Home > Oz Politics, Science > Phoning it in

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. April 7th, 2011 at 19:04 | #1

    Hunt’s errors are unforgiveable as a matter of pure politics. He knows that there is a widespread disbelief that the Coalitions “burying carbon” policies will not work and he knows this issue will come up in the course of political discussion. Both the question of the area of land needed, the costs of dealing with carbon in this way (The Coalition’s estimates seem too low) and, quite frankly, where the carbon is coming from. As an effective minister he needs to be informed. If he is fudging or confused because he knows the policy is a dud – as you suggest – then he must be considered a total waste of space.

    I read that his PhD thesis had something to do with carbon pricing. If this is the level of his understanding I think it must be interesting to look at.

  2. CJ
    April 7th, 2011 at 19:26 | #2

    To describe him as one of the less silly members of the opposition frontbench isn’t much of a compliment.

    In my view, he is a fool whose acts are driven by political expediency and nothing else. His actions suggest that he is not committed to good policy, and lacks a coherent world view.

    Deleted – I’ve pushed the envelope a bit myself on this, but I’m going to prohibit non-PG rhyming slang from now on – JQ

  3. Jill Rush
    April 7th, 2011 at 21:13 | #3

    Even though they are talking nonsense I find it hard to believe how many chain emails I am receiving from people who should know better quoting Plimer or Monckton or other delusionists. Just today I received one that said that the climate is cooling and that the alphabet volcano undid all of the work anyone has ever done on reducing CO2 emissions.

    These types of denial emails are being widely circulated and usually refer to the uselessness of a tax on carbon.There is a deliberate viral campaign going on based on the premise that if people receive an email from family and/or friends that they are more likely to believe that rather than other information they receive in other ways. There doesn’t appear to be a similar campaign by those who know the reality.

  4. stockingrate
    April 7th, 2011 at 21:26 | #4

    I suggest the following line of questioning be freely applied before during or after technical/scientific climate change statements from politicians, media types
    “Mr/Ms who is your main source of climate change science and how did you choose them?”

  5. April 7th, 2011 at 21:39 | #5

    Really Stockingrate?

    How has that worked out? Positively?

    I prefer: “Don’t insult me.”

  6. Alice
    April 7th, 2011 at 21:50 | #6

    @Jill Rush
    Its the spam active libthugrugrats Jill.

  7. Freelander
    April 7th, 2011 at 22:55 | #7


    Wouldn’t it be nice if journalists actually asked the coalition some hard questions about climate change? But that would be expecting too much.

    Hard to disagree with the comment allegedly made today, that “If my daughter came home and said she had become a prostitute, I would be relieved that at least she hadn’t said she’d become a journalist.”

  8. Martin
    April 7th, 2011 at 23:45 | #8

    The Chinese are watching what Australia is doing to see if it works (so who says what Australia does won’t have any effect?):

    “…Xie Zhenhua, vice chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission, the State economy planning body, said that China has launched pilot carbon emission trading schemes…

    “Xie mentioned this information while speaking at a seminar in Australia this week. The Australian Government is also considering imposing a carbon tax. However, the Australian Opposition parties are opposing the tax, claiming that other countries are not taking any steps to control the rate of carbon emissions which could hurt the Australian economy.”

    Shenzhen Daily

  9. April 8th, 2011 at 00:35 | #9

    I doubt the last mistake was actually Hunt’s. Almost certainly it reflects on the quality of staff he employs. They might be responsible for the first one as well, although the confusion over square kilometres and kilometres square is presumably all his own.

    If he does have dud staff the interesting question is whether that reflects his lack of nous in choosing them, or whether the talent pool in the Liberals is so shallow he couldn’t get anyone decent to apply.

  10. Donald Oats
    April 8th, 2011 at 01:21 | #10

    Remember, Hunt’s staff probably have performance benchmarks to meet, such as “Must demonstrate denier skills by generating at least 1 signficant misleading and factually incorrect statement (about AGW) per week.” I’d say they are on target…

    PS: AGW = Anthropogenic Global Warming, for newbies.

