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Glass half-full department

December 19th, 2009

The Copenhagen meeting has produced an agreement, though it’s more of an “agreement to agree” than a concrete deal. Most of the specifics have been left for later. That’s problematic of course, but not as bad as an agreement on specifics that are too weak to achieving anything. The deal (draft text here has several important elements

* A warming target of 2 degrees
* Commitment by the developed countries to spend $30 billion over 2010-12 and aim for $100 billion a year by 2020 in assistance to developing countries with a particular focus on preventing deforestation
* A technology transfer mechanism

Of these, the most significant is probably the deal on deforestation, which has actual money (or at least commitments) attached. Assuming this happens, it’s an outcome more significant than that of any international conference in the last decade at least. And technology transfer is important in a number of ways, particularly as a countervailing force against the pressure for ever-stronger intellectual property protections.

I’m a bit surprised, in that I thought the payments to developing countries would be one of the hardest issues of all, whereas the biggest single sticking point seems to have been China’s objections to transparent monitoring – the kind of silly national sovereignty stuff that is par for the course at these meetings but usually gets smoothed over and traded away by the end.


The 2 degree target has been controversial, with lots of countries calling for a 1.5 degree target. But it’s important to remember that only a couple of years ago, the Stern Review was focusing on a 550 ppm stabilization target, which would most likely be associated with long-term warming of 3 degrees. If we can get agreement now on a 2 degree/450 ppm target, there’s a reasonable chance, given technological progress, of bringing concentrations back down to 350 ppm or even to pre-industrial levels (about 280 ppm) by 2100 and that trajectory would have a fair chance of avoiding any sustained period of temperatures more than 1.5 degrees above 1900 levels. Even that trajectory implies significant environmental damage, but it minimises the risk of large-scale climatic catastrophes.

The next step is for Obama to push Waxman-Markey through the US Senate. I’m confident he can do this, given sufficient Administration pressure on the Senate (including, if necessary, the threat of ending the minority right to filibuster legislation with 40 votes). And, given that he has put his credibility on the line, I’m at least reasonably confident that he will do it.

Looking at the Australian implications, I imagine the Opposition will say that there was no need to pass the ETS before Copenhagen. That would have helped them if they had elected, say, Joe Hockey as leader, and settled on a position of deferring, but ultimately supporting the ETS. But it’s hard to see that it will do Abbott any good – sooner or later, he has to come up with an alternative to the ETS, and no remotely affordable alternative is on offer.

The big disappointment is that the longer timetable will give Rudd the option of going for a double dissolution in the second half of 2010, based on the abortive deal with Turnbull.

Categories: Environment Tags:
  1. gerard
    December 19th, 2009 at 13:00 | #1

    including, if necessary, the threat of ending the minority right to filibuster legislation with 40 votes

    Ha ha ha! When hell freezes over. Just look at the way Obama’s bending over backwards to kiss Lieberman’s #60 keister on healthcare “reform”. Only the Republicans have the guts to make threats like that, the Democrats are the most pathetic jellyfish party in history; basically owned by a rightwing fifth column that LOVES the GOP’s right to filibuster since it gives them an excuse to do nothing but sit on their a$$e$ and lap up lobbyist cash.

    Which is not to say they never stand up for their principles – just that these principles basically amount to Corpo-Right domination, and the only people they stand up to are their base.

  2. Hermit
    December 19th, 2009 at 13:00 | #2

    I am sure many anomalies will emerge; here’s two or three. If every country is cutting carbon as of now that means Australia’s coal exports must decline starting immediately. What if that doesn’t happen? These payments to conserve forests will no doubt be claimed as carbon credits by the donor countries, but nothing has changed relative to the status quo except money changing hands. How does that save carbon compared to before? With technology transfer clean and green may not make enough difference. Does that mean Australia helps buy nuclear power stations for Bangladesh?

    I’ll reserve judgment on co-ordinated action until results start piling up. I fear the prolonged GFC may be our only hope.

  3. Chris Warren
    December 19th, 2009 at 13:56 | #3

    One should look for the best aspects, and actual dollars to counter deforestation is a potentially enormous benefit – provided it results in relevant cuts in deforestation.

    Only Europe, Japan, and USA were included in the list of pledges. The total listed was around 24 billion over 2 years. This is petty cash. The 100 billion is “a goal”, so can be forgotten. Any American bank can this amount at the drop of a hat, so it seems.

    However the Copenhagen Green Climate Fund could be useful provided it does not become the usual bloated bureaucracy.

    If it takes 100 trillion in one year just to stimulate OECD economies, what can you do with 100 billion over two years?

  4. December 19th, 2009 at 14:31 | #4

    Pr Q said:

    the most significant is probably the deal on deforestation, which has actual money (or at least commitments) attached. Assuming this happens, it’s an outcome more significant than that of any international conference in the last decade at least.

    Interesting that John Howard was, for once, ahead of the pack on ecological sustainability policies with his massive aid package to Indonesia, signed in MAR 2007, designed to reduce deforestation. The NYT reported:

    Australia sought Thursday to position itself as a regional leader in fighting climate change by announcing a fund to curb deforestation in Southeast Asia, a move the Australian prime minister said would be more effective than the Kyoto Protocol.

    Prime Minister John Howard said the new fund would seek to halve the rate of deforestation in Southeast Asia, particularly in neighboring Indonesia.

    Australia has pledged 200 million Australian dollars, or $160 million, to the fund, which will focus on fighting illegal logging, on planting new trees and providing alternatives to the timber industry.

    This fact has gone strangely unremarked on this blog so I thought I would rectify this anomaly.

    Curbing deforestation and creating reforestation are two of the most cost-effective, politically attractive and ecologically effective ways of reducing carbon pollution. Everyone likes trees, but most people hate having to trade down in a car.

    The single most effective way of curbing greenhouse gas emissions would be for the US to retask its B52 fleet to flatten Dubai, the place is a trillion dollar monument to carbon profligacy. Unfortunately Brangelina has a pad there so it aint gonna happen.

  5. nanks
    December 19th, 2009 at 14:55 | #5

    If it’s up to half-full I’d say your glass was under-specified JQ, but good on you for the optimism.

  6. David Booth
    December 19th, 2009 at 15:12 | #6

    Sorry John but I think the glass is half (or more than half) empty. USA can say that they again took a leading role as the chief spoiler. We still dont know how much they pledge for the $100 billion per year by 2020 if you do X, Y and Z. They low balled the emissions reduction targets. They refused to negotiate at Copenhagen under the excuse they were waiting for Obama. In truth Obama was waiting to see how little he could get away with. He joins Rudd as a no action leader and stands condemned when the world was waiting to see him act. The only thing he did correctly (in my opinion) was to try to haggle with the largest polluters China and India. But in those talks he came across as a bully when really USA credentials on climate change are sadly lacking. On what basis does USA express suspicion of China’s efforts at climate change mitigation? He should look in the mirror before he accuses China of deception. Sadly, Obama today implemented the George W Bush strategy and did it with a straight face. So glass half full? I dont think so John. Someone forgot to tell Obama it is urgent, more urgent than his need to fly home to”avoid a blizzard”. USA as an empire reached a turning point today. Contrast Obama’s response to President Lula from Brazil. they have promised 38% reduction by 2020 and $16 billion per year (total $160 billion). A glimmer of hope? Australia won the well deserved fossil award.

  7. Hermit
    December 19th, 2009 at 15:19 | #7

    Let me put another view on deforestation. If Country A razes its forests then that is a debit against them in the first place. That is a short term CO2 surge from any burning off and possibly long term for reduced CO2 absorption. If Country A takes money from Country B to refrain it’s not unlike extortion ‘pay me or the forest gets it’. Country B thinks it can then emit as usual ie no need to cut back on coal. In my opinion that is weak and dishonest.

    While that coal burning is ‘new’ CO2 the standing forest may in fact be absorbing very little additional CO2. In 2005 it is thought the Amazon jungle was a net carbon emitter due to drought. Therefore A’s supposed CO2 reduction could be largely fictitious. Worse B’s patch of forest could be sold to several customers or lax management and bad luck could see it decimated by wildfire and disease. It might be logged anyway by stealth or the adjoining patch logged which has the same effect.

