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Phoning it in

April 7th, 2011

Not long ago, I noted that Opposition Environment spokesman Greg Hunt was out by a factor of five in his estimate of the effects of a carbon price on the average household’s electricity bill. Now Tim Lambert at Deltoid catches him out by a factor of (at least) 100. And last week Lenore Taylor caught him circulating the latest delusionist talking point (about France dropping a carbon tax) in a press release, hastily correcting it an hour later when he realised that his “news” was a year old.

Three absurd errors in the space of a few weeks is starting to look like a pattern. What gives here? Hunt is one of the less silly members of the Opposition front bench, so I think the only explanation is that he is, as they say in the movie business, “phoning it in”.

If Hunt wants to stay in his job he has to oppose a policy he knows to be the right one, while advocating a nonsensical supposed alternative which exists only because Abbott can’t afford to say he will do (next to) nothing about climate change if he gets in, though of course that’s exactly what will happen.

And those on the Liberal side of politics who are paying any attention to this issue are mostly “sceptics”, that is, credulous fools who’ve already swallowed bucketloads of nonsense from Monckton, Carter, Plimer and others, despite ample and easily accessible refutations from scientists who know what they are talking about[1]. While they would scream blue murder about a misplaced comma in an IPCC document, or an out-of-context phrase lifted from an email, nothing as trivial as an error of a factor of five (or a hundred or a thousand) will worry them as long as it comes from their side of the fight (I was going to write “debate”, but this would imply that there was some element of rational argument).

So, from Hunt’s point of view, he might as well take it easy and churn out whatever nonsense comes to hand. As has been shown by the non-reaction to the absurdities I’ve listed, no one but a few bloggers will care.

fn1. Within this group, I guess I prefer those for whom “sceptic” means “I’ll believe whatever suits me politically” to those who, in the face of all this profess to be “still making up their minds” or “unable to judge”. Both are displaying absurd credulity regarding the nonsensical “evidence” put forward by the anti-science side and a massive over-estimation of their own reasoning powers regarding a mass of scientific literature they have never read and never intend to. But the first group are at least clearer about their motives.

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  1. Alice
    April 12th, 2011 at 20:08 | #1

    @quokka
    says “at the moment there is over $20 billion dollars sitting in the fund ”
    Given the information above and exactly how many reactors are sitting with massive amounts of spent fuel rods stored in their attics, it may well be too little too late Quokka and that money is better spent decommissioning the lot. The government should not have to so heavily subsidise any industry to make it viable and nor should human beings have to sacrifice their lives and livelihoods to make it viable. It is quite reasonable to suggest that in my childrens lifetimes and theirs, the true magnitide of the horror that is nuclear energy will visit our offspring and leave great gaping contaminated swathes of land across the globe.

    That money is better spent putting nuclear and its ugly byproducts out of business. Now.

  2. April 14th, 2011 at 18:15 | #2

    JQ
    Sorry for slow response but I’ve been otherwise occupied. Of the two links I gave the first: http://thehill.com/blogs/e2-wire/677-e2-wire/155101-report-gas-from-fracking-worse-than-coal-on-climate gives access to a pre-publication version of a jointly authored (Robert W. Howarth, Renee Santoro, and Anthony Ingraffea) paper to be published in ‘Climatic Change.’

    Abstract reads as follows:

    “We evaluate the greenhouse gas footprint of natural gas obtained by high-volume
    hydraulic fracturing from shale formations, focusing on methane emissions. Natural gas
    is composed largely of methane, and 3.6% to 7.9% of the methane from shale-gas
    production escapes to the atmosphere in venting and leaks over the life-time of a well.
    These methane emissions are at least 30% more than and perhaps more than twice as
    great as those from conventional gas. The higher emissions from shale gas occur at the
    time wells are hydraulically fractured — as methane escapes from flow-back return fluids
    – and during drill out following the fracturing. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas,
    with a global warming potential that is far greater than that of carbon dioxide, particularly
    over the time horizon of the first few decades following emission. Methane contributes
    substantially to the greenhouse gas footprint of shale gas on shorter time scales,
    dominating it on a 20-year time horizon. The footprint for shale gas is greater than that
    for conventional gas or oil when viewed on any time horizon, but particularly so over 20
    years. Compared to coal, the footprint of shale gas is at least 20% greater and perhaps
    more than twice as great on the 20-year horizon and is comparable when compared over
    100 years.”

    Note that the paper applies to shale gas (coal seam gas) only but coming from Queensland perhaps that is exactly what you wish to focus on. This blight seems reday to spread through NSW and we are threatened with it here in Victoria also.
    Second link: http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/energy/25058/ gives access to Howarth’s original paper and more importantly the corrected version.

    There are many references at the end of the joint paper some of which may be helpful to you.
    I sincerely hope this is useful. I don’t have further references but can try to dig some up over the next few days if you are interested. It is important that credible voices are raised against this very destructive industry. We are likely to be confronted with a headlong rush to replace coal fired generation with gas which will be promoted as a cure-all for our climate woes for the next decade or so. It will be very difficult to stand against the coal seam gas industry which is fast becoming our next extractive energy success story.

  3. April 14th, 2011 at 18:28 | #3

    JQ
    The jointly authored paper seems useful to me. Just in case you can’t access from the links I posted I have emailed a pdf to your UQ email address.

  4. April 15th, 2011 at 11:37 | #4

    JQ
    This link showed up today http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/55656.html It gives links to three additional references. One, a Briefing Paper from the National Toxics Network “Hydraulic Fracturing in Coal Seam Gas Mining: The Risks to Our Health, Communities, Environment and Climate”, Prepared by: Dr Mariann Lloyd-Smith and Dr Rye Senjen, April 2011. dealing with the general health impacts of Coal Seam Gas extraction looks as though it might be pretty useful. It also made it clear to me that shale gas and coal seam gas are not (as I had believed) different names for the same thing. Important aspects of the extraction process are the same for both types of gas and it seems as though their greenhouse gas implications are similar however.

    Hope this is useful

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