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Monday message board

January 22nd, 2007

It’s time, once again for the Monday Message Board. As usual, civilised discussion and absolutely no coarse language, please.

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  1. BilB
    January 22nd, 2007 at 06:13 | #1

    Regarding the issue of the proposed (how ever speculatively) Darwin to national grid power link. The suggestion of a power link seems costly when seen in exclusion from all other possibilities. As an energy and environment guy you will be fully familiar with the concentrating solar thermal power generation system (www.gezen.nl/www.dlr.de/tt/institut/abteilungen/system/publications/Vortrag_CSP_07-Druckversion.pdf) as well as be aware that the length of the proposed power link is premium solar thermal generation country. If 12 gigawatts of power facility were built along the link then the 1 billion dollar cost of it would be small to the 14.8 billion dollar cost of the power facilities, and most of Queensland’s future power needs would be catered for (including the need for 1 gig for Gladstone’s aluminium needs). And the transmission losses would be greatly reduced. So why did we just jump from 1 billion to 16 billion. This is just part of the “repowering Australia” cost that the nation faces RIGHT NOW regardless of what system is employed. That adjustment alone would make a 7% reduction to Australia’s CO2 emissions.

  2. January 22nd, 2007 at 16:22 | #2

    Has anyone seen the internet activity re the Big Day Out’s flag request? Hundreds of comments on hundreds of sites. Ohh if only the general public could debate the state of our democracy and the undermining of international laws with such enthusiasm.
    Its a nice dream at least.

  3. January 22nd, 2007 at 16:47 | #3

    Yes, the concerns of Cronulla Man run deep.

  4. pablo
    January 22nd, 2007 at 20:12 | #4

    I guess you had to expect it – patriotism being the last refuge of scoundrels – but I might have expected more of Ruddy. I mean what a beat up. I think the big day out folk were rightfully concerned – the prospect of flagwavers behaving like matadors to anyone of mediterranean features is a concern. Having the political spindoctors climbing all over it is disgusting, but it is what you expect.

  5. January 22nd, 2007 at 20:33 | #5

    A similar issue of political expression concerns the British passenger who was refused from boarding a Qantas plane because he was wearing a T-shirt declaring George Walker Bush was a terrorist.To me this seems no more than a factual statement, or at least a political one.

    I suppose that every political statement will be offensive to someone. On that basis Qantas should not carry newspapers and magazines that have political content, on the basis that somebody may be offended by a headline. Would the T-shirt have been considered potentially offensive if it possed a question, rather than made a statement? What for some in this matter, is that a person is being stopped from expressing an political opinion in what in essence is a public space.

    I think that Qantas would have been wiser to wait until the offence was caused, which propably would not happen, and then deal with the situation. As it is, it is the company that looks foolish, not the passenger.

  6. Bemused
    January 22nd, 2007 at 22:48 | #6

    Maybe I am even more quaintly old-fashioned than Howard and Rudd, but I always thought there were a whole lot of protocols about how the flag should be flown and other usage of it. The general drift was that it was treated with due respect and correct protocol followed for the limited prescribed uses.

    I don’t recall there being anything there about draping oneself in the flag à la Pauline Hanson and sundry Cronulla and other thugs.

    The organisers should fly the flag, in the correct manner, if they feel it is appropriate and there are proper facilities. A flag is not an item of clothing, and the inappropriate use of it as a symbol of über patriotism or racial statement should be strenuously opposed by all responsible politicians. Until today I would have numbered Rudd among them.

  7. jquiggin
    January 22nd, 2007 at 23:17 | #7

    I’m attempting to repost this message, sent by email from Gandhi

    What happened to that bloke who used to come here every Monday and post comments about the global price of oil being politically manipulated? Gosh, he’s been quiet lately, hasn’t he? And no wonder! The price is at 20 month lows! So <a href=" http://ridingthejuggernaut.blogspot.com/2007/01/oil-price-drop.html“>what’s he got to say about that?

    (In oddly related news, a FOX TV star said the unusually cold winter weather was <a href=" http://mediamatters.org/items/200701180011“>proof that global warming was being over-hyped).

    And did anyone else <a href=" http://www.tompaine.com/articles/2007/01/19/its_still_about_the_oil.php“>notice that an Iraqi “negotiating committee” approved a new hydrocarbon law last week, and it’s due to be voted on by the Iraqi cabinet this week?

    Tomorrow the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations will hold a hearing to investigate ‘oil and reconstruction strategy in Iraq. Don’t expect to hear too much about it, given the Chimp is going to screech some more gibberish at the same time.

  8. observa
    January 23rd, 2007 at 00:59 | #8

    The new Zimbabwe looms on the horizon?
    Is Apartheid in SA about to join white rule in Rhodesia and Saddam in Iraq, as the best options for their respective populations? Will all these historical regime change supporters have a new deeper understanding of each other’s good intentions and poor outcomes?

  9. MP
    January 23rd, 2007 at 07:53 | #9

    Re the flag and the t-shirt: it should entirely be up to Qantas and Big Day Out organisers to determine what is shown/worn at their own events. If you think the BDO organisers can ban the flag, then you should support Qantas restricting what t-shirts can be worn on its flights.

    Conversely, if you argue that Qantas can’t restrict t-shirts, then you should argue against the BDO restrictions on the flag.

    A caveat – if the Government is providing support for the BDO, then it could be argued that it can put requirements on the BDO organisers.

  10. Bemused
    January 23rd, 2007 at 08:48 | #10

    MP, Airlines as fashion police… now there’s an interesting concept! I await with interest the promulgation of the Qantas ‘passenger dress code’. The t-shirt in question made a political statement – it did not incite any actions or use bad or offensive language. People may have disagreed with it’s message and are perfectly entitled to do so but to demand it’s removal is a bit much.

    Back to the flag. Messrs Howard and Rudd would have been well advised to check their facts before engaging in their respective rants. Information on the flag and protocols for it’s use are at: http://www.itsanhonour.gov.au/symbols/flag.cfm#protocols

    Some points:
    * The flag should be raised briskly and lowered ceremoniously.
    * The flag should be raised no earlier than first light and lowered no later than dusk.
    * When the flag is raised or lowered, or when it is carried in a parade or review, everyone present should be silent and face the flag. People in uniform should salute.
    * The flag should never be flown if it is damaged, faded or dilapidated. When the material of a flag deteriorates it should be destroyed privately and in a dignified way.
    * The flag should not fall or lie on the ground or be used as a cover (although it can be used to cover a coffin at a funeral).

