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Keeping you informed about TecEco sustainability projects.  Issue 72, November 11th, 2007

John Harrison's work Recognised by the Australian Concrete Industry

John Harrison was pleasantly surprised to pick up an award for excellence at the recent Concrete Institute of Australia conference in Adelaide.

Maybe the concrete industry are at last starting to realise that all that is gray is not great and much more could go out the gate at a profit!

New Agent in NSW

TecEco's NSW representatives for Permecocrete and some other products and technologies is Jean-Eudes Monger from Innovative Construction Services. Jeans can be contacted on 0413826330 (mobile)

To Jean concreting has always been a slow, grueling, tedious job. Most lifetime concretors have reached the end of their careers by 30 with bad backs and knees. Good quality employees have been difficult to find so Jean's businesses, Innovative Construction Services and Global Equipment Manufacturing are developing machinery that can excavate, backfill, form, reinforce, place and finish a 1 km concrete cycle way /bike path in one day.

So far they have come a long way and have developed a multi purpose machine that can

1. Lay and compact aggregate in a prepared excavation, then

2. Do the equivalent of form, reinforce, place and finish 30 m2 of concrete per minute on top.

This new machine is able to use the advantages of precision placement by means of either sonic, laser and the revolutionary 3D Millimetre GPS. It can also be operated by remote control to enable the operator to multitask on the ground while waiting for concrete trucks.

The major advantage of the technology incorporated in the machine is that it can automatically compacts the surface as it paves. In relation to pervious concrete this eliminates the tedious job of rolling and having to deal with riser strips.

The next equipment to be released by Jean and his associates will be a soil mill that would be able to excavate an entire cycle way in just a few hours.

Paving services are now available including a qualified operator on the east coast of Australia as well as the west coast of the USA. Global Equipment Manufacturing, is anticipating the leasing of this equipment in the first quarter of 08

The Cement Industry and Global Warming

John Harrison's comments on a report by David Adam of the Guardian on the 12th October, 2007 (Repeated in many other papers)

The headline read

"The unheralded polluter: cement industry comes clean on its impact
· Plants release over 5% of carbon dioxide emissions
· Industry sees no chance of green-friendly future"

David Adam reported on the recent proceedings of a meeting in Brussels of the Cement Sustainability Initiative (CSI) group of companies headed by Howard Klee. The group was created in 1999 by 10 cement companies in partnership with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, and now has 18 companies as members.

Through the mouths of various industry spokespeople whose words are crafted into an effective warning by David, the article makes it clear that the industry are not prepared to do anything serious about global warming and do not want to be pushed as they are too important.Why I am drawing your attention to this article is that I have a contrary view which is that the cement industry can in fact be one of the saviors of civilisation. This view was not as might be expected canvassed.

The reporter, David Adam, commented that the cement industry "is rapidly emerging as a major obstacle on the world's path to a low-carbon economy." and that "No company will make carbon-neutral cement any time soon." David pointed out that "The manufacturing process depends on burning vast amounts of cheap coal to heat kilns to more than 1,500C [1]. It also relies on the decomposition of limestone, a chemical change which frees carbon dioxide as a by product. So as demand for cement grows, for sewers, schools and hospitals as well as for luxury hotels and car parks, so will greenhouse gas emissions. Cement plants and factories across the world are projected to churn out almost 5bn tonnes of carbon dioxide annually by 2050 - 20 times as much as the government has pledged the entire UK will produce by that time."

Mr Adam then supports the above comment with a quote from, Dimitri Papalexopoulos, managing director of Titan Cement, a Creek company. According to Mr Adam, Dimitri said "No matter what you do, cement production will always release carbon dioxide. You can't change the chemistry, so we can't achieve spectacular cuts in emissions." Cement is needed to satisfy basic human needs, and there is no obvious substitute, so there is a trade-off between development and sustainability."

