Investors have an appetizing array of energy strategies to choose from, based on three major market movements playing out in Australia right now:
- National oil production is topping out
- Natural gas production is on the rise
- Renewables are just revving up
A government report released recently forecast a 7% rise in Australian crude oil production for 2008—followed by a double-digit pullback in 2009.
Australia's expected jump in this year's crude output is something most OPEC nations would salivate over. But the country is heading for dryer times, as the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics reports:
Beyond 2008/09, Australia's oil production is projected to decline... as falling production from some mature fields offsets anticipated new additions to capacity.
But we aren't about to witness Australia's oil production peak...
Peak oil already happened in 2000, as we see in this chart from the U.S. Department of Energy:
Australia oil production
Seeing the writing on the wall, national and local governments and Australian industrial leaders are cutting a wide swath across the energy landscape, cultivating resources from geothermal "hot rocks" to uranium to clean coal.
Peak Oil: Gas Up as Oil Goes Down in Australia's Energy Economy
Australians are also ramping up their liquefied natural gas (LNG) output, giving them a line on an up-and-coming fossil fuel source that is increasingly in demand.
Though oil output is set to peak in '09, LNG production is locked in an amazing natural gas uptrend in Australia:
Australia natural gas production
Because the stuff is easier to transport and takes up less space than the traditional gaseous form, LNG is gaining popularity in big producers from Qatar to Canberra.
As for the consumption end, China is especially eager to lock in LNG supplies for its energy-intensive economy. Fortunately, Australia is just a hop, skip and jump away from some of the Middle Kingdom's most dense population centers.
Australia is already the world's #5 LNG exporter, and it also has the potential to take the global lead in another non-traditional fossil fuel sector—clean coal.
Australia's Clean Coal Alliance Takes Off
Australia is the world's leading net coal exporter, which again brings into play prime position vis-à-vis China.
Having built over 500 new coal-fired electricity plants in the past half-decade, China's already a huge Australian client.
That's why an improbable consortium of coal industry giants and environmentalists are getting together this Thursday.
The World Wildlife Federation, the Australian Coal Association, and the mining union CFMEU are calling on the government to demand more research into carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), the technical process that may mostly eliminate emissions from the types of plants China is constructing.
The WWF has come under fire for shaking the ACA's sooty hands, but these environmentalists know that they can serve as a pivot point for another of Australia's top energy goals—renewable energy development.
Australia's Kyoto Goals Create Profit Potential
China isn't about to shut down its brand-new power plants for anybody, and Australia's 16-year economic expansion would surely be thrown off the tracks if the coal economy collapsed.
In the real world, the dirtiest emissions sources have to be targeted for reduction before elimination, and that's WWF's angle.
In Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, we have a Mandarin-speaking pragmatist who understands Australia's transitional energy economy and its global role.
While in the parliamentary opposition, Rudd's Labor party championed the development of geothermal energy derived from underground sources in some of Australia's vast Outback.
Rudd's first act as PM was to sign his country onto the Kyoto Protocol, and he has also resolved the government to the goal that 20% of all electricity will come from renewable sources like solar and wind power by 2020.
So the government is wisely committing some of its A$15 billion budget surplus to stimulate homegrown technology.
Based on my own experience tracking renewable energy start-ups, plenty of them used government seed money to eventually go public in markets like Israel, Hong Kong, and the United States.
We're forecasting a slew of potential listings in Australia. Stay tuned for the first crack at those.