    None of this seems consistent with a gang of goons running around cloaking themselves in the flag, trailing it in the dirt or otherwise acting disrespectfully.

    The BDO organisers are to be commended for striving to uphold the dignity of the flag.

  11. 2 tanners
    January 23rd, 2007 at 09:48 | #11


    I take your points as they relate to the official use of the flag, but it’s far more commonly used than that, including as an image to adorn food, car firms and products to clean people’s bottoms, and as a fashion accessory for successful sports stars, not to mention being waved in audiences in the cricket – where it is a direct challenge to the other side – and other sporting events. I’d have to ask, what makes BDO think it such a danger?

    However, I agree that as a commercial body Qantas may take what dress decisions it likes. The organisers of BDO may or may not be the same, but the test there is whether the Govt actually has the power to dictate what decisions are made.

    As for upholding the dignity of the flag, I’d say the court is still out. They may well be attempting to make a political statement (a la Rudd’s “political correctness gone mad” comment. It would hardly be the first time.

  12. gordon
    January 23rd, 2007 at 09:57 | #12

    Gandhi might be interested in this profound insight (April 2006) from the (US) Heritage Foundation on the real factors behind the price of oil. An extract: “Oil prices are rising—not because the world is running out of oil but because the bulk of reserves are in countries where market incentives cannot work fully or in the hands of monopolists who may be exercising their power by restraining investment”. See, it’s not only the Lefties of Mordor who invent conspiracy theories about the price of oil!

  13. observa
    January 23rd, 2007 at 11:05 | #13

    Plenty of room in Mordor for the gringo and infidel haters too. Just one big unhappy family.

  14. Bemused
    January 23rd, 2007 at 11:15 | #14

    2 tanners,

    I was referring to the flag in the narrow sense and not including commercial items which use an image of the flag as part of thir design. The same official web site states:

    Commercial use
    The Australian National Flag may be used for commercial purposes, including advertising, without formal permission but subject to guidelines:

    * The flag should be used in a dignified manner and reproduced completely and accurately.
    * It should not be defaced by overprinting with words or illustrations.
    * Other objects in displays should not cover the flag.
    * All symbolic parts of the flag should be identifiable.

    So basically no problem with a t-shirt, coffee mug, badges etc with a proper representation of the flag on it. But such items are not flags per se. The actual flag is in a different class altogether and, officially at least, required to be accorded due respect.

  15. pseudonym (econowit)
    January 23rd, 2007 at 12:05 | #15

    “it is a criminal offence to fly the Union Flag from a boat.�

    Could someone please inform Australian boat owners that it is illegal to fly the current Australian union flag from their boats?

    Maybe Canada had the right idea in 1965 when they introduced The Maple Leaf Flag.


  16. Hermit
    January 23rd, 2007 at 12:19 | #16

    Re BillB’s post at the top that’s the first I’ve heard of a Darwin grid link. They say solar thermal will be a winner combined with energy storage and carbon taxes. It seems the former is technically difficult and the latter is politically impossible. This whole topic needs an overview in the light of various claims, for example that the Gladstone alumimium smelter is a white elephant. Another stems from recent publicity over Basslink whereby Tas Hydro can apparently get $1 per kwh meeting mainland peak demand and reimport brown coal fired electricity for a few cents since the greenhouse factor is not currently relevant in Australia. I don’t see any leadership on these issues coming from Canberra.

  17. January 23rd, 2007 at 13:21 | #17

    John, thanks for posting my comment (your HTML skills need work BTW).

    Gordon, thanks for that link. If it were written today, I would assume that “countries where market incentives cannot work fully” is code for places like Venezuela (was that failed 2002 coup a “market incentive”?). And I would assume countries “in the hands of monopolists who may be exercising their power by restraining investment” means Saudi Arabia. But it’s a crypic analysis that talks about monopolies without naming them, isn’t it?

    And a full a year ago? Gosh, who can remember that far back?!

    The most honest comment on the gas price crisis came from Scott McClellan (freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose, eh, Scottie?) who said: “This is not something we got into overnight.â€? Exactly. These levels of oil company profits took years of careful lobbying and planning to orchestrate…

  18. BilB
    January 23rd, 2007 at 13:38 | #18

    Hermit, I was commenting on a post from robert merkel. He was commenting on a proposed link for Darwin to the national grid to enable tidal power from somewhere up there to contribute to our kyoto non contribution. By the way solar thermal power storage is not technically difficult, it is now routinely working well and comes in many forms with yields improving steadily. Carbon tax is for John Howard as palateable as eating coal. There will, however, soon be no other alternative as his bed pal (Bush) is now under extreme pressure (from the industries that both Howard and Bush claim to be protecting) to set mandatory targets for carbon reduction. Frankly I think that Howard looks longingly to Rodert Mugabe (his favourite, though a little extreme, neocon) for ideas on quelling this impertinent uprising of noisey environmental activists.

  19. January 23rd, 2007 at 14:52 | #19

    The commercial use of the flag is bloody rampant. It seems every piece of surf clothing (that are all made in China) has the Australian flag on it.
    And I thought surfing was a hedonistic individual lifestyle where you shunned authoritarianism and didn’t need to belong to something.
    Patriotism sells big time. It’s why bogans, who are so talentless, need to define themselves with symbols rather than deeds.
    Or is that being a bit harsh?

  20. 2 tanners
    January 23rd, 2007 at 15:21 | #20


    I was having bit of a poke when talking about using the flag to sell nappies. But Runners finishing sprints in first place, wear a flag for their victory lap. Crowds at the cricket and soccer use the national flag (as well, concedo, as the boxing kangaroo) to make a nationalist statement. This doesn’t seem to match with the requirements as you cite them – especially wrapping them around sweatsoaked bodies!