We suggest that David and his employer the Guardian did not do enough homework. You can change the chemistry for probably the pareto proportion of uses. TecEco are already making cement that is not only carbon neutral, but in the paradigm of Gaia Engineering, a carbon sink. Concrete can not only be much greener, it can actually help solve the problem.

M K Singh from India commented at the recent Cement Industry National Conference in Melbourne in relation to his country “we want the concrete industry to be the savior of the world”[2]. The cement and concrete industry don’t know it yet but concrete will be part of the solution rather than the problem as it is the only product with sufficiently large flows to reverse global carbon flows if made of man made carbonate using TecEco Gaia Engineering technology.

David erroneously assumes that the solution is a low carbon economy. In doing so he fails to understand economics and what life on this planet is all about. Reducing emissions is very important but is not the only way forward. Reliance on this strategy alone is fraught with danger. The plan must be more holistic and approach the problem from every direction possible.

In nature carbon is arguably one of the most important of atoms as it is the "carrier" of energy and because it is stable in a number of different co-ordinate bonding configurations. Carbon is the framework atom used for life itself . The problem we have at the moment is one of stocks, flows and balances [3]. In nature the consumption and production of carbon dioxide is balanced however our activities have upset this homeostasis.

We use the "carried" energy in complex carbon based molecules for our energy source and there is nothing extrinsically wrong with doing so except that unlike nature, which has photosynthesis as a means of re-assembling these molecules re-releasing oxygen - we fail to balance the flows in our tec ho-process [4].

As a consequence carbon dioxide levels are rising and oxygen levels falling.

Global Carbon Dioxide and Oxygen Levels are inversely Proportional.

The purpose of the TecEco Gaia Gaia Engineering paradigm is that it re-engineers the techo-process with the objective of achieving a carbon balance economically. Such balance is a possibility David does not appear to understand and certainly does not enunciate.

David provides some good background padding to his article when he says "Concrete is the second most used product on the planet, after water, and almost half of it is produced in China. The booming Chinese economy has created such a demand for building materials that cement production there last year released 540,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide - just short of Britain's total output from all sources. Cement's weight and low value mean it is almost always made close to where it is needed, and China's demand helped it to overtake the US as the world's leading polluter last year."

David points out that "Like the aviation industry, the expected rapid growth in cement production is at severe odds with calls to cut carbon emissions to tackle global warming." He then uses various spokespersons to point out that the cement industry are starting to get nervous about the impact of carbon caps. especially as legislation on climate change takes off in Europe, the United States, and around the world. David lives in Europe and European companies already face capped emissions under the E.U.'s Greenhouse Gas Emission Trading Scheme.

Although not mentioned in the article, the Australian cement industry are also starting to feel the jitters and putting forward a similar line to that of members of the Cement Sustainability Initiative. According to Amanda McCluskey [5] [6], deputy chairwoman of the Investor Group on Climate Change "Australia's cement industry would be among the hardest hit by a greenhouse gas emissions trading system, with the sector's annual profit dropping as much as 60 per cent, or $160 million, under worst-case measures” The basis for such a profit cut include an emission price of $25 a tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent, and the absence of any free permits, conditions unlikely to be imposed at the start of an emission market in Australia.

Mr Papalexopoulos of Titan Cement made clear the agenda when he said as David reports: "Unlike the airlines, cement is not directly visible to the consumer, so cement companies don't have the same profile. I call it enlightened self-interest. We know there is an issue. If we draw attention to ourselves then we could attract criticism, but we could also have a voice in the regulatory solutions. Otherwise we could have something thrust upon us."

The purpose of David's report seems to me to point out to the world that cement is necessary, it is not OK to hammer the industry with carbon caps and that if the European Government does then it will only encourage greater production elsewhere such as China.

David's third spokesperson, Howard Klee, coordinator of the Cement Sustianability Initiative, is not as forthright as he could have been when David reports him as saying "We have issues that affect our industry, and these companies are talking about what they might do to prepare for them. "Most people are not even aware that making cement produces carbon dioxide. It is an incredibly low-profile business and power companies, transportation and airlines get much more attention. But if producing carbon dioxide starts to cost businesses money, it looks like it will have a huge impact on [cement companies'] financial performance."

