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Weekend reflections

February 9th, 2007

Weekend Reflections is on again. Please comment on any topic of interest (civilised discussion and no coarse language, please). Feel free to put in contributions more lengthy than for the Monday Message Board or standard comments.

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  1. melanie
    February 9th, 2007 at 19:28 | #1

    Flannery and Brown say we should stop exporting coal. I liked Flannery’s book. But this suggests to me that a stronger alliance between science and economics is needed.

  2. still working it out
    February 10th, 2007 at 09:03 | #2

    I can’t see how we can justify not exporting coal without first cutting our own use to practically zero.

  3. BilB
    February 10th, 2007 at 09:21 | #3

    I foolishly read the Garret/Turnbull ABC debate transcript. Conclusion? Turnbull hasn’t got a clue, Garret can’t get his point across.

    In a nutshell

    Carbon trading- a useful tool to fund early renewable technologies. Drawback limited life, and will become the vehicle of monumental fraud.

    Carbon sequestration- sweeping the dirt under the rug not significantly available for many years.

    Clean Coal- desulphurised coal

    Clean Coal technologies- some minor benefits but in general a way of spending huge amounts of public money on research resulting in a disguise for dirty coal.

    Solar power- comes in many forms. Bypasses the whole carbon issue all together.

    Wind power- another type of solar power.

    Geothermal energy- use the energy from the earths core for power.

    Ethanol and bio fuels- turn bad CO2 into breatheable air and useable fuel.

    Nuclear power- takes life threatening material that is safely stored underground and spreads it all around the surface. Generates some power for a short time.

    Geosequestration versus ethanol and bio fuel.

    ethanol is converting 2 billion tonnes of CO2 into oxygen now and can be expanded many fold quickly while employing many people.

    geosequestration may work and may be available in 10 to 15 years

    Solar thermal versus nuclear

    Solar thermal is proven totally safe and reliable, produces base load, can be implemented rapidly to supply all of Australia’s electricity. Complementary to geothermal.

    Nuclear is a very expensive possible supplier of some of Australia’s electricity. Produces base load. Politically sensitive, not popular with the public, many years from implementation.

    Our scientists are telling us that our need is urgent. The best approach to this is to expand the good technologies while progressively reducing the bad technologies. No loss of jobs, no reduction in GDP or GNI. With that in mind which Fuel technology and which electricity production technology would you use?

    Final conclusion: I can’t get my point across either.

  4. gordon
    February 10th, 2007 at 09:59 | #4

    State Premiers yesterday indicated that they would introduce their own carbon trading scheme if the C’wealth did’t do so Nationally. Presumably the States’ scheme would follow the lines laid down in their discussion paper of August 2006. This document describes a scheme applicable initially only to fixed electricity generators of 30MW or more, with coverage possibly increasing after 5 years to cover emitters of >25Kt of CO2(equivalent) annually, plus gas transporters (eg. bottled or pipeline gas). So transport emissions, industrial emissions, agricultural emissions and waste (landfill) emissions would all be excluded initially. Offsets would however be available from these sources. The discussion paper proposes no firm caps on emitters, but rather includes a discussion on how caps might be set.

    To me, it looks like a Clayton’s emission-reduction proposal, with far more emphasis on making things easy for emitters than on getting emissions down. In particular, it provides a strategy for avoiding regulation.

  5. Dave
    February 10th, 2007 at 14:07 | #5

    Hey Guys, I’m working on a ‘simple as possible’ definition of public private partnerships. Hows this :

    Method by which government signs overpriced long term lease for infrastructure it used to build cheaper itself, thus making immediate finances look healthier while ripping off future taxpayers and enriching a private sector elite.

    Can anyone go one better?

  6. pablo
    February 10th, 2007 at 14:46 | #6

    Flannery’s ‘coal is the new asbestos’ comment sure got everyone’s attention, especially here in ‘coal is king’ country. I tend to agree with Bilby that ‘clean coal..coal sequestration’ are decades away and the former perhaps an oxymoron. Up until 2005 X-Strata the second biggest Hunter coal exporter was spending $250 000 a year on researching clean coal technologies – the equivalent of a couple of miners annual wages. Now they want to expand export capacity at Newcastle. Iemma should impose a progressively downward sliding cap on tonnages until they can prove clean coal technologies work. Howard has surely thrown plenty of tax dollars the company’s way in 2006 to get them interested.

  7. Hermit
    February 10th, 2007 at 20:35 | #7

    I mostly agree with previous posters. I think there is enough evidence to suggest clean coal cannot possibly work on the required scale. Moreover carbon offsets are little more than a scam; examples Chinese CFCs, trees for guilt free air travel, methane flaring. However if they were eliminated from a new system it wouldn’t leave many giveaways to exploit. To those who say solar thermal can produce baseload I’d like to see a working plant that can put out out say a constant 500 MW over a 24/7 cycle. Ditto steam from hot granite. Ethanol from wheat and corn is just musical chairs in energy terms and rural vote buying. When oil declines it will take ethanol down with it. Lastly we all know nuclear is unspeakably evil so we’re back to clean coal and all the other wonder technologies. We’ll probably go on like this for another decade.

  8. still working it out
    February 10th, 2007 at 21:18 | #8

    As the concept of anthropogenic global warming becomes accepted I am wondering what the Libertarian position is? Up until now it seems to have largely been denial, but that is starting to become untenable. How would a Libertarian solve the problem of global warming due to human emissions ?