  21. 2 tanners
    January 23rd, 2007 at 15:23 | #21

    On another topic entirely:

    Is the Howard New Team going to adequately address Rudd’s perceived areas of strength, or is it more intended to paper over the weak spots?

  22. still working it out
    January 23rd, 2007 at 20:03 | #22

    Its a sad fact that the idea that the Australian flag could trigger racist violence is actually plausible. I wonder how much further we’ll fall.

  23. January 24th, 2007 at 01:21 | #23

    2 tanners,
    The same way they addressed Latham’s areas of strength. From recollection, Latham was in an even better position than Rudd at this point of the cycle. Maybe Rudd will not implode.

  24. jquiggin
    January 24th, 2007 at 01:42 | #24

    I have some sympathy with Qantas on this one – I think the rule they have in mind is “no loud talking about terrorism in airports â€? rather than “no criticism of Bushâ€? or “no offending peopleâ€?. There are signs warning that it is a criminal offence to joke about bombs in airports, and this while marginal, is along the same lines.

    As regards the flag, the BDO guys might have avoided some of the cheap shots they copped had they announced that they would fly the flag on a standard at the venue, and request that no-one else use it in a way that might be regarded as disrespectful or undignified. But as swio says, the whole thing is quite sad.

  25. January 24th, 2007 at 08:29 | #25

    They say patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel, but in John Howard’s case it was was one of his opening gambits.

    Forty years ago people were wringing their hands and talking about Australia’s “Cultural cringe” obsequience towards the UK. Then Howard came along and (while still kissing the ring of Her Maj) his government(s) started pumping all this phoney, US-sytle patriotism: Australia #1 Whoo Hoo!!! It has been a shallow exploitation of underlying xenophobia and it remains just that.

    The truth is that in an increasingly globalized world, nationalistic fervour is an anachronism. Particularly so in a country like Australia which – like it or not – is genuinely multicultural.

    As a nation, we should have a more enlighted self-image of how we fit into the world: a melting point of cultures at the meeting point of East and West. If we can set an enlightened example to the world, we can help guide modern civilisation towards a more harmonious and equitable future. There will also be economic benefits in this approach.

  26. January 24th, 2007 at 10:22 | #26

    This is fun. find out where you sit on the Australian political spectrum:

  27. derrida derider
    January 24th, 2007 at 11:20 | #27

    the rule they [qantas] have in mind is “no loud talking about terrorism in airports�

    IOW, don’t talk about the war. Truly Fawlteyesque behaviour. I’m surprised at your sympathy, John.

    And why the hell shouldn’t I talk about terrorism, let alone wear a t-shirt referring to it, in an airport if I want? Or even joke about it (which of course this wasn’t)? If my joking takes the form of a hoax and ties up resources then there are existing laws to cover that and a magistrate can decide who was being the pillock – me or ‘the authorities’. Just like in the recent Chaser case.

    Thers’s a helluva lot of creeping fascism about. It makes me feel much less, not more, secure.

  28. observa
    January 24th, 2007 at 11:54 | #28

    We are multiracial but were never multicultural ghandi. That’s where the chattering classes were deluding themselves and when fundamental Islam came along to throw down the gauntlet to their multiculturalism, the game was up. Multiculturalism aint about food and wine festivals. Oh Islam is into a globalised world alright. It’s called the Caliphate and won’t brook any allegiance to national groupings. That’s why and where Howard begs to differ and the left just don’t get it.

  29. January 24th, 2007 at 16:03 | #29

    I am interested in finding the arguments against the following and in understanding why it isn’t being done or as far as I can see even discussed.

    Assume we need to replace green house gas producing energy sources with energy sources that produce little or no green house gases.
    One way of funding the infrastructure needed is to put a carbon tax on greenhouse gas production and to spend the tax on infrastructure to produce “clean” energy.
    The problem with this is that we know governments are not good at spending money efficiently and so it is unlikely that they will use the carbon taxes wisely.

    What would be the effect of instead of putting a carbon tax put a carbon surcharge on greenhouse gas energy proportional to the amount of carbon produced but leave the money with the purchaser. The surcharge money has restrictions on it but it is “owned” by the purchaser. The restriction is that it can only be used to invest in energy sources that produce little or no greenhouse gases. It can also be sold for a discount to those who think they can invest it for a profit.

    Wouldn’t this solve the problem of finding the finance needed to get clean energy without being too inflationary and it could be politically acceptable because the surcharge could be sold for less than its face value for those who do not want to use it for solar panels, investment in carbon free coal stations etc. It is really directed savings and is similar to the 9% super surcharge so it is not a new thing.

    The key factor is that there would be lots of buyers looking for a place to put their money in clean technologies and they will do a better job of investing than the government will with lots of tax money to spend.

    My back of the envelop calculations show that a 30% surcharge on energy would produce enough funds to give Australia a carbon free energy infrastructure within ten years.

  30. still working it out
    January 24th, 2007 at 19:03 | #30

    Ahh, channelling that genius of social history, Alan Jones.

    Let’s see in the last year or two I have been to
    a Lebanese wedding,
    a Catholic wedding between a Filipino and an “Aussie” Aussie,
    a wedding between a catholic Chilean and Fijian-Indian muslim,
    a Greek orthodox wedding between an Indonesian and a Greek,
    a wedding between a Thai and a Vietnamese and
    and a christian Korean and a Honkie (someone from Hong Kong).
    Over the next year we have a another Catholic wedding between a Brazilian and a Filipino and a Chinese wedding too.

    I think there might be one person in that list who is not an Australian citizen, though I might be wrong about him. Let’s see as religions go that’s…
    Greek Orthodox
    Sunni Muslim
    Maronite Christian

    …and languages…
    Cantonese (another form of Chinese for the mono-culturalist out there who struggle with diversity)
    and Greek

    After hearing observa’s pearls of wisdom about the non-existence of multi-cultaralism and thinking about the weddings above I thought to myself; wow what a broad and diverse mono-culture? Why this must be the most diverse single culture that ever existed in the history of the entire world. Who would a thought it, the single Australian culture is the most diverse that ever existed. Amazing.