David then reports that "Already, some cement companies have taken steps to reduce their environmental impact. Some burn waste products alongside coal, while others have reworked their recipes and tried to make their plants more energy-efficient, with modest success. The CSI companies are working to standardise such techniques and to issue guidelines on how they can be adopted by others, and plan to publish a progress report in February."

David says the CSI prefers voluntary goals and reductions in the "energy intensity" of its products, rather than fixed emission targets. For example the Japanese company Taiheiyo has pledged to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide it emits for each tonne of cement by 3% by 2010 - a saving that will be swamped by the expected increase in production.

What all this means is "Do not burden us with carbon caps as the cement industry globally is going exponential as in the graph below and it would severely hurt us! We can't make cement without emissions!"

Global Cement Production [7]

To further draw out the argument that the industry cannot change David goes on to use his fourth spokesperson Michio Kimura, chairman of Taiheiyo, quoting him as saying: "Without a [binding] cap then emissions will go up. But we must stop production to meet a cap and that is not good for business. We focus on energy intensity, better performance for the industry and technology."

David without knowing it prophetically suggests the solution when he says " In the long term, only carbon capture and storage could significantly reduce cement emissions, and the industry sponsors research into how this could be done." We agree carbon capture and storage is essential. What you are missing David is that concrete itself can provide the means to achieve this so there is no need to even think about unproven geosequestration technologies. So where are the research funds Howard mentioned for my company TecEco?

David then quotes Mr Kimura as saying "companies in developing countries needed to develop cleaner technology so it could be used by cement manufacturers in China, none of which have accepted invitations to join the CSI. But many of the newer cement plants in China are cleaner than older more established facilities elsewhere, such as in the US - also not represented by the initiative."

By David's own admission that newer plants overseas in developing nations are inevitably more efficient and cleaner that older existing plants the argument about cement production going offshore if caps are imposed starts to fall apart .

Towards the end of his article David quotes a less veiled threat from Mr Papalexopoulos thus: "Sustainability is always talked about from an ethical perspective, which is right, but we also need to look at sustainability based on a business rationale. Regional caps such as the European scheme create an uneven playing field and have unintended consequences. Does it make sense from an environmental perspective to cap cement production in Europe, and for cement companies in Europe to shift production to North Africa, where there are less stringent controls? This a global problem, not a regional one. Our industry is trying to develop a global sector approach, which we believe would be better."

There it is - the statement that the industry are not prepared to change and the threat that if they are taxed then production will shift overseas. If the consequence is the manufacture of cement by more efficient offshore plants, from a global perspective this may not be such a bad thing as David, possibly unwittingly previously points out!

This is a crucial point because not only are the Chinese building cleaner state of the art plants, but they are doing serious research into belite type cements that TecEco hope to help them with and this bottom up change will result in around 10% less emissions. Transferring production to countries in the third world could mean that to meet increased production they develop state of the art cement plants with much lower emissions or sell high belite or TecEco Eco-Cements or even high belite Tec-Cements with lower embodied energy and emissions. On the global scale this would be a plus.

Nowhere does David contemplate that the industry can make cement without emissions and further, concrete can be the carbon sink we need to balance emissions and save civilisation as we know it as dreamed of by Mr Singh mentioned earlier[2].

TecEco uniquely advocate using CO2 in building and construction as this market is the only one sufficiently large and continuing to solve the problem by profitably utilising man made carbonate. Concrete is potentially part of the carbon capture and storage capture technology paradigm mentioned by David that is required that could significantly reduce net cement emissions. So again I ask where is the money Howard Klee says his CSI are spending on such technologies?

The industry have to change. Before change can take place however there must be a collective realisation that instead of being part of the problem the industry could in fact be part of the solution. TecEco have demonstrated that concrete is potentially the carbon sink we need to save civilisation.