  9. gordon
    February 11th, 2007 at 11:04 | #9

    Further to my comment above on the Premiers’ discussion paper on emissions trading, interested readers may like to look atthe Rodent’s discussion paper released on 7/2/06. A modest document of only 9 pages (the Premiers’ paper is 263pp.), this paper is filled with innocent questions like “how to best protect Australia’s economic competitiveness?â€?, “what financial market support structures need to be established?â€?, and “How can longer term investment certainty be improved?â€?

    Key judgements in relation to possible global trading schemes are said to include: “how to ensure that any domestic scheme maintains Australia’s competitive advantages particularly in relation to its resource base, including the implications of different design featuresâ€? and “the impact on broader economic performance, including in relation to investment decisions and business certainty and confidenceâ€?.

    I think it’s fairly clear where the Rodent is coming from on this one. It is very interesting to note thatthe work done by the Commonwealth bureaucracy a few years ago doesn’t get a mention in either disucussion paper.

  10. gordon
    February 11th, 2007 at 11:08 | #10

    Dave, how about “Method for slipping taxpayers’ money into the pockets of political mates”?

  11. February 11th, 2007 at 18:37 | #11

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – the solution is to burn as much bush (Bush?) as possible as inefficiently as possible, renewably and in a sustained way of course, so that charcoal is formed and natural hydrographic processes sequestrate it from being recycled by weathering (it’s not biodegradable). What we need is 17th century technology! Long Live Ned Ludd!

    Sorry. Andrew Oliver insisted we split a bottle of white this afternoon, and while it has in no sense affected my understanding, it has affected the thickness of my skin and willingness to return B*S* with B*S* – always remembering that the secret of humour is playing it straight, i.e. here, being factually accurate.

    I find both sides of this debate amusing, and unaware that dilemmas can never be reliably ruled out – damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

  12. pseudonym (econowit)
    February 11th, 2007 at 19:32 | #12

    A new dam!

    http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,21195842-601,00.html

    They will get my vote.

    Better than drinking Beattie’s crap water.

  13. singe
    February 12th, 2007 at 03:50 | #13

    hi mates! writing from new yawk. no offense meant but could you stuff a barstool in the mouth of your mr. howard, we have enough problems without his inanity added to the mess:

    Australian Leader: Al-Qaida Wants Obama

    February 10,2007 | SYDNEY, Australia — Australia’s conservative prime minister slammed Barack Obama on Sunday over his opposition to the Iraq war…

    …Australian Prime Minister John Howard, a staunch Bush ally who has sent troops to Iraq and faces his own re-election bid later this year, said Obama’s proposals would spell disaster for the Middle East.

    …ok a few questions:

    1. is australia a continent or a country?
    2. is the prim minister from the same litter of fancy poodles that blair is from?
    3. is this not a place that has a record of racism toward native ( dark skinned ) people that rivals that of selma alabama in the 1940′s?
    4. don’t they make beer out of frogs or something weird like that?
    5. who gives a shit what this moron thinks about our national politics?
    6. could we exile bush and cheney to the Great Sandy Desert when they are done screwing up our country?
    7. why do we keep being asked to revisit stupid questions like who does osama bin forgotten want to run for the president of the united states when the reality is that our soldiers and the people of iraq are being ground up into hamburger every goddam day that this disaster of bush’s goes on??

  14. krusty
    February 12th, 2007 at 07:20 | #14

    “If Prime Minister Howard truly believes what he says, perhaps his country should find its way to contribute more than just 1,400 troops so some American troops can come home,” he said. “It’s easy to talk tough when it’s not your country or your troops making the sacrifices”

    Oh, no comment from me on what Obama said that got our little bloke so fired up but … these guys sure don’t sound to be as easily bluffed by Oz’s GI Johnnie as the Fighting 101sts on this blog are, or the editors of The Australian or the Bolt/Blair/WackWack axis, do they?

  15. singe
    February 12th, 2007 at 10:58 | #15

    Thing of it is Australia is one of the few countries on earth that are led by a person who is enough of a moron to support the maniacs that are running our country. I guess Mr. Howard is looking for that all exspenses paid trip to the Hague…someone should tell him how hard it is to get to the loo ( trying for intercultural communication here ) from a seat in coach when wearing leg irons….

  16. singe
    February 12th, 2007 at 12:55 | #16

    and fudda more:

    “I think it’s flattering that one of George Bush’s allies on the other side of the world started attacking me the day after I announced,” Senator Obama said in Iowa.

    “I would also note that we have close to 140,000 troops in Iraq, and my understanding is Mr Howard has deployed 1400, so if he is … to fight the good fight in Iraq, I would suggest that he calls up another 20,000 Australians and sends them to Iraq.

    “Otherwise it’s just a bunch of empty rhetoric.”

  17. February 13th, 2007 at 17:41 | #17

    No. Someone who talks what the USA (in aggregate) wants to hear and does something more sensible like not sending a whole load of troops may be a hypocrite but is certainly no fool. In diplomatic terms it’s taking Macchiavelli’s advice that neutrals always lose – something that has been proven over and over, e.g. from the way Austria-Hungary was neutral in the Crimean War but Savoy sent a token force for the Anglo-Franco-Turkish coalition.

  18. gordon
    February 14th, 2007 at 09:55 | #18

    It’s always salutary when an economist turns around and reminds us that free markets are rather rare and don’t always provide the answers to all our problems. The latest example is at Economist’s View, Mark Thoma’s blog. Recommended.

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