  31. January 24th, 2007 at 21:45 | #31

    Derrida Derida: I believe you are off the mark, & I believe JQuiggin has hit the nail on the head. There is no allowance for “joking” or especially “hoaxes” in airports.

    When next at an airport, try this: Whilst promenading around the departure hall you could try the following on janitors, hosties heading home, ushers at the Virgin Blue queue & others:

    Joking about a hand grenade in your luggage, or
    Joking about hijacking.

    You will discover in quicktime just HOW seriously security is taken. In the extremely unlikely event that a total stranger gets all civil libertarian about your sudden legal plight & the application of physical restraints, it certainly won’t be someone who was on the flight you had been booked on.

    I am inclined to feel that he may have been provocative in both his dress sense & demeanour.

    Pulling someone off a flight isn’t a decision taken lightly.

  32. observa
    January 25th, 2007 at 11:23 | #32

    Not saying Oz is not a broad church swio, but have you been to any arranged marriages with a third or fourth wife lately mate? Also are you comfortable with bringing in more and more Hilali supporters to see chaps like Hilali elected to govern you? (before you answer that, assume for a moment George Bush and John Howard have retired)

  33. observa
    January 25th, 2007 at 12:05 | #33

    Of course while the observa’s betters were up there in the commanding heights, arguing over such deep and meaningfuls as social discount rates, they were always prone to overlook developments on the ground. To some of us troglodyte ground dwellers, it seemed fairly obvious that reducing GG emissions down to 40% of 1990 levels couldn’t possibly cost only 1% of GDP. Pie in the sky. Five times that and growing fast apparently
    Perhaps its time for the Quigginses to get the Lancet onto that figure…. err, no wait a bit, that won’t work for them!

  34. jquiggin
    January 25th, 2007 at 12:30 | #34

    I’ve seen the draft IPCC report, and 1 per cent of GDP is well inside the range of estimates reported there. I doubt that the Spectator is a reliable source on matters of this kind.

  35. January 25th, 2007 at 14:33 | #35

    JQ: have you read the Spectator’s interview with Stern? It is very funny, so much so that it is plausible Stern was impersonated by Borat. Certainly “Stern” had no answer when shown the page in the IPCC FARt showing 5% of GDP as the cost of averting meltdowns o 5%, until when the tape was off he admitted that computer models are mostly spurious. He fared no better in Davos, where he was heard only “politely” while AGW was voted only 18/19 of the world’s pressing problems.

  36. observa
    January 25th, 2007 at 15:24 | #36

    Spectator or no Spectator, those who advocate reducing GG by 60% of 1990 levels by 2050, eg Mike Rann here
    are asking us to believe that will probably cost us 1% of GDP. In that I think they’re being as deceitful as they often accuse GW denialists of being. IMO they have a hidden agenda in doing so. So, why don’t we test their credibility with a bit of a straw poll here.

    Assuming in Australi we wanted to reduce GG emissions by 60% of 1990 levels by 2050, do you believe it would cost:-
    A Closer to 1% of GDP than 5%
    B Closer to 5% than 1%
    C Multiples of 5% (eg closer to 10% than 5% or graeter still)

    For me its a no-brainer and the answer is C. What say JQ and the rest of you?

  37. Steve
    January 25th, 2007 at 15:26 | #37

    Australian 2006 GDP = 654.3billion

    Australia’s 1990 GHG emissions = 552 million tonnes per year
    Australia’s most recent (2004) reported GHG emissions = 565 million tonnes per year

    40% below 1990 = 331 million tonnes per year

    Reduction task = 565-331 = 234 million tonnes per year

    For this to cost only 1% of GDP ($6.543 billion per year), the average price of carbon would be $30 / tonne.

    $30 / tonne of carbon doesnt seem unrealistic.

  38. Hal9000
    January 25th, 2007 at 15:28 | #38

    I heard the former president of DuPont chemicals state without equivocation on RN the other day that unilaterally introducing energy efficiency measures and emissions reductions had significantly improved profits for the company. Which suggests GDP could well be improved and not diminished by such measures. So it would appear we are being accelerated toward environmental catastrophe in order to preserve the present day profitability of some industrial dinosaurs and for no other discernible reason.

  39. Steve
    January 25th, 2007 at 15:59 | #39

    Of course, my simple back of envelope stuff doesnt account for indirect effects on the economy of spending so much money, nor does it account for the year to year increase in GDP – its gonna be much higher than 654.3billion by 2060 methinks. But it gives a starting ballpark kind of an idea.

    Some other things to think about:

    US$30/tonne would be enough to make wind power, nuclear power and various bioenergies and geothermal energy viable in Australia, and would bring other renewable energies such as solar thermal, wave and tidal power within range too – not sure about clean coal though, at least not any time soon.

    petrol emits 2.5kg of CO2 per litre, so an increase in petrol price of 20c per litre is like a carbon price of $80 per tonne of CO2 on petrol. A permanent increase in the price of petrol of 20c would be enough to make biodiesel and ethanol viable fuels in Australia.

    Plenty of things can still be done that actually save money e.g. energy efficiency, solar hot water.

    US$30/tonne is a good price for tree planting, and I’d wager it would make vaccinating cattle to reduce their methane emissions look good too.

    So I pick A observa.

  40. January 25th, 2007 at 17:26 | #40

    Observa and Steve: you are on the right track, only it’s worse. One per cent of Oz GDP fromn 2006 with growth at 2.5% p.a. mounts up, to $533 billion by 2050, or 81% of GDP in 2006. JQ like Stern regards that as trivial. Zimbabwe is begiining to look like a safe haven!

  41. chrisl
    January 25th, 2007 at 18:31 | #41

    Steve Could you explain how a litre of petrol (approx 1 kilo) emits 2.5 kilos of Co2?
    As you say: Something to think about!

  42. Steve
    January 25th, 2007 at 19:10 | #42

    Can read about it here, which is also the source of my number:

    “It might seem odd that a greater weight of emissions is produced than the weight of a litre of fuel, but this is because of the addition of oxygen from the atmosphere to the fuel during combustion to form CO2.”

  43. still working it out
    January 25th, 2007 at 19:26 | #43

    Co2: One atom of carbon and two atoms of oxygen.

    The oxygen comes from atmosphere, not the fuel.