    Therefore I suggest sponsored forest conservation in return for offsets could be misconceived in physical terms and a legal minefield. Save the forests for other less mercenary reasons. I don’t have a copy but I believe the June 2009 edition of Scientific American expresses similar views.

  8. BilB
    December 19th, 2009 at 15:23 | #8

    “and no remotely affordable alternative is on offer”

    Certainly not from Abbott and his rabble.

    But I am going to ask you explain why:

    Australia consumes 220 billion KwHrs (units) of electricity annually. Our electricity bills have just increased 20% with further increases published to take that to 75%. 20% is roughly 3 cents per unit times 220 billion which represents 6.6 billion dollars per year. At 75% increase this is 22 billion dollars per year. Now at 20% to 2040 this means 198 billion dollars available to build alternative energy infrastructure. At 75% this represents 660 billion dollars extracted from the economy for some purpose. The purpose appears to be to discourage the use of electricity and fund some form of ETS with a market forcing mechanism.

    My research suggests that 6.6 billion dollars (20% electricity levy) per year applied completely to the building of renewable energy infrastructure is more than sufficient to completely replace Australia’s current coal fired energy infrastructure (even if the replacement price is 6 billion dollars per gigawatt baseload capacity) with a combination of solar, wind, geothermal, wave, biofuel, and others, in a fully “paid up” system which therefore delivers electricity at prices comparable with coal.

    Can you demonstrate how this proposition is false in a manner that requires a 75% market forcing mechanism, more than 3 times the cost to the public, to achieve the same end result as the simple 20% electricity levy? And what degree of certainty is achieveable with such a market mechanism?

  9. iain
    December 19th, 2009 at 15:29 | #9

    “bipolar coverage disorder” seems to be a new term invented to described people’s reactions to Copenhagen.

  10. David Booth
    December 19th, 2009 at 15:40 | #10

    Thanks Iain, bipolar, I guess that means me.
    Hermit why not avoid offsets (as you suggest) altogether, they are only a dodgy “get out of jail” strategy to delay action.
    BilB you need to consider all the CO2 not just electricity. But you point still seems valid, perhaps we need to do more “back of envelope” calculations.

  11. BilB
    December 19th, 2009 at 16:10 | #11

    Thanks, DB.

    Of course we need a comprehensive plan. My argument is that 50% of the problem can be solved with a simple, low impact, funding levy. This levy, 20% on retail electricity rates, amounts to less than the cost of a Big Mac per week for a family of 4. The current thinking seems to be to beat the crap out of anyone who emits CO2, rather than provide real solutions. We didn’t get the Snowey Mountains Scheme from market pressures, we got it because WE as a community said that this was a good thing to do. And even though it is a environmentally questionable by today’s standards, it is the stable backbone the gives Eastern Australia reliable electricity delivery.

    We are in a time where “barn raising” technology is the way to go, I believe.

  12. silkworm
    December 19th, 2009 at 16:54 | #12

    Everyone likes trees, but most people hate having to trade down in a car.

    That is the excuse that both Abbott and Rudd are going to use to keep burning coal and oil as usual.

    BilB, thanks for those calculations. The proposed 75% hike in the cost of electicity appears to me to be fear-mongering by the coal industry and the utilities, designed in part to get the public to oppose appropriate energy conservation measures. As you point out, the emphasis should be on building infrastructure for alternative energy, and this can be done relatively quickly.

    I would also like to point out that the elephant in the room is population, and that there needs to be a dialogue about the means of stabilizing the world’s population. It is worth repeating that the most powerful way of reducing one’s carbon footprint on this planet is to limit one’s family to having two children. The first step on this path is to get rid of Howard’s baby bonus.

  13. gianni
    December 19th, 2009 at 17:01 | #13

    The next step is for Obama to push Waxman-Markey through the US Senate. I’m confident he can do this, given sufficient Administration pressure on the Senate (including, if necessary, the threat of ending the minority right to filibuster legislation with 40 votes).

    Prof Quiggin, the evidence suggests that you’re being overly optimistic regarding the willingness and capaciity of President Obama to bring pressure to bear on the US Senate. Firstly, the president cannot end the filibuster mechanism. Only the Senate can do that and going by the evidence of the health care reform debate he cannot even be sure of the support of the Democratic Senate caucus if he urged them to do so.

    The Republicans vote as a solidly contrarian, disciplined bloc, ie as a parliamentary party these days. The Democrats, not so much.

    And, given that he has put his credibility on the line, I’m at least reasonably confident that he will do it.

    His credibility is really on the line over health care reform and he’s facing the Senate passing a bill which will be difficult to reconcile with the House version. And it’s getting further and further away from the social democratic principles and policy outcomes he campaigned on every hour the Senate sits amending the bill.

    Climate change isn’t not an issue that will determine his re-election prospects in 2012. His attention has been and will be focussed on the economy, unemployment, health reform, Iran and Afghanistan. He gives good oratory, but he is the titular head of a fragmented, ill-disciplined party facing a determined Republican Party that does opposition very, very well. He’ll take whatever the Senate cobbles together, hold his nose, claim victory and move on.

    Looking over the pond, it appears that the denialists are even stronger and more influential than they are here. The scope and reach of the lobbying industry means that the rent seekers and special pleaders will every bit as effective, if not more so, than they have been in Australia. I’d be very surprised if the suggested commitment of a 17% reduction below 2005 levels fed into legislative sausage making machine emerges in a recogisable, or palatable, form.

  14. Donald Oats
    December 19th, 2009 at 17:24 | #14

    Back in the old days people got hitched and had a couple of kids because they wanted to, not because the Liberal Government baby bonus made it so much easier. The Laboral Government now in power haven’t got the guts to both chuck the baby bonus and reduce immigration back to something we can cope with. Don’t get me wrong here: I’ve nothing against kids – once upon a time all of my friends were kids, but we all grew up. Oh well, on to the topic at hand…

    I haven’t given this the reading it deserves because it really is a yardglass half-full – of warm piss; still a glass half-full of warm wee soon cools down in Copenhagen, and then you can sell it to some tourist as Southwark :-) Or if desperate, well…you know…

    Maybe we need much more direct action here like lobbying our respective governments hard – don’t take no for an answer type lobbying – for another meeting of leaders in Feb 2010, for them to take just a handful of staff, and to get some meaningful movement on the sticky points. And then to have the meeting after that at the original time. Everybody has at least some idea what we need to see in an agreement which means that the principal impediment is not whether China stonewalls, but whether it is possible to make the leaders of state sit through a long enough series of meetings until the deed is done properly. Obama should have been there from the beginning and so should a lot of other leaders. Right through to the gory end. But they weren’t and now they need to be needled into taking even more time and energy on this as soon as possible: Feb 2010!

    Any suggestions?

  15. fred
    December 19th, 2009 at 17:36 | #15

    Bloody small glass.

  16. iain
    December 19th, 2009 at 17:37 | #16

    bipolar disorder coverage:

    “there are doubts whether Danish PM Lars Loekke Rasmussen will be able to declare it approved.”

    “The city of Copenhagen is a crime scene tonight, with the guilty men and women fleeing to the airport.”

    “Copenhagen Accord rescued”

    “big step forward”

  17. gianni
    December 19th, 2009 at 17:42 | #17

    Looking at the Australian implications, I imagine the Opposition will say that there was no need to pass the ETS before Copenhagen. That would have helped them if they had elected, say, Joe Hockey as leader, and settled on a position of deferring, but ultimately supporting the ETS. But it’s hard to see that it will do Abbott any good – sooner or later, he has to come up with an alternative to the ETS, and no remotely affordable alternative is on offer.

    The outcome is good for Tony Abbott and the Coalition denialists. He’s already walked back the “climate change is crap” comment without any adverse results. (The media just rolls it eyes, shrugs its shoulders, mutters something along the lines of “Well, he’s a politician. What do you expect?” or grins in admiration at his cynicism and moves on to the next he said/she said, opinions on the shape of the earth differ story.)

    He can run his “climate change is real and we’re committed to doing something about it” line without concern from now until the election. He’s already promised to match the 5% reduction promised by Kevin Rudd in the event of Copenhagen failing. Unless the Coalition suddenly decide to prioritise the export of brown coal from the Latrobe Valley, it would be hard for the Coalition not to match the ALP given that Mr Rudd’s worst case scenario for the CPRS has come to pass.

