CSIRO Syngas needs analysis

There are a number of factors to consider.

Firstly, while we have reasonable reserves of natural gas, it is still
a fossil fuel. As energy investment banker Matthew Simmons says,
“People tout hydrogen as an alternative energy source, but most
hydrogen solutions consume natural gas. In a world running short of
fossil fuels, the last thing we need is a new user of natural gas.”

Secondly, the fact that some of the solar energy can be transferred to
the natural gas, is good, but may not be the most efficient use of the
solar energy. The total energy and greenhouse profit from pholtovoltaic
or mechanical conversion of solar to electric energy need to be
calculated and compared before we get too excited about this particular
process.

Thirdly, the world does need transportable fuels, and syngas may be a
suitable alternative as cheap oil runs out. We should not forget the
value of plants, which not only harness the energy of the sun, but also
sink carbon-dioxide and do both of those things without any of the
investment in dollars, watts and greenhouse gases that solutions like
the CSIRO solar powered syngas plant does.

Aside from these three factors urging cautious scientific analysis, the
media savvy and cynical might also question its timing. It is hard not
to see this as an attempt at positive media spin following the flack
surrounding the appointment of Geoff Garrett as CSIRO chief in
February. The “breakthrough” in this technology was prior to 2002 when
the division responsible won awards for it which enabled them to expand
research into the production and commercialisation phase. What has
happened in the intervening three and a half years is that the mirrors
have moved to the ground, and the conversion plant placed on a
stationary tower. Why the television crews were let loose on the
facility in this particular week is anyone’s guess, but it would not
appear to be for scientific reasons.

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