    In every Co2 molecule there are two oxygen for each carbon atom. Plus oxygen atoms are a little heavier than those of carbon (Carbon’s atomic mass = 12, oxygen’s atomic mass = 16). So one kilo of carbon is going to produce about three kilo’s of carbon dioxide (actually about 3.6kg of carbon dioxide). Petrol is not pure carbon, it has a lot of hydrogen in it too so it comes up a little different. High school chemistry.

  44. January 25th, 2007 at 19:42 | #44

    The “greenest” approach I can think of at first sight appears one of the worst. It is to use smoky two stroke engines, but fuel them with biofuels and organic lubricants like castor oil. The carbon particles released get removed from the carbon cycle in proportion as they get washed out of the air into water, since carbon isn’t biodegradable and only gets recycled by weathering in the open, a bit like sun bleaching – but carbon sinks in water. The very real pollution that happens is local and short term, not global and long term, and doesn’t drive the greenhouse effect (also, it is practical to use filters, which even increases the carbon sequestration).

  45. January 25th, 2007 at 22:56 | #45

    Australians consume about 70,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) per person per year. How much do we have invest to get this much energy from a non polluting source? PacHydro estimates it will cost $600 million to build a 200 megawatt geothermal power station. If this operated for a full year at 80 per cent capacity, the capital cost to produce a watt would be approximately $3.75. Thus the capital to produce 70,000kwh over one year is approximately $30,000 using geothermal sources.

    70,000 kWh at 10 cents per kilowatt hour is $7000. If we put a surcharge of $3,000 per year on this energy and we required the surcharge to be invested in some form of low emission energy production then we could have a greenhouse gas free economy within 10 years with current technologies.

  46. jquiggin
    January 26th, 2007 at 00:56 | #46

    For those who haven’t been following, I’ve repeatedly explained the difference between levels and growth rates to Tim Curtin but he is unable to grasp this basic point.

    As for observa, simply saying “I don’t believe it” is not an argument. As regards your questions, no serious economist (including the Howard government’s own modellers*) gets much more than 3 per cent (They did one run with 10, but they had to use really ludicrous assumptions to get it).

  47. January 26th, 2007 at 07:44 | #47

    JQ: That was unworthy of you and a false claim: if I save 1% of my GROWING income it produces a LEVEL of capital which itself adds to the GROWTH of my income; investing 1% of Australia’s GDP GROWING at 2.5% produces a LEVEL of capital by 2050 equal to 81% of today’s GDP; investing 1% of GDP pa in say carbon sequestration produces a LEVEL of gas in the ground, which yields nothing in itself; what has to be demonstrated then is that the $533 billion tied up in this way by 2050 reduces the LEVEL of atmospheric CO2 by enough (costing one suspects much more than $30 per tonne of CO2) to make any noticeable difference in the global climate. What the cost benefit ratio on all this will be is a no-brainer.

  48. observa
    January 26th, 2007 at 08:38 | #48

    Serious economists couldn’t predict stagflation in the 70s, nor can they predict the next recession, or the weather next week and 20 years ago none of them predicted GW, yet JQ says trust us folks, the answer is A in the year 2050 and yet in Oz not one nuclear power station is even on the drawing board yet. Well I’m finished asking economists, I’m asking all you out there for your educated hunch, intelligent guess or stab in the dark. In other words nail your colours to the mast now and let’s see what the consensus is now. If you don’t I’ll assume you don’t have a clue and that’s as valid as choosing A, B, or C.

  49. frankis
    January 26th, 2007 at 10:14 | #49

    Hey get back in your box would you observa?!
    It’s all very well criticising the experts if you’re either one yourself or you can exercise a little humility in the process but, for instance, I won’t be asking you to tell us how to do an inverted air with twist in heavy surf because … ummm I don’t have any reason to think you would know. (heh – should I?)
    Get it?

  50. frankis
    January 26th, 2007 at 10:21 | #50

    Funny but sometimes you have an unworthy flash that proffers an alternative way of understanding a concept (such as “no-brainer”) 🙂

  51. January 26th, 2007 at 11:36 | #51

    If there is confusion about levels and growth I think it is in Stern and JQ. Let’s recall that we have a STOCK of CO2 in the atmosphere of 382.43 ppm as of Dec 2006 at Mauna Loa. Ignoring methane and other non-CO2 GHGs, and BTW methane is reported to be diminishing, the Stern preferred target for stabilisation of CO2 is to hold the Stock at 450 ppm. Simply using the CO2 stock’s growth rate from 1993 to 2006, it will reach 450 ppm by the end of 2036. To hold it at that level thereafter requires that emissions of CO2 then drop to ZERO, not some footling Kyoto target like X% below 1990 levels. It has to be 100 per cent below 1990.
    So pace some suggestions above (eg Dave), if Australia it is to play its part we must eliminate our TOTAL emissions, not just some of them. On its growth rate from 1980 to 2003, Australia’s emissions will be nearly one billion tonnes of CO2 by 2036. These must drop to zero. Ruling out nuclear energy as we must because of the ALP’s likely control of all governments by the end of this year, there will have to be a strong blend of sequestration of CO2 from energy production and massive adoption of solar and windpower, and coal production will have to expand to generate enough power to produce hydrogen for land and sea transport. Monbiot is right, aviation will simply have to be abolished (nuclear power is probably the only remotely feasible alternative aviation fuel to kerosene but has to be ruled out to placate Rudd and Garrett). But fear not, we have the Stern/JQ guarantee that ending all emissions by 2036 will cost only one per cent of our GDP between now and then.

  52. observa
    January 26th, 2007 at 13:20 | #52

    Fair enough criticisms frankis, except that I think these 1%ers like Mike Rann (I live in Ranndom) and JQ are insulting my intelligence and yours. If it helps you here frankis I have an economics degree and freely admit it has much sense to offer with its marginal analysis and laws of supply and demand. However I have met men who left school at 15-16, who understand that intuitively too. Don’t be fooled, economics is a ‘social’ science from there on and has little more to offer us all than the gentlemen previously referred to(refer above to some obvious shortcomings of the predictive merits of economists)Esoteric intellectual arguments can be fun for those with a bent for it, but sometimes they need to be tempered with common sense. Also intellectuals are no more or less captive to certain biases and dogmas than they might accuse their opponents of. They can even be downright sneaky for political ends too.