    Even better for Nick Minchin and Barnaby Joyce, they can simply replace the “Australia shouldn’t move before seeing what comes out of Copenhagen” talking point with “Australia shouldn’t move before seeing what comes out of Mexico City” talking point. And the shelf life of the “what’s the point of moving before seeing what the US and China commit to” talking point will take them through to the next election, and beyond, as well.

  18. carbonsink
    December 19th, 2009 at 17:46 | #18

    @Hermit

    If every country is cutting carbon as of now that means Australia’s coal exports must decline starting immediately. What if that doesn’t happen?

    Look where the serious money is going: The states and feds are spending big on infrastructure to get our coal to market more efficiently, and Big Coal is investing heavily in new mines. What chance this all stops after Copenhagen? Zero.

  19. Donald Oats
    December 19th, 2009 at 18:19 | #19

    @BilB
    Yeah, why is that barn-raising is now seen as a bad thing by people, instead of as a good thing? We used to have hay days and things like that to be neighbourly.

  20. nanks
    December 19th, 2009 at 18:23 | #20

    Copenhagen and the recent past show that the denialists campaign and big money has won. There’ll be a bit of pr spending, but Rudd et al have got what they want – business as usual. Disappointing – devastating really – but not surprising. Unless we see mass civil unrest – unlikely in the extreme – that’s it for the foreseeable. A few pimples might break out, but you can always cover them. And as Dylan Moran pointed out, we know how much a vote costs in Australia – it’s $900. Too easy.
    But for me it has certainly reached the rock and the hard place – I can’t live with myself and be passive on the systemic corruption we now have within our ostensibly democratic polity. At the same time I have to hedge my bets for the kids and their future. I’m guessing a lot of people are feeling that way. Luckily there are many organisations to bring people together in active non-violent protest. I hope that’s enough because it is obvious that governments will do nothing for the people until all other possibilities are exhausted.

  21. paul walter
    December 19th, 2009 at 18:30 | #21

    Jack Strocchi, a fair post.
    However, don’t forget that while Howard and other Australian leaders have had the cheek to lecture third world countries about their forestry practices, they have been full-on destructive themselvesd, involving places like Tasmania and Victoria

  22. Alice
    December 19th, 2009 at 20:38 | #22

    @Donald Oats
    Any suggestions? The rhythm method Don. It will keep the catholics like Abbott happy…now why do we have the baby bonus? Give it to people on welfare with kids already struggling who need it more.

    Also “We used to have hay days and things like that to be neighbourly.”

    Until the insurance companies stepped in to offer public liability insurance in case someone twisted their ankle on some crack in a government pavement. Now, no hay days, no fetes, no speakers in the domain, no public rallies, no dissent, everyone keeps quiet and gives the govt no trouble.

    Trouble is – thats boring and we are boring.

  23. Michael of Summer Hill
    December 20th, 2009 at 02:22 | #23

    John, I am more optimistic than most commentators in regards to the political outcome of the Copenhagen summit. But for the so-called ‘letter of intent’ the deadlock between the developed countries and the rest of the world would remain in limbo. Now the world can look forward to thrashing out a binding deal come next year in Mexico during COP 16. And contrary to all the pundits who claim the Copenhagen summit was a waste of time and money for not achieving a binding resolution, I find the political outcome a significant step in the wright direction given the magnitude and difficulty in reaching a concensus agreement this time around. Thumbs up.

  24. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    December 20th, 2009 at 06:02 | #24

    There are affordable alternatives to an ETS.

    Firstly we should remove the prohibition on nuclear power. A fast breeder reactor will produce about 1 gram of nuclear waste per home per annum compared to the current 5 to 50 grams of unregulated nuclear waste produced by burning coal to power one home for a year. A nuclear reactor will produce no CO2 during operation and less CO2 during construction than solar or wind. And situated correctly a nuclear power plant can also desalinate water on a large scale using left over heat. We are the only nation in the G20 that is determined to stay outside the nuclear tent and this is strategically dumb.

    A revenue neutral carbon tax focused purely on the domestic energy production and transport sectors is much prefered to an ETS. It merely entails a tax swap so it should not become a debate about the size of government. We could use the revenue to increase the tax free threshold or to reduce payroll tax. It would provide more price stability (and hence better cash flow) for energy producers.

    Or we could offset 100% of our annual emissions by giving about $123 per capita to the likes of popoffsets who use the funds to provide family planning services and to hand out contraceptives around the world (with the emission effect measured and audited I presume). I blogged on this recently at the ALS. Offsetting 100% of our emissions for under $3 billion seems pretty cheap.

    Clearly there are alternatives to an ETS. Even doing nothing is a clear alternative even though we may face some trade hurdles down the track as a result. I doubt Tony Abbott is going to pick a winner but I have been wrong before. Nothing really changes anyway until the ALP supports nuclear. Mean while I’m still voting for the liberal democrats (LDP).

  25. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    December 20th, 2009 at 06:08 | #25

    BilB – I suspect your costing is ignoring the capacity factor for wind and solar as well as the necessary standby alternatives (probably gas) and the new transmission infastructure needed to hook it all together. Barry Brook at his blog has run the numbers on wind and solar dozens of times and it isn’t cheap at all.

  26. Hermit
    December 20th, 2009 at 06:43 | #26

    China is to greatly increase coal imports from Australia. Business as usual and smiles all round. Could they get that type of hard coal from somewhere else? Probably not nearly as cheaply.

    When this goes ahead it will show that Copenhagen was really all about posturing not actions. In case this is a temporary lapse by China we could help them out by reducing their coal supplies. Over to you Kev to show some leadership.

  27. iain
    December 20th, 2009 at 07:13 | #27

    Terje – your support for allowing nuclear is a separate issue as to whether or not it is an affordable alternative.

    A tax on non-EITE emissions will not lower emissions across all scopes. By itself, it will likely lead to an increase in emissions across all scopes.

    Popoffsets, by themselves, will not reduce current emissions levels.

    Do you have any “affordable alternatives” in mind that are actually capable of reducing emissions and are affordable?

  28. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    December 20th, 2009 at 08:19 | #28

    Iain – nuclear is affordable. Much more so than solar or wind. France has some of the cheapest electricity in Europe because most of it is nuclear.

  29. BilB
    December 20th, 2009 at 08:24 | #29

    TergeP,

    I’ve looked at Barry Brookes assessment, and it doesn’t take long to see holes in his information. He has taken a very superficial look at CSP, in my opinion, and does not appear to understand the system very well at all.

    There are wildly varying estimates of cost on, particularly, CSP. And the reason is that there are are number of commercial operators jostling for the opportunity to be the man on the spot when contracts are let. These prices are all stratospheric estimates because this, for each of them, will be their first installation. Caution and profit protection being the operative mode.

    I take the information provided by the German government as being a better guide as this information is determined from a self contractor frame of thinking. Nominally profit free. This would be abhorent to a free market guy like you, Terge, but to a community contracting for the common good, this is the best approach. Contractors still make profit for the various bits that they are engaged to perform, but there is no over riding profit taker. ie this is the OEM price without the wholesalers margin and retailers margin added. This approach is common in industry where businesses may choose to travel to the Chinese factory manufacturing their equipment rather than buy from the local agent.

    And, no, it is not ignoring the capacity factor. I did a simple test. I took the twenty year opperational generated electricty output figure from the youngest of the US CSP installations, and multiplied this out to meet Australia’s current energy consumption. By this method all efficiency factors were accounted for. The reserve capacity comes from the latest developments in the technology, not yet applied, which offer efficiency improvements as much a 40%. Standby capacity, gas, is built into most CSP systems (see hybride CSP).

    Connection costs for wind are commonly assumed to be the same for CSP. They are not. Wind a broadly spread infrastructure. CSP is highly condensed ie megawatts to gigawatts, wind to CSP, for the same connection cost. But apart from that Grid connection is the responsibility of companies such as Trans Grid. This is an entirely seperate business stream. Remember? the electricity system was divided into three parts, generators, grid connection, and distributors. The grid connection still has to be paid for, but it is not a part of the generators investment responsibility.

    Wind generator costs are more clearly defined,as these units are more modular by nature. There output, however, is less predictable. Wind is supplementary, rather than base infrastructure. Wind, however, is a very good complement for solar thermal as CSP works well as a load leveller (far more reactive than coal steam power).