  11. Ikonoclast
    April 8th, 2011 at 08:47 | #11

    The AGW denialists’ campaign is flagrantly dishonest and delusional in about equal proportions. Their hysteria cloaks (I think) their own rational fear that the AGW science is correct. The denial increases in proportion to the expanding kernel of rational terror.

  12. Ken Fabos
    April 8th, 2011 at 11:24 | #12

    With the apparent damage to Labor in polls and nsw election to egg them on, the Coalition looks unlikely to change their essentially anti-action position. I’m actually a bit surprised more aren’t proclaiming their denial of climate science more openly although the most senior figures continue to do so by proxy – giving tacit support to the more reality challenged views expressed by others. I suppose the Coalition has to walk a fine line; they have to know that a big bloc of middle Australian voters do think the climate problem is real and the most potent wedge is Labor’s change from stated pre-election commitments. Too openly denying the problem and strongly aligning with denialism could see them wedging themselves.

    I’m also a bit surprised that Labor appears unable to argue their case effectively and can’t help wondering if they really have their hearts in it. That could be a result of the filtering efforts of mainstream media distorting perceptions but I have trouble believing their ranks are solidly behind this issue or even that there isn’t significant opposition – if more pragmatically delayist than denialist – simmering quietly. Especially given the slump in polls the same forces that didn’t want Rudd (or Gillard) making this the election issue are probably still of the same mind with respect to the next election.

    I have noticed a growing vigour to anti-AGW campaigning that suggests increasing organisational support. GetUp!, being one of the prominent activist orgs, gets so bombarded with anti-agw commentary that supporters appear outnumbered. If the opposite were not the case I doubt such focused efforts would be made.

  13. PeterS
    April 8th, 2011 at 13:09 | #13

    Ken (@12) – I think Labor’s main problem is Martin Ferguson. I will be very surprised if anything useful occurs while he is still in his pivotal position.

  14. iain
    April 8th, 2011 at 14:17 | #14


    Hunt has never done a PhD.

    He wrote a master’s thesis related to carbon pricing 20 years ago. Whilst this hardly makes him the most expert voice on this matter, coupling this with his other qualifications would suggest he is now being very, very lazy in regards to both his ability and his duties.

  15. Ken Fabos
    April 8th, 2011 at 16:28 | #15

    I didn’t want to give the impression I thought outright denialism doesn’t exist within the Labor party but I think delayism (or perhaps it should be hotpotatoism) is probably the more potent influence. A Coalition that lacks sincerity on the issue yet still proposes big spending to reach 2020 targets ought to be an easy target for effective criticism yet perhaps letting that insincerity leak through is cleverer than it appears, allowing them to court the emboldened deniers whilst not outright alienating those who think the issue matters. All the while hip pocket nerve politics is pushed hard. In all this they have powerful lobby groups helping push the economic alarmist line – clawing back some some of the exclusive support from mining, industry and commerce that used to belong to their side of the House

  16. April 8th, 2011 at 16:32 | #16

    This is all profoundly depressing. In the US the House of Representatives has voted down 240-184 an amendment from Henry Waxman (D-CA) to a Republican bill intended to strip the Environmental Protection Agency’s power to regulate greenhouse gases. Waxman’s amendment stated:
    “Congress accepts the scientific findings of the Environmental Protection Agency that climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for public health and welfare.” The GOP now officially rejects that ‘climate change is occurring’ and/or that it ‘is caused largely by human activity’ and/or that it ‘poses significant risks for public health and welfare’. http://thehill.com/blogs/e2-wire/677-e2-wire/154445-house-votes-down-climate-science-amendment
    In Australia the COALition sticks to its absurd pretend program despite the fact that the Grattan Institute says rebate and grant schemes to reduce pollution would cost $100 billion by 2020 to meet pollution reduction targets, without a carbon tax or an emissions trading scheme (ETS).http://www.theage.com.au/environment/climate-change/climate-action-programs-could-cost-100b-20110407-1d5op.html
    Adam Morton, writing in the Age reveals that according to an analysis by ClimateWorks “inaction on climate change over the past year has increased the cost to households and businesses of meeting Australia’s minimum 2020 greenhouse target by $1 billion.”
    Josh Gordon in the Age reported that “the Baillieu government appears to have dumped Victoria’s renewable energy targets after a scathing audit report found the proportion of the state’s power generated using solar, wind and hydro had barely increased over the past decade despite hundreds of millions of dollars of government spending.”
    Now JQ makes it clear that Greg Hunt has been caught out cynically attempting to deceive the electorate and that Abbott gets his climate change attitudes from Andrew Bolt.
    Neither of our major political groupings – either Federally or in Victoria – has made a serious attempt at climate change mitigation. Further: Barring some sort of miracle in the Federal Multi Party Committee on Climate Change, neither of them seems to have the slightest intention of ever taking effective action.