    You don’t need a degree in economics to know that fossil fuels are the fundamental key to our wealth and lifestyle. The steam engine/turbine and the reciprocating piston engine are THE most important technologies here and they haven’t changed much in generations despite the best efforts of chaps like Sarich, Wankel and the like. Yes they’ve improved efficiency, but the law of diminishing returns applies here too. Now I drive down to my servo to fill up with petrol(LPG in my case) and I’m pondering how 60% less in my tank is gunna work. Putting aside the 60% less fossil fuels to mine and fashion the glass, steel, aluminium, plastics and rubber and get all this lot to me in the form of the car. Also demographic increases in demand and rising generational expectations. How is moi really gunna be affected by a 60% reduction in my fossil fuel consumption I ponder. Same with my home electricity use. Now, my mate spent $21000 (less $7000 taxpayer subsidy) to solar power his house but it doesn’t work at night. Don’t you worry about all that O meboy. technological innovation will mean only 1% cost to your lifestyle with a 60% reduction in fossil fuels(or marvellous efficiency of use). Thinks to himself- not much technological innovation has replaced his and his ancestors steam and piston fossil fuel driven lifestyle yet. Trust all the experts says frankis. Hey, I’m an expert! I’ve got one of them economics degrees and I still pick C. What say the rest of you experts?

  53. January 26th, 2007 at 16:05 | #53

    Observa: you are absolutely right albeit a touch conservative. According to IEA Australia’ CO2 coal emissions were 57.37 million tonnes in 2003, having grown at 3.3% p.a. since 1980; projecting forward to 2036, and sequestering at the IPPC’s lower cost estimate (Metz et al) of around A$100 per tonne, the cumulative cost to 2026 would be A$3.1 TRILLION; one per cent of Gdp from now until then is A$301 billion. So Stern/JQ are out about by a factor of 10, par for the course!

  54. chrisl
    January 26th, 2007 at 18:31 | #54

    Graham Samuel this week was admonishing the oil companies for selling their products at too high a level. Perhaps he should have been telling them to put their prices up.II’m with you observa, I can’t see how it is going to work outside of esoteric intellectual arguments-where of course anything is possible.

  55. January 26th, 2007 at 19:13 | #55

    Sorry all, there was a computer-typo glitch in my last; the correct direct cost of sequestration to 2036 is A$301.8 billion, but to that has to be added the opportunity cost, since CO2 underground yields no income, and CO2 stabilised at 450 ppm by 2036 yields no improvement in climate over today’s, with its CO2 at 382 pp. Investing what could be spent on seq. at the RBA riskless rate (say 5% on average until 2036), we would have a sinking fund of A$696.5 billion by 2036, yielding 5% or A$15.1 billion in perpetuity from then on WITHOUT reinvestment, as against a sunk cost on seq. of A$301.8 billion. My first back of envelope and erroneous calculation also omitted the extra coal (IPCC estimates between 10 and 40%) that would have to be burned to cover the energy intensive cost of seq. So just dealing with coal related emissions costs 57% of our current GDP by 2036, and coal accounted for only a seventh of total emissions, so the extra cost on an annual basis is indeed likely to be 10%+ of GDP.

  56. jquiggin
    January 27th, 2007 at 05:49 | #56

    Some interesting exercises here, but it’s important to remember that emissions from coal count against the country where the coal is burned, not the country where it is mined.

    I’ve done a number of posts giving a clear quantitative basis for the numbers I’ve proposed – all observa and chrisl are showing is that intuition uninformed by any evidence can be way off the mark.

  57. January 27th, 2007 at 06:57 | #57

    JQ: the emissions I cited are for Australian coal burned in Australia. Could you give dates of those posts of yours, I don’t recall your case by case costings for total prevention of all emissions including from aviation.

  58. observa
    January 27th, 2007 at 09:43 | #58

    Call me a bit of skeptic about the pace and takeup of GG amelioration technology here, but there was I driving into Canberra at Xmas, off to see my hippy mate in Bega and there in the paddock is a bloody great sign saying- “This is a wind turbine free zone”

  59. observa
    January 27th, 2007 at 09:48 | #59

    I was almost tempted to go and write on it- “We only use the nicest organic Hunter Valley coal fired electricity, delivered underground”

  60. January 27th, 2007 at 14:28 | #60

    “This is a wind turbine free zone”

    Sort of like putting up a sign which says:

    “Do not throw stones at this sign”

  61. January 27th, 2007 at 15:42 | #61

    The Sydney Morning Herald was a touch schizophrenic today, reporting that on the one hand, according to the IPCC’s FARt, that we “are on the brink of climate disaster” and that if emissions do not cease before 2100 they will warm the earth for 1000 years… But… on an inside page it reports Fabiano Ximenes as finding that timber products found in rubbish tips “were still looking good 44 years after burial”. The ineffable IPCC assumed that at least 50% would have released CO2 back to the atmosphere. The fatuous Stern assumed that deforestation means that “the stored carbon oxidises and escapes back into the atmosphere as CO2” (p.537). Even the Australian Greenhouse Office concedes that the IPCC is wrong to assume that 90% of carbon released by deforestation is destroyed “immediately”. Wood products have a long life, easily 1000 years (try Westminster Hall), and crops replacing trees could well absorb more CO2 than (the exaggerated amount) that was displaced by land clearing (See Carbon Dioxide from the Atmosphere, AGO, 1998, trees’ CO2 absorption is not linear: it reaches a peak then levels off). All this is beyond our Kev,Pete,and JQ, with their prefs for coal, old growth trees, and cement.

  62. January 27th, 2007 at 16:15 | #62

    With green house gas we must stop putting them into the air and if possible start to take them out. The only way to do that is to think of as many ways as possible to generate energy with little or no carbon emissions and we have to replace our energy producing systems. The question is how much will this cost us and can we do it in time to save the planet? My back of the envelop calculations above suggest that Australia can do it within 10 years if we put about a 30% surcharge on energy. Putting a tax on carbon is not a good way of doing things because that means that governments get to spend the tax and governments are not good at spending efficiently. Putting the surcharge on polluting energy but requiring the money be spent on clean ways of generating energy can be done immediately and I suspect with little economic impact. I would like someone to tell me why this will not work?