  30. iain
    December 20th, 2009 at 08:31 | #30

    Terje,

    Non government sponsored nuclear, with an ETS, may be an economically affordable alternative and is what most of the developed world is working towards facilitating. Suggesting that nuclear, without an ETS, is an affordable alternative ignores all science and economic forecasting regarding the marginal damage costs of CC.

    Again, I’ll ask you, do you have any “affordable alternatives” in mind that are actually capable of reducing emissions and are affordable?

  31. BilB
    December 20th, 2009 at 08:38 | #31

    TergeP,

    Your comment to Iain is a wild genralisation that is contested. I would urege you to listen to

    http://greensmps.org.au/content/greencast/nuclear-debate-now-hi-def

    , where I believe that many gloss over assumptions made by the pro nuclear adherents are smashed apart.

  32. Alice
    December 20th, 2009 at 08:42 | #32

    @BilB
    says “This would be abhorent to a free market guy like you, Terge, but to a community contracting for the common good, this is the best approach. Contractors still make profit for the various bits that they are engaged to perform, but there is no over riding profit taker.”

    Agree.

    Terje – with his usual costings for his pro nuke arguments and failure to even consider cleaner less dangerous energy technologies, fails to realise if we had costed the Harbour Bridge or the Snowy Scheme the same way he likes to present costings as justification, we wouldnt have either of those now. We probably wouldnt have a piped sewerage system, kerbing and guttering or telecommunications either. Its about vision Terje not just mere petty nitpicking incredibly short sighted “now” costings. I wish we could all get away from this “free market” approach of “does it make a profit now?” . No? Well its not a good idea then”.

    How does approach help us now and in the future? It will just see us stuck in the mud unable to build a barn as Don might say.

    Where are your positive future benefit stream net present value calculations on alternatives to Nuclear Terje? Nowhere to be seen. Its just all nuclear to you and you keep peddling this one track approach. Not helpful. Danger to the future human race.

  33. iain
    December 20th, 2009 at 08:58 | #33

    The argument against nuclear is very straightforward.

    Nuclear provies 14% of the world’s electricity and electricity provides around 25% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Even if you double world nuclear power by 2020 (which is never going to happen), you will at best, reduce global emissions by around 5%. As we need 40% emissions reductions in this timeframe – we therefore need solutions that aren’t towing the sycophantic nuclear line.

    FWIW, I support research and appropriate development of nuclear.

  34. Chris Warren
    December 20th, 2009 at 09:11 | #34

    terjeP

    What costs have you included to say that nuclear is “much more affordable” than solar or wind.

    This is nuclear industry spin, and usually is based on a discounted cost of downstream reactors based on not being “first of their kind”.

    But the industry keeps saying it will produce new more efficient, safer reactors, so we never get the economic benefit of mass production of reactors.

    Cheap electricity from reactors is an outcome from a distorted market where externalities are not reflected in price, and corrupt politics often provides subsidies.

  35. Michael of Summer Hill
    December 20th, 2009 at 09:37 | #35

    TerjeP (say tay-a), this update is just for you for recent events suggests you are ill informed. Recently The Wall Street Journal reported EDF’s debt will grow from $42 billion to $50 billion euro by 2013 and the conglomarate may need to find another $27 billion euro to meet its nuclear commitments as 15 aging power plants are currently off-line with hugh maintenance costs. There are also many other safety concerns, for recently at Tricastin, Unit #2 had to stop refueling due to fuel assembly becoming stuck, not to mention the 30,000-liter spill of a uranium solution that contaminated two nearby rivers or the 45 workers that received low-level radioactive contamination. And whilst nuclear power in France is relative cheap at 4.3 cents per kilowatt-hour, it is estimated future power costs will be between 7 cents to 10 cents per kwh.

  36. jquiggin
    December 20th, 2009 at 09:37 | #36

    Terje, the Howard govenment’s inquiry into nuclear (which took a very optimistic view) showed clearly that without a substantial carbon price there was no prospect of nuclear power being commercial. Suggesting otherwise is just wishful thinking, of the kind which forms the whole basis of rightwing politics these days, evident in the belief that climate change can be wished away, the global financial crisis didn’t really happen, the Iraq war wasn’t a costly disaster etc etc

  37. Fran Barlow
    December 20th, 2009 at 11:00 | #37

    Mind you Alice, if we had no harbour crossing, we’d probably have less traffic and less urban sprawl …

  38. Freelander
    December 20th, 2009 at 11:25 | #38

    Re: Ziggy. When your only tool is a PhD in nuclear physics it is amazing how every problem seems to require solving with a nuclear reaction.

  39. carbonsink
    December 20th, 2009 at 11:37 | #39

    @Hermit
    Hermit, a quote from that Bloomberg article you linked to @ 26:

    China’s coking coal imports rose 12-fold this year…

    Not 12%, not 120% but 12 times. Big Coal is investing for the biggest coal boom in history while Kevin spins Copenhagen as a triumph. Please tell me why Rudd is better than Howard? At least Howard was honest in his denial, and open about Australia’s economic dependence on coal for export income and electricity generation.

    I rarely agree with Terje, but has a few good points. Proponents of wind, solar and other renewables always gloss over the capacity factors and the need for (gas) backup generation. I for one can’t convince myself that this would be cheaper than nukes. The developed countries with the lowest CO2 per capita emissions are France and Sweden, and they are both big users of nuclear power. That’s hard to ignore.

    Where I disagree with Terje is the idea that a carbon tax could be sold as revenue neutral and not a “Great Big New Tax”. Abbott and his denialist wingnuts would run exactly the same scare campaign against a carbon tax.

    Yes we should remove the prohibition on nuclear power, but that’s not what’s stopping nukes being built in Australia. Nuclear needs a substantial carbon price to be economically viable, and an awful lot of political will to overcome the inevitable NIMBYism.

    That said, I am convinced by Barry Brook’s arguments that nukes are the only technically viable alternative to fossil fuels. Clearly we’re not going to change our lifestyles, we’re not going to price carbon appropriately, and we’re not investing nearly enough in renewables, smart grids, and energy storage technologies. We’re going to burn the coal, oil and gas until there is a catastrophe, and then we’ll panic and turn to nukes.

    Terje, here’s a tip: Stop banging on about big government, big taxes, and the LDP. 99% of the population doesn’t believe government is 100% evil. I know this is a cherished belief in the Libertarian universe, but not in the real world.

  40. Ian Gould
    December 20th, 2009 at 11:42 | #40

    “I am sure many anomalies will emerge; here’s two or three. If every country is cutting carbon as of now that means Australia’s coal exports must decline starting immediately.”

    No, it doesn’t.

    In fact, if consumption of the highest-carbon fuels such as brown coal goes down, Australian coal exports could go up.

  41. Hermit
    December 20th, 2009 at 11:46 | #41

    Those who find fault with nuclear have to suggest something better. Wind power is now a mature technology yet independent studies suggest it saves very little CO2 because of the need for standby power. That’s in the long run not the occasional wind optimised day. As for solar thermal we’re still waiting for a large scale demonstration, chicken and egg perhaps. Note the countryside would have to be criss crossed with ugly new power lines for best results. That expense plus the need for backup gas fired generation leads some to conclude nuclear baseload would be half to a third of the cost.

    In the US a small amount of nuclear electricity revenue goes to a waste disposal and decommissioning fund. How about coal does the same? So it seems strange to say nuclear does not pay its external costs when it is one industry that does. FWIW due to using several forms of renewable energy I pay no electricity bills and about $15 a month in car fuel.

  42. iain
    December 20th, 2009 at 12:03 | #42

    @Hermit

    “Those who find fault with nuclear have to suggest something better.”

    Done. Diesendorf’s “Greenhouse solutions with sustainable energy”.

    If you can fault any of Diesendorf’s analysis, please do see. Otherwise you are setting up a strawman.

  43. Alice
    December 20th, 2009 at 12:06 | #43

    @Fran Barlow
    And no tourists Fran…where would we be without the coathanger?

  44. carbonsink
    December 20th, 2009 at 12:25 | #44

    No, it doesn’t.

    In fact, if consumption of the highest-carbon fuels such as brown coal goes down, Australian coal exports could go up.

