clean and have very little contribution to global warming. Most of these sources are harvested in their natural form and thus requires very little operation costs. Solar energy is the simplest to manage since solar panels can be fixed on existing buildings and it does not interfere with other land activities. However, for large scale production, more materials may be required which might be expensive. Also, it can not be relied wholly becomes electricity can only be produced during the day when it is sunny.

Almost all renewable sources produce small quantities of electricity as compared to non-renewable resources such as, fossil fuels. Hydroelectric energy is the most reliable source since it produces a bigger quantity of electricity than all the other resources although, it interferes with ecology and causes problems in the downstream. Wind energy is the principal job producer but can only be relied upon when there are strong winds. Wind turbines occupy a large area which would otherwise be used for farming and they also produce a lot of noise.

Geothermal power plants occupy the smallest area compared to other sources. It can be relied upon since it produces electricity all day and night although it can produce toxic chemicals that can be harmful to the living organisms..

Methods of controlling carbon dioxide emissions

The consumption of fossil fuels by the energy infrastructure is one of the greatest sources of greenhouse gases which are responsible for recent global warming and climate change concern. In 2005, the global atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide has been reported an increase in greenhouse gases which has increased from its pre-industrial value. Carbon dioxide is at present to blame for 60 percent of the greenhouse effect. Global energy consumption is expected to increase by 52 percent from 2006 to 2030.

The global demand to reduce carbon dioxide emissions is receiving great concern presently. Emerging technologies that are being developed to reduce or eliminate these greenhouse emissions are of the utmost importance and will continue to be in the foreseeable future. In order for coal and other fossil fuelled power generation techniques to remain large components of energy generation, harmful emission reduction systems must continue to make technological advancements.

If desired changes are not sought after, energy sources such as renewable and nuclear may be the only viable options available. As the coal industry is a major factor in driving Australia’s economy, it is essential that industries which utilize it, such as coal-fired power stations, remain operational. Hence the need to investigate the feasibility of reduction of harmful gas emissions (such as carbon dioxide) from such plants. In today’s world it is becoming increasingly important to reduce harmful emissions from the production of power, to lessen their environmental impacts. The following are some of methods that can be used to control carbon dioxide emissions.

Cap-and trade

This is a market based method for controlling carbon dioxide emissions by use of tradeoffs and incentives. In this method, a comprehensive cap is required in all the energy sources which are then permitted to trade among themselves as a way of ascertaining the source that release a lot of pollution to the environment. Firms are allowed to emit emissions into the environment up to a certain limit and further discharge is fined.

However, the volume of emissions can not exceed the aggregate cap and firms which require more permits should buy from the firms that require fewer permits. The cap-and-trade mechanism uses an absolute structure, in that an allowance must be redeemed to the authorities for every unit of pollution produced (Cramton and Kerr 340). The following are issues that arise from the introduction of cap-and-trade as a method of controlling the emissions of carbon dioxide.

  1. Realistic caps are incomplete and do not control what matters – total emissions.
  2. Counterbalances are more often than not permitted and frequently inadequately guaranteed, creating more ambiguity.
  3. Like any law, it can be amended
  4. Global (cap) appears to high taking into consideration the rejection on national ones.
  5. When caps are accepted, they are often set too high

Baseline-and-credit approach

Under a rate-based baseline-and-credit plan, firms are prescribed a performance standard spelling out the target industry emission rate. An emission rate represents the emission technology level of a firm and is the amount of pollution that is emitted per unit of output. This concept is sometimes referred to as emission intensity. Forms with emission rates below the performance standard create permits, referred to as emission reduction credits (ERCs) (Dewees, 513).

On the other hand, firms possessing emission rates above the performance standard are required to purchase and redeem ERCs. The quantity of credits created or redeemed is calculated by multiplying output by the difference between a firm’s emission rate and the industry performance standard. Rate- based baseline-and-credit trading uses a relative frame, where firms must account for only deviations from their performance standard baseline (Fischer 101).

Carbon price

If the carbon price is sufficient, the public will move rapidly to replace fossil habits and fossil infrastructure. With economic incentives, change will occur far more rapidly than is possible with mandated “goals” or “caps”. An increasing carbon price is required to adjust end user and life style choices, to create cheaper renewable energy than fossil fuels, to impel business ventures, modernization and related economic doings, and to transform the nation to a cleaner environment away from the fossil fuel period. The carbon price should be noteworthy, and the community and the economic industry must comprehend that it might augment in the future. It should be applied to all fossil fuels (oil, gas and coal) uniformly at the source.

There have been many debates as to whether the public will be willing to pay the carbon price. It has been noted that, if the revenue is distributed 100% to the public, more than half of the public (those who do better than average in limiting their direct and indirect carbon emissions) will receive a dividend larger than the amount they pay in carbon fee via higher energy prices.

Carbon tax

The carbon tax in British Columbia took only months from announcement, in February 2008, to implementation, in June 2008. Cap and trade schemes have taken an order of magnitude longer to craft and introduce. The difference arises from the complexity of cap and trade vs. the simplicity of a carbon tax or fee. It is this contrast that helps account for the shift in opinion that has become obvious in the U.S. business community, the political commentarial and, now, in the U.S. Congress. A carbon tax would be an efficient control method because it will discourage companies from releasing gases into the atmosphere. However, in order to achieve the desired results, the tax should increase as the level of gases released increase for it to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. There is a certain limit of emissions set by the government and if that limit is exceeded, that’s when companies start paying taxes (Twidell and Weir 214).

Conclusion

Global climate change is up till now the most serious environmental problem and is also one of the most complicated challenges in the 21st century. As the largest developing country and among the largest carbon dioxide emissions source next to the US, Australia’s carbon dioxide emissions reductions have been one of the hottest problems discussed by environmental administers and many governments in the world. The effects of global warming have become a major problem presently. This is been facilitated by the emission of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide being the major gas). The consumption of fossil fuels by the energy infrastructure is one of the greatest sources of greenhouse gases which are responsible for recent global warming and climate change concern.

The most effective way to reduce the level of carbon emissions is the use of renewable energy sources. This is both cost effective and friendly to the environment. By use of these sources the greenhouse gases caused by combustion of fuel is reduced since most of the renewable sources are clean and inexhaustible. These renewable sources can not be exploited as compared to the non renewable sources because they are replenished naturally. They are clean and simple to manage and most of them require very simple technology. They can also be used in their natural form without the general of energy, for instance the use of solar rays to heat water.

Works Cited

Commonwealth of Australia. National Greenhouse Response Strategy. Australian Government publishing service, Canberra, 1992.

Cramton, Peter and Kerr, Salmon. Traceable carbon permit auctions: How and why to auction and not grandfather. Energy policy 30, 2002.

Cubby, Ben. Renewable may cost less than coal power, 2009.Web.

Dewees, David. Emissions trading: ERCs or allowances? Land Economics 77(4), 513-526.

Fischer, C. Combining rate-based and cap-based-and-trade emissions policies. Climate Policy 3S2, 89-109.

National Greenhouse Gas Inventory Committee. National greenhouse Gas Inventory 1995 with methodology supplement Environment Australia, Canberra, 1997.

U.S. Department of Energy. Energy Sources. Washington, DC 20585. Web.

Union of Concerned Scientist (USC). Clean Energy Blueprint: A Smarter National Energy Policy for Today and the Future, 2010. Web.

Union of Concerned Scientist (USC). Global warming. Climate 2030: A National Blueprint for a Clean Energy Economy, 2010. Web.

Twidell, John and Weir Anthony D. Renewable energy resources. New York: Taylor &Francis, 2006.