  17. Ikonoclast
    April 9th, 2011 at 08:27 | #17

    The Labor Party is deliberately delaying action. They are in the pockets of Big Coal.

    “Analysis by the Greens http://www.democracy4sale.org project of donations disclosed to the Australian Electoral Commission show that in the two annual disclosure periods leading up to the 2007 federal election, resource companies directed nearly $2 million worth of donations to Labor and the Coalition.

    The Coalition accepted $1,097,500 in donations from resource companies, significantly higher than Labor’s $869,200 in donations.” – ABC Drum Opinion.

    Have a look at;


  18. Ken Fabos
    April 9th, 2011 at 10:45 | #18

    In the sense of making a start the Carbon Tax has my support, yet in the sense of Labor delaying any commitment to the kind of action that would be sufficient I have agree. No way will what we get (if it even gets up) be anything like what is needed and, of course, it will impact fossil fuel exports only marginally. Domestically the intention appears to give advantage to future investment in gas over coal, which seems to be allowing use of coal reserves that were otherwise not economically viable whilst the export industry continues it’s expansion of coal, natural gas and now coal seam gas. And I don’t see gas as a sufficient alternative; it’s potential role as backup to renewables will, I believe, be no more than justification and once built, it’s operators will resist the kind of intermittent operation that would entail. A carbon price that makes gas unprofitable except in intermittent operation as backup to renewables looks outside the realm of political reality; I’m inclined to think we’ll see at least another few electoral cycles of greenwash at best and, with a big media, big mining, big industry backed Coalition resurgence, a wind back of support even for that. Is it even possible to elect a Government that is committed to domestic international efforts to make Australia’s export fossil fuel industry unviable?

    It will take clear and unmistakable climate change harms to our insulated from reality complacency to undermine the increasingly well organised campaign against action. And by then action will likely be much more expensive and with climate impacted economics, more difficult to fund. I’d like to be wrong in thinking Australia will need to be really hurting before we see a real will to act but I’m struggling to muster any optimism that we will act before extensive and irreversible harm is done.

  19. Hermit
    April 9th, 2011 at 12:26 | #19

    I tend to agree with the views put by Ken Fabos. The carbon tax may be emasculated by giveaways or it may have major effects. One of those unwelcome effects is to switch from coal to gas for baseload generation. Ideally gas should be conserved for frugal use in peaking power plants, as a diesel substitute in heavy vehicles and for the myriad of current uses such as fertiliser production and home heat. I fear Australia will repeat the mistakes of the UK in squandering its gas resource.

    Thus I see the short to medium term effect of the carbon tax as increased giveaways, minor belt tightening and myopic substitution of gas for domestic coal. On top of that is the absurdity of increasing coal exports so that quite of bit of increased global atmospheric CO2 can be attributed to Australian carbon. Carbon pricing is an essential first start. However I would cut the giveaways, allow nuclear power subject to safeguards and carbon tax coal and LNG exports. Devise a protocol whereby foreign governments (not private companies) can ask for the export carbon tax to be reimbursed for green programs.

  20. Ernestine Gross
    April 9th, 2011 at 14:29 | #20


    The difficulty is, Hermit, that the only reliable safeguards to nuclear power is no nuclear power.

  21. Alice
    April 9th, 2011 at 15:00 | #21

    @Ernestine Gross
    Ernestine. That is absolutely correct.

    I am now very worried about the utter stupidity of mankind to even consider nuclear energy in the first place and how we now have the world peppered with nuclear power plants which will get old, which will decay, that cannot be safely “decomissioned” because the spent rods dont cool for half a century and there is apparently nowhere to take them but mostly because humans invest in them, manage them and regulate them and humans are more than capable of lying through their teeth.