    I cannot imagine a scenario where the world makes deep cuts to carbon emissions and Australia’s coal exports increase. Sure it might happen if we make token cuts, if the world reduces its “carbon intensity”, and we gradually replace lignite with black coal, but not if the world makes the deep cuts that are required to keep warming below 2C.

  45. Hermit
    December 20th, 2009 at 12:37 | #45

    @iain
    Rather than link to sites like BraveNewClimate where these analyses have been done in mind numbing detail, let me just shoot from the hip. Diesendorf’s plan relies very heavily on natural gas as a bridging energy source. Combined cycle gas still has 50% or so of the CO2 of coal, not the long term 80% reduction we want. Our own ABARE claims we have no more than 65 years of gas left. How the Deisendorf plan sits with that and an expected swing to gas as a truck fuel is not yet clear. Another flaw I recall was an underestimate of the required renewable overbuild and the corresponding amount of new transmission. Aside from reduced grid reliability both capital shortages and NIMBYism may be major hurdles.

    I suggest that Germany has been following a variant of the Diesendorf plan for some years. To get 15% of their energy mix as renewables requires massive subsidies (leading to ‘negative prices’), very high domestic electricity charges and the planned building of at least eight new coal fired power stations.

  46. Freelander
    December 20th, 2009 at 13:00 | #46

    @jquiggin
    Also, the stimulus wasn’t required because Australia, miraculously, was unaffected by the global financial crisis. Oh yes, and Australian banks were unaffected, and didn’t require an emergency guarantee from government to quell the panic.

  47. Fran Barlow
    December 20th, 2009 at 13:59 | #47

    Of course, those tourists, Alice, are also not carbon neutral. Now if we could get them to simply send us the money (less their living expenses) without coming …

    On a more serious note, it would be interesting to see what would happen if the government henceforth required that apart from public transport and emergency vehicles all traffic on the Harbour, Roseville, Spit, Gladesville, Iron Cove, Ryde, Captain Cook and Tom Ugly’s Bridges had to bid for permits of 30, 50, 100, 200 etc crossings each year on ebay, competing with commercial operators.

    I can’t help but think there’d be a lot less traffic, a lot more public transport and a crash in the money the state had to spend on roads.

  48. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    December 20th, 2009 at 14:02 | #48

    Terje, here’s a tip: Stop banging on about big government, big taxes, and the LDP.

    Pass.

  49. Fran Barlow
    December 20th, 2009 at 14:05 | #49

    @TerjeP (say tay-a)

    Some ideas are too dear to your culture, regardless of our specious they are.

  50. Fran Barlow
    December 20th, 2009 at 14:06 | #50

    @TerjeP (say tay-a)

    correction:

    Some ideas are too dear to your culture, regardless of how specious they are.

  51. nanks
    December 20th, 2009 at 14:13 | #51

    @Fran Barlow
    it’d be great for the rich because they could go about their business without all those awful poor people clogging up the roads

    – I really wish economists would come up with a better way of allocating resources other than the one where resources go to those who can afford the highest price

  52. brian arthur
    December 20th, 2009 at 14:16 | #52

    @Hermit. re coal and China. Most of this coal is being use in the making of steel which goes into things like reinforcing bar for the massive rail infrastructure that is currently being built. It is not being used for eletricity generation. They use their own coal for that.
    While China is urbanising the population and building very large numbers of high rise buildings, railways, roads etc they will use more coking coal.
    They are making a very efficient urban and inter city rail system but lets hope that the buildings they build from now on are more energy efficient than those build during the previous 15 years.

  53. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    December 20th, 2009 at 14:16 | #53

    jquiggin :Terje, the Howard govenment’s inquiry into nuclear (which took a very optimistic view) showed clearly that without a substantial carbon price there was no prospect of nuclear power being commercial. Suggesting otherwise is just wishful thinking, of the kind which forms the whole basis of rightwing politics these days, evident in the belief that climate change can be wished away, the global financial crisis didn’t really happen, the Iraq war wasn’t a costly disaster etc etc

    I don’t think you read what I wrote. And why are you banging on about the Iraq war again? Seriously let it go. We both agree that the Iraq war was a dumb intitative. As in not a good idea. As in a waste of money. As in something that killed a lot of people and should not have happened. Going on about the Iraq war every time you disagree with me is a pretty unintelligent and lame response. Maybe I should mention that Hitler invaded Poland every time I disagree with you. I could you know. Would it help clarify things for you?

  54. gerard
    December 20th, 2009 at 14:47 | #54

    The chief G77 negotiator doesn’t seem to think the glass is half full.

    “This deal will definitely result in massive devastation in Africa and small island states. It has the lowest level of ambition you can imagine. It’s nothing short of climate change scepticism in action.

    “It locks countries into a cycle of poverty for ever. Obama has eliminated any difference between him and Bush.”

    What’s Plan B?

  55. Fran Barlow
    December 20th, 2009 at 15:03 | #55

    If it takes 100 trillion in one year just to stimulate OECD economies, what can you do with 100 billion over two years?

    Sorry Chris Warren, but you are out by orders of magnitude. The entire GDP of the planet probably isn’t 100 trillion (75-80 trillion is cited). Bad or doubtful debt is probably not more than 20 trillion and perhaps a lot less. The TARP money plus other measures approved in the US were about $1.1 trillion, of which some (perhaps 30%) has been paid back or will soon be paid back.

  56. gerard
    December 20th, 2009 at 15:05 | #56

    by the way John, you seem to have a lot of faith in Obama. Have you been following the health care debate? The Senate has finally come up with a health care bill – a bill that fines all Americans if they don’t buy junk “health insurance” from a private cartel with an anti-trust exemption. No cost controls, no public option, no guarantee that their bills will be paid beyond an annual cap, and best of all a sweeping anti-abortion law thrown in the mix. All to get 60 votes and prevent a filibuster.

    This is the Senate you expect to save the world’s climate, and this is the biggest Democratic majority that we’ll probably have in a generation. Obama is an empty suit – healthcare was even more central to his credibility than climate change. Meanwhile Sarah Palin leads the Republican Party. It’s utterly hopeless. The only hope in a popular uprising, but unfortunately that’s more likely to come from the teabaggers than anyone else.

  57. Fran Barlow
    December 20th, 2009 at 15:11 | #57

    @nanks

    I really wish economists would come up with a better way of allocating resources other than the one where resources go to those who can afford the highest price

    When resources are scarce you can ration by price or by quota or by administrative fiat.

    If you try to overcome scarcity in some commodities then the resources applied also have an opportunity cost, and then you will lower the effective price to all those best placed to exploit it. Cheaper roads mean that those with cars get an advantage over those who can’t afford them. It also means that those selling cars and car parts get an advantage. In our world it means the air breathed by everyone declines in quality because it’s a free tip.

    That’s also why we think putting a price on CO2 emissions is a good thing.

    Under my proposal, the wealthiest people bid each other up for bridge space and the money can go into developing public transport which all us plebs can use.
    For the record, four of the bridges I named are ones I use on a regular basis, and two are used by me on most working days.

  58. nanks
    December 20th, 2009 at 15:29 | #58

    thanks Fran I understand your point a bit. I guess that as I have more or less no faith left in govt as anything much more than front of house pr for wealth I think that in practice and in general rich people will pay a price they’ll barely notice and everyone else will get a lower quality of life.
    (It never occured to me that you were proposing some special privilege for yourself – that would be completely inconsistent with your posting history as I’ve read it)

  59. Donald Oats
    December 20th, 2009 at 15:41 | #59

    @TerjeP (say tay-a)
    Godwin! :-) :-)

    Sorry, every time I see the WWII I think of either Godwin’s Law or “Whatever you do, don’t mention the war!”
    Warped sense of humour, I guess…

  60. Donald Oats
    December 20th, 2009 at 16:03 | #60

    @gerard

    [Warning: may contain dark humour and offensive politics.]
    Plan B is to vote in the Liberals for their “strong” border protection! And to book early for holidays over at the Islands, before, you know, it becomes too waterlogged. Move on.

    More seriously, if the Liberal’s desired twiddling of the thermostat to toasty^fn1 goes to plan, and if CSIRO, NASA, UN IPPC, CRU and a bazillion other research organisations have it roughly correct, then we must accept that some hard choices concerning some nation states – especially low lying island states – are coming up whether we like it or not.