  63. January 27th, 2007 at 17:54 | #63

    Hey! If coal only counts where it is burned, why not extend that idea of declaring parts of Australia not really Australia for migration purposes? Just make all the power plants part of (say) some Pacific Island nation’s extraterritorial embassy compound. They trade us cheap energy that they are allowed to produce with more pollution, Australia gets to sign Kyoto – everybody wins.

  64. January 27th, 2007 at 18:16 | #64

    Kevin: a surcharge seems to be the same as a tax in your system. The problem is that even a tax/surcharge of 30% seems to have had little impact on consumer demand. Oil prices about tripled after 9/11 with very little impact on consumption. Meantime despite Qantas’ fuel surcharge, demand for air travel increases exponentially. I think the tax/surcharge has to be at least 1000% to have any impact.

  65. jquiggin
    January 28th, 2007 at 07:21 | #65

    Tim, your assumption about zero emissions being required to stabilise CO2 concentrations is wrong. Check the literature on carbon sinks. More generally, engaging in ill-informed amateur criticism on subjects about which you know nothing doesn’t help.

    Observa, before going with your gut on “many times 5 per cent”, you might take a look at how hard Tim has to strain (including big errors) to get up to 10 per cent.

    PML, I think that kind of trick works only when you are judge and jury in your own case (as is the government wrt refugees).,

  66. observa
    January 28th, 2007 at 09:24 | #66

    It’s a little more than gut John. We do have the ability to go back in time via history to assess life before the steam engine, let alone the impact of the reciprocating piston engine. As for people who come country shopping half way round the world and spend their life’s savings to risk it all in a leaky boat, it’s not all about the right to vote for John Howard mate. Try the fossil fuelled lifestyle, that permits us to need only around 60% participating in the workforce and worry about too many calories rather than too few. How easy is it to take it all for granted after a while. Certainly the Chinese and Indians don’t. GW has become the new moral badge of superiority to wear about the place. The old one ‘Ban Poverty’ is now passe and of course is as ridiculous as the new ‘Ban GW’ one that replaces it. If you don’t believe me, try banning air-conditioning in Oz. That’s an easy(marginal use) way to hack into GG emissions and can be done at the stroke of a legislative pen. However don’t let Rudd, Garrett and Co wait around 4-5 months to do it if they are elected John, because in that short time China will have swallowed up ALL our 60% GG reduction target for the year 2050. Anyway, apparently we needn’t worry about GW because all that racy, pacy technological change that will only cost us 1% of our lifestyle is gunna fix things, as the price of fossil fuels rises. I’ve got that as gospel from all the experts.

  67. observa
    January 28th, 2007 at 09:36 | #67

    To all those who are a bit reluctant to commit their present educated guess about costs to my simple A, B, or C (I was genuinely interested by the way), perhaps you could answer if you feel John’s 1% cost estimates are feasible without nuclear power. I certainly don’t. What about you John?

  68. chrisl
    January 28th, 2007 at 10:14 | #68

    Observa raises a good point about the mechanism for reducing GHG emissions. Taxation ? Rationing ? Public awareness campaigns ?
    Wrecking the economy would certainly work.

  69. January 28th, 2007 at 11:38 | #69

    JQ: was your last anything more than armwaving and abuse? Neither of us is a climate scientist (itself an oxymoron). Please provide links to your sector by sector cost estimates. IPCC says the sinks are full (in case of the ocean) and negative in the case of the forests. I offer 10:1 your never respond to observa’s last.

  70. January 28th, 2007 at 12:00 | #70

    Tim you are right in that a surcharge is like a tax. The differences are that the surcharge must be spent on renewable energy and the decisions on what renewables or carbon saving schemes to invest in is done through an investment market where many people decide how to invest their own funds and so they will try to get the best return for them.

    The problems with taxes are that they may not be spent on renewables (and probably won’t) and that you have money distributed by committees and governments and that is a most inefficient way to spend money.

    It comes back to Friedman’s ideas on how to get best value for money spent. Spend money on yourself for yourself and you will get the best value. (that is the surcharge idea). Spend someone else’s money on someone else and you get the least efficient distribution (that is the tax approach). It is all about the most efficient way to spend money. In this case it is investment money in renewables and using a surcharge system you get a true market. With taxes you get a “planned” renewable sector.

  71. January 28th, 2007 at 14:51 | #71

    Kevin Cox: Thanks, but your surcharge is in fact a hypothecated tax, and although I am a former Treasury official who once tried to advocate their adoption, received opinion of all Treasuries is that they are not efficient, on the strong grounds that all spending should be justified on its merits, not on the provenance of its funding. But that requires the even stronger assumption of non-corrupt governance; where I was working, taxes raised from say environmental protection found their way into politicians’ pockets.

  72. January 29th, 2007 at 03:32 | #72

    Tim you are right. I believe that the hypothecation excuse by Treasury officials is the reason that this idea is not tried. Of course the excuse is nonsense because the surcharge can only be spent on approved projects which can be supervised against corruption. The government can be involved in deciding what are approved projects but they do not make the decision on which projects the funds are to be spent and the government does not end up owning any asset created. The individuals owning the surcharge decide and they will decide the project that is best for them or the most efficient in their terms. This then gives a true market. A lot of buyers and a lot of sellers and the ability to make a choice.

    Of course government officials and politicians hate the idea of hypothecated taxes as it takes away their power and/or pork barrelling. I find it hard to understand why independent economists do not rise as one against general taxes when hypothecated taxes – where there are choices on what to spend the money – can do the same job. My conclusion is that economists are mainly employed or consult to governments and they know where their bread is buttered.

    Spenders must have to have choices on what to spend the surcharge – including in some cases selling it at a discount for cash to others who can spend it more efficiently than they can.

    Governments and politicians know exactly what they are doing. They are not going to give up the taxes they can spend without a fight. They know that there are benefits to them in being able to seemingly distribute largesse and this has formed the basis of many many grants for roads and water schemes where the money has been collected from fuel taxes and so called water abstraction charges.