Many writers possibly starting with Schumpeter and more recently Pilzer, Professor North, Dr Mark Diesendorf and many others conclude that change and growth stimulate an economy. Business as usual only enriches those at the top. An often quoted example is that if Henry Ford had to overcome the objections of billionaire blacksmiths we'd be riding horses today.

Change need only be feared by the cement and concrete industry if they are not part of it.

Notes and References

[1] Around 1450C is the correct temperature David.

[2] Singh, M. K. (2007). Indian Cement Industry Overview. Australian Cement Industry Driving CO2 Reduction National Conference, Melbourne.

[3] We call the study of these stocks and flows moleconomics

[4] The techno-process is the physical manifestation of our economic system

[5] Hannam, P. (2000). Cement to crack with emissions trade. The Age. Melbourne: Business day section page 3.

[6] Amanda McCluskey was formely manager in sustainability for Portfolio Partners in Melbourne and as of 9th July 2007 took up a new role as general manager, sustainability at the Commonwealth Bank. The concrete industry should note that even bankers are looking closely as environmental issues!

[7] USGS (2006). "Mineral Commodity Summary - Cement." (2006).

With a Difference of Opinion what Happened to Common Sense?

The ABC and Jeff McMullen in particular are to be congratulated for their program "A Difference of Opinion"

The program really threshes out issues and is doing a good job of seeking a consensus rather than differences on issues like global warming and salinity, election or no election.

Last night I managed to catch some of the 8th of November's program titled "Climate Change: Smoke and Mirrors"

The preamble on the ABC web about "Climate Change: Smoke and Mirrors" says:

" In an October News poll, Australians rated the environment marginally ahead of the economy in influencing their vote at a Federal Election. Australia is the 6th biggest carbon dioxide emitter per person, according to an October World Bank report, and our emissions grew at a rate of 38%, ranking us 9th in emissions growth. The Australian Conservation Foundation has given a score of only 21% to the Coalition and 56% to Labor on their policies on climate change, water, forests and sustainable cities, way behind the Greens at 94% and the Democrats at 90%. Whether this is a fair assessment or not, environmental issues are among the most important in the federal election. Looking beyond the 2012 first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, APEC leaders signed the “Sydney Declaration”, agreeing to an “aspirational goal of a reduction in energy intensity of at least 25% by 2030” on 2005 levels. (The cartoonist compared "aspirational targets" with "respirational reality" !!)

The Coalition wants to start up a national carbon emissions trading system from 2012, but the early signs are that this will be difficult, after a carbon credits system in NSW has recently run into trouble. Prime Minister John Howard attacks the Kyoto Protocol, as “never having the capacity to deliver” on climate change and that to ratify it would be a “commitment to cut Australian jobs”. Labor leader Kevin Rudd, says that ratifying Kyoto “is a positive step forward” and if elected, he will sign up. What happens after 2012 is still open to question as both parties have indicated a long-term commitment is dependent on countries the commitments made by China and India."

The statement by John Howard that signing Kyoto would be a “commitment to cut Australian jobs” is unsubstantiated nonsense. We are so close to our Kyoto targets anyway.What exactly would the difference be other that getting us a seat with most of the rest of the world to map out our common future?

Joining Kyoto is about showing backbone and leadership. Without developing nations committing to reducing rather than increasing emissions not much will be achieved but as least Australia would have a say.

The ABC program addresses two basic questions

1. Should Australia ratify the Kyoto protocol and push for binding global emissions?

2. What should Australia’s next steps be to address climate change?

1. Should Australia ratify the Kyoto protocol and push for binding global emissions?

According to the web site of Difference of Opinion ( Look for the Climate Change: Smoke and Mirrors link):

"Australia has important decisions to make about coal and carbon-based fuels, and about how we negotiate their use in the future. From next year, companies that emit large amounts of greenhouse gas will be required by law to report it, and that covers most of the manufacturing, mining and electricity generating sectors. Climate change research scientists say that binding emissions caps are needed. However, US President George W. Bush says Kyoto-style mandatory caps are “bad policy”, and he says “the fundamental question is whether or not we will be able to grow our economy and be good stewards of the environment at the same time”. How do we answer that question in Australia?