    Wait until the combination of deforestation due to urbanisation – both timber and clearance – and increasing temperatures reach an unholy alliance in South Australia. For example, the Adelaide Hills and the forests to the north and south of Adelaide are being rapidly destroyed to make room for houses. Apart from albedo changes and so on, the loss of these particular ecosystems will lead to changes in cloud formation and precipitation over the Adelaide and hills catchments. At what point the balance of probabilities tips to drier conditions over the Adelaide region, I don’t know, but given the large rise in average minimum temperatures, and in average maximum temperatures, it could be soon.

    Footnote 1: “twiddling of the thermostat to toasty”: that is, business as usual (BAU).

  61. Fran Barlow
    December 20th, 2009 at 16:05 | #61

    @nanks

    I guess that as I have more or less no faith left in govt as anything much more than front of house pr for wealth I think that in practice and in general rich people will pay a price they’ll barely notice and everyone else will get a lower quality of life.

    I understand the sentiment, and share it too, but right now the state, precisely because it does operate this way, allows exactly the thing you fear, whereas if the rights were auctioned off, they would notice the price because instaead of competing with the poor for road space, they’d be competing with the rich. As with the CO2 cap, having a low cap would be key.

    And do you think the M2 people would be the least bit happy with this? Nah uh … Many of their patrons would be making other arrangements. Poor Macq Bank …

  62. Donald Oats
    December 20th, 2009 at 16:07 | #62

    @Donald Oats

    Sorry, bit disjointed between second and last major sections. “Wait until the…” should be “Wait until local problems emerge, like the”

  63. Chris Warren
    December 20th, 2009 at 16:11 | #63

    Fran Barlow

    Yes, there was an extra zero – snuck in.

    Pity you cannot use Whiteout on VDU’s.

  64. Alice
    December 20th, 2009 at 17:09 | #64

    @Fran Barlow
    Fran, as nanks suggests when the government itself is no more than a front for wealth amd privilege what on earth makes you think a price rationing system on roads is going to see the government take that revenue and develop better public transport which would then provide an alternative method for the poor to get to work? My guess is, the way things are now, they would use the revenue to issue prospectuses and privatise the road itself…and applaud their windfalls (made more so when there is no investment in alternatives and citizens can be hered like so many trapped sheep). Of course the economy would sink and people would end up with more debt and more trouble but thats a minor concern when the government (or its ministers) wont be in power long enough to reap the consequences.

    here boys take another little piece of infrastructure.

    Why else wouldnt you think that given recent decades behaviour by governments in this country?

    Im with Nanks, but unfortunately for Nanks and I, it doesnt help to be right when the government has got it all wrong.

  65. Alice
    December 20th, 2009 at 17:10 | #65

    hered should read herded

  66. Fran Barlow
    December 20th, 2009 at 17:15 | #66

    @Alice

    If your standard boilerplate is “the government will simply [fill in preferred horror scenario] then you can’t really comment on public policy at all and you simply buttress the Terje’s of the world

  67. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    December 20th, 2009 at 17:45 | #67

    Fran – I’m unique. You can’t make me plural. ;-)

  68. Freelander
    December 20th, 2009 at 17:53 | #68

    @Fran Barlow

    Economist like to say that “the resources go to the highest value user” which is another way of saying who will pay the most. John Hewson, for example, is in favour of congestion pricing on the roads, because that way it would clear the roads of all the poor people who are currently clogging them. Also, they could probably use the extra revenue to lower his taxes.

  69. Alice
    December 20th, 2009 at 18:14 | #69

    @Fran Barlow
    Fran – I refer to the excess application of market driven policy over the past three decades under neo liberal ttrickle down ideologies – JQ has done more than just research the failings of this direction – he has discussed it in depth here – its half the reason we have the mess we now have – quite simply there has been far too much of it. I doubt whether continuing down the same pathway is wise – do you?

    I suspect you buttress Terje to push for further free marketisms far more more than I do.

  70. Alice
    December 20th, 2009 at 18:23 | #70

    @Fran Barlow
    I am not sorry Fran but I am with Nanks on this one; (the increasing price rationing of piecemeal short kilometre sections of once public roadways), not in agreement with you.

    Nor should privatised sections be made up of what was once public roadways by the blatant theft of a laneway here and there as has happened in Sydney. This is not beneficial to lower income and middle income earners (the types who will avoid the toll) or business either and not all businesses are large.

    There is a public and economic benefit, that is likely to far outweigh the rich slugging it out for a faster more hassle free drive to work (lets face it – the really rich are likely to take their time anyway) in keeping transport infrastructure costs low for everyone. If that means higher taxes (progressive of course) then so be it. We have a non minor inequality problem in as far as gains by the wealthiest to correct anyway.

    My stock standard boilerplate is the way it is, to correct for the far too liberal swing to pro market ideologies. If enough people start to think like me and I believe enough are starting to think like me….there willl be a return to some balance in the role of governments…and that is not as facilitator and ad men and sales commission agents for big private sector business over what was once common property.

    Sometimes I wonder what side of the fence you sit on Fran, like Nanks.

  71. Alice
    December 20th, 2009 at 18:25 | #71

    @Freelander
    Yes Freelander – agree. No matter how much they get, the rich want more and so oftenh its wrapped up in the kind of “free market price rationing lower taxes ideology” Fran has fallen for here.

  72. nanks
    December 20th, 2009 at 18:52 | #72

    actually I think Fran’s variant is a clever idea – the tax idea is lousy, but I can see the auction thing adds something – at least to the point of being worth a go. Let’s face it, we’re gonna be slugged with congestion taxes anyway, this might better.

    Better still is more radical although sadly unlikely – as Fran says, quota or rationing by fiat. Maybe something else.

    re congestion taxes they’re just another way of shifting costs to the average person from the people who have made stacks from population increase and property speculation (not that the big end speculates in the same way the low end does)

  73. Fran Barlow
    December 20th, 2009 at 18:55 | #73

    @Freelander

    If you excise the emotional content of your claim, in what senses is it good for “poor people to clog the road”? Are poor people advantaged by this? Not at all — quite the contrary. Would it be better if poor people were able to ride efficient and effective public transport, live closer to where they worked, spend less time commuting, not have to tie up large parts of their income paying for road infrastructure and cars?

    I’d say so.

    It’s worth pointing out that on Alice’s methodology, the rich always win, which means they must be winning as things stand. Any reform she might suggest could also be contrived to show that the rich will profit because this is hardwired into the system — so really, all she and those who follow her methodology can do is bemoan the lack of public utility in social arrangements.

    What she (and you) should show is how despite her/your reservations, a set of public policies could be made to work more equitably given the existing settings. Simply taking pot shots at alternatives may be emotionally satisfying but it’s ultimately futile.

  74. Fran Barlow
    December 20th, 2009 at 19:03 | #74

    @nanks

    Exactly Nanks … you argue that all the funds raised have to be applied either to build quality low cost housing inside the bridge area or used to augment and improve public transport along those routes or build low cost car parks (with housing) just outside the bridge area or dedicated bikeways and facilities for housing bikes and gear.

    You give everyone with a licence in Sydney 300 free bridge trips pa which they can use or sell at auction through an RTA site. That’s not enough to commute, but some people might carpool, or make an effort to use PT or cycle.

    Simple.

  75. paul walter
    December 20th, 2009 at 19:08 | #75

    Some sympathy for
    Freelander and alice, after watching that heroine of the Left, Penny Wong, trying to slot home blame for the Copenhagen conference onto those pesky third world countries, particularly some in Latin America.
    “Let them eat cake”.

  76. Alice
    December 20th, 2009 at 19:09 | #76

    @nanks
    Nanks – I dont think you realise exactly how radical we have become now. Terje’s world is already here despite Fran suggesting I help buttress a free market ideologist. Think of the old dept of public works which once employed thousands of people and was responsible for just that….public works.

    Well it exists no more except as a small shell of nominal individuals within the deot of commerce. It used to hire public engineers, architects, contruction managers, builders, inspectors and workers (in their thousands) in many cases for life.

    Now the government runs begging (to be ripped off I might add) by consultant private sector engineeers, consultant private sector planners, consultant private sector architects and at the end of these expensive processes to expensive private sector builders or owners like Macbank.