    Compulsory super contributions are a hypothecated tax where the spending of the funds is partially left in the hands of the citizen so we do have an example that seems to work well.

    My guess is that Treasury officials know that if we can show that hypothecated taxes work for greenhouse abatement then people will realise that most taxes can be organised this way. There is no reason not to do exactly the same for most taxes.

    Besides Australian super the only other place where I have found a hypothecated tax is the Singapore Health Fund. Here people get a Health Account into which their tax is deposited and they have control over how it is spent – not the government or health fund. Singapore spends 3.8% of its GDP on an excellent Health system. The USA where health funds decide on where the money is spent spends 13.8% of their GDP on Health. While it is not the whole story on why there is such a difference I suspect it is the main reason.

    With global warming we do not have enough time to worry about the sensibilities of Treasury officials and we have to set up systems that give us the best value for money spent and that is through hypothecated taxes.

    A reason not to use hypothecated taxes is the administrative costs. My estimate is that with modern technologies and competitive market in people supplying the systems the cost will be about half a percent of throughput and that is a lot less than the cost of administering regular taxes.

  73. January 29th, 2007 at 04:18 | #73

    Tim if we used the approach of hypothecated taxes where the citizens controlled the spending of the money then we could dispense with most of the personnel in all government departments including Health, Tax, Social Security and Education – and get better value for our money. Most of the cost in government departments is in controlling the spending of money and if we give that control to citizens then the reason for most jobs in the Public Service disappear.

    Governments would be responsible for the budget which will specify – as it does now – that we will spend say 10% on education, 15% on defence, 50% on social security etc. and government will control the sorts of spending that is allowed and would police compliance but government will NOT decide on the minutia of spending decisions because that will be left to the citizen who will get the best value for money because it is their money and they are spending it to best advantage themselves.

    A system of hypothecated taxes would reduce total taxes by a significant amount and still give the same benefit. At present my estimate is that we spend at least 10% of taxes collected on spending the money. If this is reduced to half a percent then the savings are obvious. The benefits are even higher from more efficient spending and Singapore Health gives some indication. Potentially we are looking at getting at least twice the value from our taxes.

    The funny thing is that I believe it would help politicians get reelected much better than pork barrelling because it will benefit more people through lower taxes or the same taxes but more public spending because of more efficient spending. The losers will be Treasury officials, Public Servants and their advisors and they are going to be hard to move.

  74. January 29th, 2007 at 04:37 | #74

    Tim after reading my responses I realise that I have not actually answered the Treasury objection that hypothecated taxes are bad because they distribute money on the basis of provenance not merit.

    The approach we are suggesting does not depend on where the money comes from and we do not have to spend all the money collected from greenhouse gases on greenhouse gas abatement and we can use money collected from other taxes on greenhouse gas abatement. For example instead of the surcharge being left with the buyer of energy perhaps we give the surcharge to someone who through their life style uses less energy.

    The point about the proposal is that the merit criteria on where to spend money is decided by many citizens through a market mechanism where they have a choice on what to spend. It is not decided by a bureaucrat, or by an “expert” committee, or by some other group who try to pick winners.

  75. jquiggin
    January 29th, 2007 at 06:45 | #75

    Observa, if you think large reductions in CO2 emissions are inevitably catastrophic, you might ponder how it is that Europeans manage to enjoy a modern lifestyle with around half the emissions per person of Americans, and much less than Australians.

  76. January 29th, 2007 at 10:34 | #76

    JQ: there has been substantial deindustrialisation in western Europe over the last quarter century while industrial output remains substantial here and in USA. But even more pertinent is that the French maintain their elegant lifestyle with per cap GHG emissions at not merely half but a third of the USA level. Nothing to with their nuclear powered electicity I suppose.

  77. jquiggin
    January 29th, 2007 at 10:55 | #77

    The availability of nuclear power is one of many options that shows observa’s claims about the essentiality of current levels of carbon-based fuel use to be wrong. Let’s put a price tag on carbon emissions and see which option wins out – I assume as an economist, you’d support this, Tim. BTW, as regards your claims on deindustrialisation (a side issue in any case), you might want to check the balance of trade in goods for the countries you mention.

  78. Simonjm
    January 29th, 2007 at 12:44 | #78

    Just a note with all this talk on C02 I notice more press on methane esp regarding the food industry.

    Anyone willing to give up their steak or burger?

    I wonder what they would cost if you factored in this externality?

  79. January 29th, 2007 at 15:34 | #79

    John: trade balances are flows; the LEVELS of value added in industry and manufacturing in UK, France, Italy and Germany as a proportion of total GDp all fell very substantially between 1980 and 1999, by 13% in France, 16% in Italy, 18% in UK; Germany also had very large falls because of union with East Germany, but comparable data are n/a for 1980 for both Germanies; the proportion fell in the USA as well but not by nearly as much, at 11%. (Source: World Development Indicators 2000). In principle I agree with you about carbon taxes but not emissions trading, which I feel is foolish, so far it has achieved nothing in UK and EU. But I do not see either party winning the next election here on a platform of say an extra 20 cents on petrol plus $200 a year on electricity bills just for for the feel good about doing something for the planet.

  80. January 30th, 2007 at 05:44 | #80

    Simonjim I believe about 12% of Australian greenhouse gases come from our ruminants. However there are ways of inoculating cattle to reduce their emissions (not sure it works for old men:). There are other economic reasons for doing this because CH4 represents a loss of the value of the feed and if you reduce a cow’s emissions you can get better use of the feed. Perhaps a small incentive to farmers may enable Australia to meet Kyoto?

  81. Simonjm
    January 30th, 2007 at 13:36 | #81

    Kevin I wonder what the cost of that would be and level/% it would then be at.

    The other factor I would raise is the amount of water needed to produce this food resource.

    I we coupled the methane problem and this relatively inefficient use of our water resources, even if we inoculated them and were then to show the true cost, would meat be affordable?

    I would also imagine it takes more resources to process this food resource than most plant based products so it would still have a larger footprint.

    BTW I’m not a vegitarian.

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