    We dont leave a nice world for our children and grandchildren. They will be lucky to survive the world we do leave them if Fukshima doesnt poison us all slowly first.

  22. Hermit
    April 9th, 2011 at 16:50 | #22

    @Ernestine Gross
    The problem I see is how to get half or more of low carbon energy needs that are available 24/7/365 for decades at a stretch. Even Fukushima ran relatively glitch free for 40 years and all 3 recent deaths were due to mechanical injury, not radiation poisoning.

    I don’t buy the general line about making do with radically less energy. We have the next El Nino and Peak Oil looming down on us. We’ll need more not less energy to cover population growth, desalination, air conditioning and electric transport.

  23. Alice
    April 9th, 2011 at 18:07 | #23

    There is not a thing wrong with solar except that the electricity companies dont like it and cant maintain a monopoly control over it and governments arent prepared to invest public money in fixing grids so they can handle the huge day time returns from solar, and want electricity companies to fix all their infrastructure needs, and they wont raise taxes to invest in a better grid, despite the fact that it could solve both sustainable transport and energy needs, and the profligate wealthy are too busy shopping for designer labels and enjoying their massive tax cuts to care, and the tail is wagging the dog and there is plenty of wagging going on about nuclear. But no one except corporates who have a vested interest (and they are mostly electricity companies) want nuclear.

    Enough with the lies already….

  24. Ernestine Gross
    April 9th, 2011 at 18:23 | #24


    Like you, other people can also construct a problem for which they can’t find a solution other than the one they want to have. But not everybody is into this game – furtunately.

    None of what you said contradicts what I wrote. You could easily see this if you were to liberate yourself from the measurement of harm you are using.

    Do you know, for example, that tobacco is radioactive? Do you know that smoking about 30 cigarettes a day amounts to approximately 14000 ?siv per year? This exposure is approximately equal to the exposure at the edge of the 20 km exclusion zone at Fukushima per day. Cigarette smoking has been baned from enclosed public (including work) places. This makes sense because of the serious negative externality of smoking. A heavy tax has been placed on cigarettes, in particular in Australia, with the alleged aim to reduce cigarette consumption. It makes no sense to tax cigarettes and banning smoking in enclosed public places while advocating nuclear power. So please spare me the hyp about the sky is going to fall in if “we” (unidentified) don’t go for nuclear. Nuclear isn’t even commercially viable without a tax equivalent to that on cigarettes.

  25. Ernestine Gross
    April 9th, 2011 at 18:24 | #25

    ?siv shoudl have come out as the symbole for micro siv.

  26. SJ
    April 9th, 2011 at 21:08 | #26

    Just an aside, but the S.I. symbol for Sievert is Sv, and it’s acceptable to use the letter “u” in place of the greek mu, i.e. uSv.

  27. Ken Fabos
    April 10th, 2011 at 09:11 | #27

    Coal seam gas reserves don’t look to be so limited as LPG and they aren’t being developed as any kind of low emissions replacement for coal even if it gets promoted as such; it’s the same players engaged in expansion fossil fuel extraction and use and they have the full and active support of Australian governments to do so. Back when PM Rudd was telling the UN that international efforts were needed on emissions I could only interpret his urging greater efforts to develop ‘Clean Coal as code for ‘Australia will continue to expand mining and export of fossil fuels without restraint’. I don’t think anything has changed since he was replaced.

  28. Hermit
    April 10th, 2011 at 09:54 | #28

    Alice, EG I’m going to claim green rank since I managed to go nearly three years without paying an electricity bill due to solar (alas the weather is now more cloudy) and 80% of my mobility comes from biofuel, specifically converted frying oil. My conclusion is that these are dead ends or at best small niches. No I don’t think the sky is going to fall in just yet but I do think we are going to be paying a lot more for petrol, gas and electricity without commensurate CO2 cuts. There has to be something that will make meaningful inroads into coal and expensive gas. Maybe hamsters on treadmills will step up to the mark.

  29. Ernestine Gross
    April 10th, 2011 at 10:00 | #29

    Thanks to SJ’s @25, I re-read my post @23.