    Public works has gone. It is decimated. In its place so much private sector shenanigans and charlatanry and lawyers that if you think we are getting out of it any more cheaply than when the government once built the barns itself…then you are victim to the lie that there is a halfway measure between public and private construction. There isnt.

    Name me the last project the government built from top to bottom with its own employees on its own in this country? Name it?

    Already public onstruction no longer exists. It has already been desecrated. Even the repairs of the Pacific Hwy saw the government run to Abignano and likely pay a fortune for the privilege.

    That is the real tragedy. Terje’s world of private sector so called ‘public’ construction is already here, but the government trhough its own foolishness cant afford it and give Terje the tax cuts he still clamours for.

  77. Alice
    December 20th, 2009 at 19:12 | #77

    @nanks
    Nanks I wouldnt fall for Fran’s ideas if I was you. Its more of the same old. Fran has nice ideas about nuclear being cost effective as well…Id suggest to you Fran is alreadyn on Terje’s wavelength.

  78. Ernestine Gross
    December 20th, 2009 at 19:27 | #78

    Fran Barlow :@nanks

    I guess that as I have more or less no faith left in govt as anything much more than front of house pr for wealth I think that in practice and in general rich people will pay a price they’ll barely notice and everyone else will get a lower quality of life.

    I understand the sentiment, and share it too, but right now the state, precisely because it does operate this way, allows exactly the thing you fear, whereas if the rights were auctioned off, they would notice the price because instaead of competing with the poor for road space, they’d be competing with the rich. As with the CO2 cap, having a low cap would be key.
    And do you think the M2 people would be the least bit happy with this? Nah uh … Many of their patrons would be making other arrangements. Poor Macq Bank …

    Fran, I am writing regarding “.. if the rights were auctioned off, ..”. I am aware of some auction pricing literature. However, in the models I know, it is implicitly or explicitly modelled in a ‘real economy’ (ie no financial sector even though dollar signs appear in places). Would you kindly provide a reference where the otherwise ‘standard’ option pricing results are derived from an economy which has a financial sector, characterised by the issuance of various forms of financial securities?

  79. Ernestine Gross
    December 20th, 2009 at 19:28 | #79

    oops, this one went too quickly.

    Apologies, I resubmit in a second or two

  80. Ernestine Gross
    December 20th, 2009 at 19:33 | #80

    Fran Barlow :@nanks

    I guess that as I have more or less no faith left in govt as anything much more than front of house pr for wealth I think that in practice and in general rich people will pay a price they’ll barely notice and everyone else will get a lower quality of life.

    I understand the sentiment, and share it too, but right now the state, precisely because it does operate this way, allows exactly the thing you fear, whereas if the rights were auctioned off, they would notice the price because instaead of competing with the poor for road space, they’d be competing with the rich. As with the CO2 cap, having a low cap would be key.
    And do you think the M2 people would be the least bit happy with this? Nah uh … Many of their patrons would be making other arrangements. Poor Macq Bank …

    Fran, I am writing regarding “.. if the rights were auctioned off, ..”. I am aware of some auction pricing literature. However, in the models I know, the institutional environment is implicitly or explicitly assumed to be that of a ‘real economy’ (ie no financial sector even though dollar signs appear in places). Would you kindly provide a reference where the otherwise ’standard’ auction pricing results are derived from an economy which has a financial sector, characterised by the issuance of various forms of financial securities?

  81. Alice
    December 20th, 2009 at 19:40 | #81

    @paul walter
    Thats pretty pathetic Paul but what do we expext from the industrialised nations trying to do deals that sheet home their big energy sectors interests. Havent we seen the cop out here already?

  82. Alice
    December 20th, 2009 at 19:46 | #82

    Furthermore are Fran’s ideas of price auctioning on roads any different from medieaval times when the elites owned the lands and the passage across those lands, equipped by virtue of ownership to levy whatever charges and taxes they wanted to those who needed passage?

    What is so damn different about Macbank owning our roads and wanting tolls on them so that only those that can afford to pay the toll get to pass? Elitism at its best and here was me thinking we were more civilised than the great class divides of old europe?

    Pardon me – I must have got it all wrong, thinking I was living in civilised more equal modern Australia.

  83. SJ
    December 20th, 2009 at 20:01 | #83

    Terje Says:

    A fast breeder reactor will produce about 1 gram of nuclear waste per home per annum compared to the current 5 to 50 grams of unregulated nuclear waste produced by burning coal to power one home for a year. A nuclear reactor will produce no CO2 during operation and less CO2 during construction than solar or wind. And situated correctly a nuclear power plant can also desalinate water on a large scale using left over heat. We are the only nation in the G20 that is determined to stay outside the nuclear tent and this is strategically dumb.

    Some cites here might be helpful, otherwise people might accuse you of just making stuff up as you go along.

  84. rog
    December 20th, 2009 at 20:05 | #84

    It would possibly be worth while to hold a proper full scale enquiry into nuclear power, with input from a broader selection of the industry other than ANSTO. Otherwise it will always be dragged out as the default position to not address energy policy.

    Warren Buffett looked at nuclear power in the US, he spent $15M on a study and then pulled out saying it was way too expensive.

  85. iain
    December 20th, 2009 at 20:41 | #85

    @Hermit

    The bridging is only necessary through to around 2030, although obviously it would be extended if renewal take up is slower and/or if it made sense to continue with nat gas for economic reasons. I don’t know of anyone making the claim for 80% reduction by 2030 however.

    You’ll need to provide a cite. I don’t see anything on Brook’s cite that rebuts the core arguments of Diesendorf.

    Obviously, Brook’s disagrees with Diesendorf on nuclear. But as Diesendorf doesn’t include any nuclear at all in his mix this isn’t a rebuttal of the proposal.

  86. Alice
    December 20th, 2009 at 20:49 | #86

    @Fran Barlow
    Fran – what utter rot – what public spirit do you think exists these days in our governments that you imply “will direct those private fee price rationed road revenues” (which the poor no longer clog) into public services.

    A) they wont own those revenues – Macbank or some similar institution owns them.
    B) Even if the Govt does earn those revenues (which they wont) – what makes you think our government can construct a barn these days let alone alternative public transport for the poor (perhaps cattle trucks?)

    Public services dont exist. Dont you understand that? Its like speed cameras – its starts bringing in money and so they put more and more and more of the damn things up. It becomes a quick fix. Thats the problem. Public services have been privatised and the government just runs from one pps to the other and builds nothing at all. It doesnt even want to run what it does own, even if ot generates good revenue streams.

    This is an utter furphy of an argument. After they price ration roads they will price ration other methods of getting to work and Macbank laughs all the way to Macbank and the poor get poorer and end up staying home and planning to rob your house to eat.

    Yours Fran, is an obnxoiously elitist argument. I never quite realised how far you have sunk (although I had my suspicions – well founded it would seem).

    Why should the poor clog the roads? Because they built them with the sweat of their taxes and their parents taxes and they own them, thats why. They should also clog the roads because they are trying to get to work to earn money to support their families and spend it making our economy function better and rasining all our incomes (yes even the rich’s). The fact that they are clogged is the problem here and your solutionn is paltry, divisive and adds to the problem.

    Try reading up on the multiplier and aggregate demand. Try imagining the head of a dog wanting to run without its body being able to keep up with where the head thinks its going. Beware not the person our economy feeds but the person it starves.

  87. gerard
    December 20th, 2009 at 21:22 | #87

    @Donald Oats

    Plan B is to vote in the Liberals for their “strong” border protection! And to book early for holidays over at the Islands, before, you know, it becomes too waterlogged. Move on.

    Yes, I was thinking that Plan B involved building some whopping big immigration detention centers for when some Pacific Islander “illegals” turn up once their countries sink. The Nauruans can be the kapos.

  88. SJ
    December 20th, 2009 at 22:37 | #88

    Fran’s argument re congestion pricing falls apart once it is recognised that it’s just a form of monopoly rent extraction. It has nothing to do with either Pareto optimality or Coasian externality pricing.

  89. Fran Barlow
    December 20th, 2009 at 22:58 | #89

    You know Alice, I can see why you get moderated. I give you a perfect invitation to explain how what you say differs from an extended whine, and you pass. I invite you to explain why your theory of public policy shouldn’t embolden Terje and you evade. You have no account of how the inequities you object to can be remedied and yet you profess to say what side of the fence you suspect I’m on? For pity’s sake!

