IN today's news we carry two articles illustrating the opposite ends of the energy debate.
One report explains what's being described as an "eco-friendly" way to create ammonia, which is traditionally made - as at Kooragang Island's Orica plant - by a process that uses natural gas as its feedstock.
In an early stage "proof of concept" experiment, a team from the University of Sydney and the University of NSW say they have used plasma physics to produce the nitrogen that is combined with hydrogen in the conventional process to create ammonia.
The physics of plasmas are well known to science, but their commercial potential - as predicted by this ammonia laboratory experiment - is in its early stages.
Orica makes ammonia nitrate for mining explosives but the same material is used in massive amounts as a fertiliser - quadrupling the output of food crops, as the academics say in in a statement announcing their achievement.
But its manufacture has been a very energy-intensive process: hence global efforts to use renewable energy in its manufacture to reduce the carbon footprint, or to go one step further and to invent or co-opt new industrial methods, such as the "plasma bubble column reactor" in this ammonia experiment.
Also today, we report on recent substantial increases in coal and energy prices, with the likelihood of further employment-enhancing price rises during the year.
The renewables lobby, however - in the form of the Institute of Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, or IEEFA - sees the price increase as "noise", or short-term movement, in the price of a product, and an industry, in permanent structural decline.
Net-zero emissions targets will drive changing energy habits, but the road to 24/7 renewable power is by no means straightforward, even if battery technology, for one, is rapidly evolving.
Some environmentalists seem comfortable with a simpler, back-to-nature future, but history shows humankind as an innovator whose progress rides on the back of ever-more complex machines.
The challenges facing the grid are also big opportunities for new ways of thinking, as science and engineering work together to supersede fossil fuels in general, and coal in particular.
The Hunter's roles in power-generating and coalmining expose us directly to these winds of change, how ever they blow.
IN THE NEWS: