Gas Audit and Popping My Protest Cherry

The Morrison government’s ‘Gas-fired Recovery’ is a complete shitshow. Here we are on the brink of species and environmental collapse and we’re talking about injecting time, money and effort into fossil fuels.

On the Prime Minister’s website, Scott Morrison states, “we’ll work with industry to deliver a gas hub for Australia that will ensure households and businesses enjoy the benefits of our abundant local gas while we hold our position as one of the top global liquefied natural gas (LNG) exporters”.

In the budget released this week the federal government pledged another $58.6 million to its ‘gas-led’ recovery and confirmed it would invest up to $600 million build a new gas-fired power plant in the Hunter Valley.

According to an article in The Guardian, Morrison acknowledged the rise of cheap solar and wind energy, but basically ignored dealing with climate change by incorporating what I would call a renewable-led recovery. The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) asserts by the year 2035 renewable energy could provide nearly 90% of electricity, negating the need to rely on a gas-led recovery.

You might have read this far and wondered, why is this making me so outraged? For starters, gas is a FOSSIL FUEL. Do we need to keep harping on about how fossil fuels are warming the planet and causing the climate to drastically change? The extraction of gas is dirty business, especially now with fracking coal seam gas. Gas was always touted as the ‘green fossil fuel’, if there could be such a thing, but it turns out we have completely underestimated the effects of human fossil methane by as much as 40%.

On top of all that, it turns out being in a room with a gas cooker is as bad as second hand smoke for a child with asthma according to a recent report by the Climate Council.

To simplify it here are the cons of gas:

  • It is not renewable
  • Gas is composed of about 90 methane (CH4), the ugly cousin of CO2 that’s 25 x more potent
  • It also emits CO2
  • During the extraction and transportation phase it emits CH4
  • Extraction of gas is notorious for water contamination
  • Processing gas is energy intensive and creates toxic by-products
  • Gas companies are looking towards harmful extraction methods such as fracking to mine more gas
  • Shipping gas overseas is dangerous – a fully loaded ship contains about as much energy as a medium sized atomic bomb
  • Gas is a health threat

Source: The Climate Council

Read the report Kicking the gas habit: How gas is harming our health here.

It’s unreasonable to expect everyone to switch all their gas appliances to electric, in the same way it’s unreasonable to expect everyone to swap their current vehicles to electric. But to be planning a gas-led recovery is anti-environment and anti-survival.

I read recently in Jess Scully’s ‘Glimpses of Utopia’ that the “typical politician in Australia is a 51-year-old man, born in Australia (of English ancestry), who has two degrees… married with two children and owns two homes. Meaning the average politician in Australia is richer, older and more culturally homogenous than the people he’s supposed to represent.” Or, in other words, by the time the climate is really starting to heat up he’s sitting in a retirement village somewhere too senile to give a shit about the consequences of his political actions.

In a study from the ATA, University of Queensland and University of NSW a gas-led-recovery likely to cost us more than moving straight to renewables and more energy efficient electric appliances. As stated by the Weekend Australian, “thanks to major gas price rises and advances in the efficiency of electrical appliances, gas is now a more expensive service than electricity”. 

Which leads me to the second part of this post title – popping my protest cherry…

UNITED CALL: Students join the School Strike For Climate in Ballarat on Friday. Pictures: Lachlan Bence

Source: The Courier

On Friday the 21st of May 2021 I attended my first protest – the Schools Strike For Climate. I followed and amazing bunch of (mostly) teenagers and young adults from one end of town to the centre. With #fundourfuturenotgas as the catchcry and shouting “no more gas or oil, keep your carbon in the soil”, my audit on gas couldn’t be better timed. It was inspiring to witness and made me feel that perhaps all is not doomed with the next generation of voters being these fired-up, determined and intelligent young people. This may have been my first protest but it won’t be my last!

Audit

In our home we have the following gas connections:

Central Heating

In an article published by The Age, ‘almost half of the nation’s residential gas consumption is used solely to heat Victorian homes’. It’s no wonder with around 40% of the homes energy use going into heating and cooling. And according to an article by The Australian, gas ducted central heaters lose around half of their heat energy thanks to inefficiencies and losses.    

Our central heating works by drawing in outside air with a fan and then passes the cold air over a heat exchange, which uses a process known as gas combustion to warm up the air. This air is then circulated via ducts in the roof to every room except the laundry and the stand-alone toilet. Because central heaters heat up the entire house regardless of how many rooms you are using, they tend to waste a lot of energy. 

We currently only use the central heater on really cold mornings to take the bite out of the house or, if one of the kid’s is sick and needs a little extra TLC. Unfortunately ‘really cold’ morning are fairly common where we are in Ballarat! I have the thermostat set to 19.5 degrees Celsius. 

Gas Heater

We also have an inbuilt gas heater that is turned off full time. We don’t use this heater because it gets hot on the outside and too dangerous with small children. It’s also in a room that doesn’t get used for more than a few hours a day. 

Stovetop

We have a 900 mm wide, five burner gas stovetop (electric with oven).

I use the stove top most days for dinner, some days for lunch and occasionally for breakfast. So anywhere from 1 to 2 hours a day.

Solar Powered Hot Water with Gas Booster

Hot water accounts for around 21% of a homes energy use in Australia. We’re lucky to have solar powered hot water (albeit the gas booster) meaning, for a majority of the time it’s heated by renewables. Our solar hot water system works by using the sun to heat water as it passes through collectors on the roof. The water then flows into an insulated storage tank for later use. The tank is fitted with a gas booster for days when the sun isn’t strong enough to warm it completely. 

I try to use the hot water during the day to maximize the solar but unfortunately this isn’t always possible.

Our solar hot water

Moving Forward

Heat

  • Cut back on heating the home and use energy efficient processes first – see post on Power Comparison.  I occasionally get out of the habit of doing some of these small things that help to keep the house warmer. 
  • Opt for the reverse cycle air conditioner in the main living area over the ducted heating (reverse cycle AC’s are one of the most efficient ways to heat your home). Set the temperature to 19 degrees. Close off the doors to the rooms we aren’t using.
  • Clean and maintain the AC regularly (something I have not been doing!).
  • Investigate alternative ways to heat the home other than the central heater. This includes installing a second AC unit. 
  • Replacing the entire central heating unit appears to be a costly exercise and perhaps not the best investment of resources at this present time. However, it may be worthwhile doing some more research into electric ducted heaters (at the time of writing I can’t find such a thing!) for the future.

Cook

  • Ideally I’d love to have an induction stovetop however, our electric oven and gas stovetop are the one unit. This means I can’t replace one without the other. Environmentally (and economically), replacing a perfectly good oven may have a larger impact than keeping the gas but just using it less (I’m imaging all the ovens around Australia that will become obsolete when we discontinue gas and how many of these will end up in landfill!). 
  • Another option is to minimise our use of the gas stovetop by using the microwave more and consider getting a portable induction cooktop. 
Source: Renew.org.au

Water

  • Like the other items, replacing our working gas boosted system for an electrical boosted system seems like a costly environmental outlay. To start, it’s worthwhile making more effort to minimise water use overall. I’ve been practicing this (with varying success) since writing my water post. 
  • As recommended by Your Home, use hot water during the earlier parts of the day to allow the afternoon sun to heat the water for the evening.
  • Clean the solar unit to ensure efficiency.
  • When the unit does requite replacing, go for a solar system with eclectic booster.

*All the technical info on this page is self learned so apologies if I haven’t explained some of the gas mechanisms correctly.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s