    I, rather more than you, understand well the relationship between the state and the ruling class. It’s not metaphysical as your formulation implies. It’s rooted in the defence of property, but this is not something that presses itself insistently upon its servants and if it were, there would be no hope. There could be none.

    Class rule is incoherent and the attempt to consistently defend property thus impossible.

    One wants to exploit conflict to open up space for others. Of that you have no clue.

  90. Freelander
    December 21st, 2009 at 00:54 | #90

    @Fran Barlow

    Poor people clog the roads because there are more of them. If congestion pricing happened then because poor people don’t ‘value’ using the roads as much as rich people ‘value’ using the roads it would leave the roads free for the rich. And the revenue could be used to give the rich a tax break. Clearly the rich ‘value’ everything more highly than the poor, because they have more money. Remember that the next time you hear an economist talking about resources going to their ‘highest value use’ or the ‘highest value user’. If you talk about ‘highest value use’ and ‘highest value user’ it sounds much more dispassionate and almost scientific. Isn’t economics wonderful?

  91. Freelander
    December 21st, 2009 at 00:57 | #91

    This sort of analysis also applies to the third world. Given that they don’t have any money they don’t ‘value’ anything very highly. Consequently, they don’t really require any compensation at all for global warming, which was the thrust of the early offers at Copenhagen. “Here. Have $10 billion and consider yourself lucky!”

  92. Freelander
    December 21st, 2009 at 01:04 | #92

    It is true that support of public transport is an alternative that would reduce congestion and a congestion tax could be used to support public transport. But if the revenue were wasted for that, where would the rich get their tax cut from? And if you put on a congestion tax, then the poor will either have to take buses or trams or trains or walk. Hence, there is no need for public transport support.

  93. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    December 21st, 2009 at 05:27 | #93

    Some cites here might be helpful, otherwise people might accuse you of just making stuff up as you go along.

    I got a figure of 1 tonne of uranium fuel for a 1 GW IFR reactor per annum from Barry Brook. He shows his working at the comment link below:-

    http://bravenewclimate.com/2009/12/13/ifr-fad-2/#comment-39839

    As a rule of thumb a household requires an average 1kW to operate. That is 1 millionth as much power. So that is where I get the 1 gram per annum figure.

    From Barrys article (above the comment I linked) in the second last paragraph he indicates that using lignite coal to produce the same energy as an IFR would require a mass of coal 5 million times greater than the mass of uranuim in an IFR. He got his figures from a Wikipedia article he cites earlier in the article. For our notional home that is 5 million grams of coal per annum. Given that coal is between 1 and 10 ppm uranium and doing the math I arrive at the conculsion that buring the equivalent coal liberates between 5 and 50 grams of uranium per annum.

    Thus my claim:-

    A fast breeder reactor will produce about 1 gram of nuclear waste per home per annum compared to the current 5 to 50 grams of unregulated nuclear waste produced by burning coal to power one home for a year.

  94. Fran Barlow
    December 21st, 2009 at 06:32 | #94

    @Freelander

    All you and Alice are saying amihnts to this — all else being equal, rich people do better than poor people

    Gosh … who’d a ‘thunk it?

    What you don’t explain is how such imequity can be mitigated. Examined by reference to resource flows what I proposed would have given the lion’s share of benefits to relatively less privileged people at the expense of relatively privileged people.

    I find it perverse that you seem to think that the state knows and always serves the wealthy in the way that most exacerbates inequity, and yet you seem to be opting for solutions that make it most easy for the state to exercise discretion.

    Odd …

  95. fred
    December 21st, 2009 at 07:27 | #95

    TrerjeP #43
    What is an IFR?
    Cos I was under the impression that, if it is an Integral Fast Reactor, there are none in commercial operation.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Integral_Fast_Reactor
    “At present there are no Integral Fast Reactors in commercial operation.”

  96. Ernestine Gross
    December 21st, 2009 at 07:27 | #96

    Fran Barlow,

    1. You said somewhere that one can ration scarce resources either by price or by quantity (yes, this corresponds to ECON 1). But queuing is also a rationing mechanism.

    2. Any chance of getting a reply to my #30 above?

  97. Alice
    December 21st, 2009 at 07:36 | #97

    @Fran Barlow
    On Fran’s arguments I agree with you SJ. It is this apalling attitude of well “oh lets go further down market road shall we – if we put a price on roads that will help unclog the roads by removing the poor who clog the roads.” May as well say bugger the poor.

    She claims this system will give “the lions share of benefits to relatively less privilieged people at the expense of relatively privileged people”.

    Well , who’d a thunk that? The poor now take longer and use more petrol to get to work because they cant afford the roads they once owned as public good (that we once all shared). This is greed and self interest masked as concern, nothing more.

    Fails to explain that she relies on the state to administer and divert these resources gains as well (but not to “public” trains is my bet after the fancy price mechanism gets whacked on those as well) yet accuses me of reliance on the state to solve problems.

    As Menzies said Fran…..there is no difference between public and private investment. So what is your problem with it? You sit in in the very same boat as Terje Fran, as far as I can see.

  98. Ernestine Gross
    December 21st, 2009 at 07:57 | #98

    JQ, One way to read the outcome is: The world leaders (US and China) have agreed that there is a problem called anthropogenic global warming and that the consequences may affect developing countries more than others. Therefore they offer a side payment of xmillion dollars (without legally binding signatures?) to finance (their) technology transfer.

    Question: How can the US offer any ‘side-payment’ without borrowing its currency from China? (How many side-payments are there?)

    Question: Is China now a developed country (member of G70) or is it a developing country and therefore does not wish to make the same commitments in 1 month time as the EU and Australia?

    Clear outcome in terms of influence of science on politics: Dr (Physics) Merkel won on the “at most 2 degrees C”, Senator Minchin lost.

  99. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    December 21st, 2009 at 08:01 | #99

    Fred – true there are no integral fast reactors currently in operation. However there are fast reactors in operation. Also sometimes called fast breeder reactors or simply breeder reactors. Humanity has about 300 reactor years experience with fast breeder reactors so they are not exactly hypothetical. An IFR is just a safer version of a fast breeder.

  100. Alice
    December 21st, 2009 at 08:26 | #100

    @Fran Barlow
    You also say “You have no account of how the inequities you object to can be remedied and yet you profess to say what side of the fence you suspect I’m on? For pity’s sake!”

    You dont listen very well Fran. Im suggesting the Government actually get to and build better public transport now and that the government hires directly its own engineers, architects and labour and gets its act together and unwinds the stripping of the public works departments in the mistaken interests of free market ideologies. It is funded with our taxes and a price, but not an exclusive price and something constructive actually happens (something is built). This instead of the endless and nauseating spin of private sector consulations, plan drawings up, costings, media spin announcements of a new infrastructure project that is in reality only a hideously expensive and wasteful set of paper plans, especially when they are shelved one after the other as in NSW.

    The NSW State Govt stands out as the classic example of why not to follow the pps privatisation neo liberal price rationing mechanism model. Because nothing gets done but a lot of hangers on and spin merchants make a lot of money from my taxes doing something intangible that never physically materialises. In the time they have been in office we could have had an efficient pyublic train system built in Sydney but no, all we have to show for it is a few measly toll roads and a bad case of imminent logjam (along with the increased congestion emmissions).

    When public objection is so high with NSW Labor and QLD state for its continuing privatisaions and blind market ideology acceptance, its time you and yours likemindeds sat up and listened to those objections. We have had public investment in this country before and its a policy decision (and one that can just as easily be reimplemented as it was abandoned). Id rather not wait for Macbank to deliver after it finally gets the price it wants by price rationing. We will be waiting a long time. We have been waiting a long time.

    What difference is a higher price on the roads to a higher tax to construct better public transport options to the wealthy Fran? The roads would still be “unclogged of the poor” as you want – its just that the rich will pay more for the pleasure of the better transport, and the poor still contribute and get to use the roads (but less overall will use them if there is an efficient public train system) and wont be thrown off just so to unclog them for the rich.

    That way – all pay according to their ability to pay, there is still a price on the new transport, it happens faster, it provides for the future, and thats a damn sight more equitable and useful and less of a divisive sledgehammer than your price rationing system on existing roads.

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