ON February 23, Smithy’s cartoon featured a couple in a cave. “Remember when we wagged school to protest about climate change and coal mines and we saved the world?” the man in the cartoon says. “How could I forget," the woman replies, "now get that rabbit ready for dinner. I’ve got to get water from the flamin’ creek."
Smithy was pointing out that, without fossil fuels (coal and oil), we would be back living in the stone age.
Everything we have, including solar panels and wind farms, comes via the power of fossil fuels.
Every metal or substance must be mined, quarried or otherwise retrieved using oil-burning vehicles, transported burning oil and processed, by burning coal. The heat from coking coal is needed to turn ore into metal and then make metal the required shape.
The manufactured items are then transported to factories to be assembled, then transported again to wholesalers, retailers and thence to their final destination.
So much fossil fuel must be burned to manufacture and install solar panels and wind farms that it hardly seems worthwhile putting them up in the first place.
Add to the fact that they provide sporadic, unreliable and inefficient power and it is clear that solar panels and wind farms will do little to provide the power needs of a modern economy and will have little effect on CO2 emissions.
We would be better off encouraging the growth of trees and forests which not only remove CO2 from the atmosphere, but also provide habitat for native animals and increase the likelihood of rain.
Our dry, parched desert provides a heat-island effect which drives away rain and increases the temperature throughout the continent.
Another measure to reduce CO2 emissions would be convert to hydrogen as an energy source, particularly for transport.
Hydrogen fuel cells could not only run cars, but trucks and trains. Battery-powered cars have limited range and energy and we would have to greatly increase coal-powered power stations to meet the demand for electricity as everyone charges their batteries overnight.
Admittedly, making hydrogen requires a lot of electricity (back to the coal again), but in future, hydrogen fusion might be developed to make electricity.