Fiona Wain the CEO of Environment Business Australia pointed out that Australia can maintain its competitiveness under Kyoto. 21 year old Anna Keenan who recently completed her studies at the University of Queensland with a Bachelor of Science in the fields of Physics and Mathematics and Bachelor of Arts with majors in Economics and Environmental Studies thought that by not joining we have weakened our diplomatic position and gave the US an excuse to not sign.

Prof Warwick McKibbin from the australian National University pointed out that Kyoto was a compromise and has not worked. Unfortunately this is to some extent true as assuming Kyoto commitments are met (which is unlikely) it is estimated that global emissions will be 41% higher in 2010 than in 1990, only 1% less that without Kyoto [6]. I also agree with Prof McKibbin that we should not throw away Kyoto. Rather we should build on it

Guy Pearce, who is an author, environmentalist and former Liberal Party insider pointed out that joining was a mere formality and as there would be no serious economic consequences. He thought that there there was another agenda which is to make sure no country has binding emissions targets.

2. What should Australia’s next steps be to address climate change?

Again, according to the web site of Difference of Opinion ( Look for the Climate Change: Smoke and Mirrors link):

"A UN-sponsored session on climate change is scheduled for December in Bali. It’s purpose is to create a “roadmap” for an international agreement by the end of 2009 for the framework that needs to follow after the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol runs out in 2012.

The star of the program was undoubtedly 21 year old Anna Keenan who described approaches to solving climate change problems like a jigsaw puzzle, without just focusing on emissions trading, carbon tax, renewable energy targets, education and voluntary voluntary decisions to reduce emissions. Anna is right - we need a broad based holistic approach - without all our eggs in one basket.

At one point Guy Pearce pointed out that David Byers, the recently appointed Chief Executive Officer of the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) was contemplating scenarios of 650 ppm.

Anna Keenan swept in on the response with " 21 year old steps in here. Do not do that to my climate. As far as I am aware a 650 ppm target, we can't even start talking about that. That is 3.5 - 4 deg warming ...." Good on you Anna - I am impressed. When I first joined the debate about global warming we were talking 350 parts per million as a ceiling. Thank goodness as Fiona Wain pointed out, NASA, the Hadley centre and others are frightened about going over 450 parts per million.

What none of the panel nor seem to realise is that the problem is about balance. There is too much CO2 in the air and we are emitting more every day. Try as we must it will be hard to control emissions by caps, trades or anything else. Emissions are too strongly correlated to the economies of countries, particularly those that are rapidly industrialising as many such as India and china are. We must adopt a more palatable and profitable way forward that is easy for governments to implement.

Under the TecEco proposal all it requires is for governments to specify that we must build with man made carbonate and the problem will go away for now anyway. The science is easy yet my common sense approach so far has not prevailed.


[1] Ford, M., Matysek, A, Jakeman, G., Gurney, A & Fisher B. S. 2006, Perspectives on International Climate Change, paper presented at the Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics society 50th Annual Conference. www.aares.info/files/2006_matysek.pdf..

John Harrison's Pearl for the Day

The stone age lasted two million years, the copper, bronze and iron ages around 5000 years and the age of wind and water power lasted a further 1000 years. The industrial revolution over the last 250 years has changed all that and is continuing if world energy consumption is any measure. Superimposed on the industrial revolution in the last 100 years we have had the electric and now electronic ages and now we are supposed to be in the information age with the sum of human knowledge doubling every ten years or so. I ask whether common sense has become lost amongst all that information ?

Look out the window, take a lesson from nature. We must balance carbon by using it!

Magnesia - The Solution for Everything!

The people from Dinnefords back in 1907 thought, like we do, that magnesia can solve most problems.