    Correction. The segment”…smoking about 30 cigarettes a day amounts to approximately 14000 ?siv per year? This exposure is approximately equal to the exposure at the edge of the 20 km exclusion zone at Fukushima per day.” should read:

    ” … smoking about 30 cigarettes a day amounts to approximately 14000 milli-Sievert per year. This exposure is approximately equal to the exposure at the edge of the 20 km exclusion zone at Fukushima over 10 days using the measurement on 5 April 2011 as the daily measurement.”

    These approximations are from information made available to the general public to provide an indication of exposure levels ranging from dentures, to x-rays to natural background radiation at sea level and at 3000m height, to cigarette smoking, to a total nuclear meltdown. Source: http://www.sueddeutsche.de/wissen/radioaktive-strahlung-vom-roentgen-bis-zum-super-gau-1.1081825-5

  30. Ernestine Gross
    April 10th, 2011 at 11:12 | #30

    Hermit, in contrast to you, I don’t claim ‘green rank’ as yet.

    I am not convinced by your argument. Surely, if a lot of people behave as you describe you behave, ghg emissions will be much reduced significantly (even without hamsters on dreadmills).

    Replacing one environmental problem (burning fossil fuel) with another one (nuclear power) is not a good idea.

  31. April 10th, 2011 at 11:29 | #31

    Gas – the smart fossil fuel everyone in power is pinning their hopes on – is almost certainly no better than coal from the point of view of GHG emissions when the entire cycle of recovery transportation and combustion is taken into account. One account of this can be found here:www.technologyreview.com/…/GHG.emissions.from.Marcellus.Shale.April12010%20draft.pdf
    The environmental effects of Coal seam gas extraction are hugely problematic and likely to be seen as socially unacceptable in Australia. The problems of transitioning to a clean renewable carbon constrained future economy are enormously complex but not insurmountable. My hard drive is crammed with various schemes for moving Australia from where we are to where we have to be. The problems are to do with lack of political will, formidable industry resistance to the changes and reliance on ‘economistic’ world views that ignore subsidies to the status quo and reject alternatives on the grounds that what we are doing now is cheaper. For anyone interested in models of the transformation we must undergo if we are to avoid destroying our environment, I recommend the Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan that can be downloaded from http://www.beyondzeroemissions.org/

  32. John Quiggin
    April 10th, 2011 at 14:12 | #32

    “almost certainly” is overstating it. From your source

    Howarth’s analysis, however, is just a preliminary one. He’s already found one major error in his original calculations. “I blew it,” he says, by not including the impact of methane leaks from coal mining.

  33. Alice
    April 10th, 2011 at 16:15 | #33

    Hermit exactly what kind of biofuel is giving your treadmill mobility?

  34. Alice
    April 10th, 2011 at 16:22 | #34

    It wouldnt by any chance be tetrahydracannabinol would it? Im having a hard time understanding pro nuclear advocates especially ones who come and tell us about their “green rank” so Im not ruling anything out.

  35. derrida derider
    April 10th, 2011 at 16:22 | #35

    Freelander@7, that comment about journalists was not made today – it’s actually a quote from Schopenhauer

  36. Freelander
    April 10th, 2011 at 21:25 | #36

    @derrida derider

    OK, was allegedly repeated without attribution. I couldn’t find a link to Schopenhauer and the quote. Could you provide one, thanks?

    He seems to have provided a lot of good quotables. I like “The person who writes for fools is always sure of a large audience.” http://thinkexist.com/quotation/the_person_who_writes_for_fools_is_always_sure_of/297068.html.

    Seems to explain why some otherwise inexplicable bestsellers, are.

  37. quokka
    April 10th, 2011 at 23:24 | #37


    Spent fuel can be moved from spent fuel pools to dry cask storage after at least one year – not 50 years or more.


  38. April 11th, 2011 at 13:19 | #38

    You are right Howarth never claimed more that preliminary status for his work and did admit to overlooking data in his initial paper and perhaps I was overstating the current position with ‘almost certainly’. However the weight of research backing his tentative work is building. See here: http://thehill.com/blogs/e2-wire/677-e2-wire/155101-report-gas-from-fracking-worse-than-coal-on-climate and here: http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/energy/25058/ My money is on his initial position being substantially validated.

  39. jquiggin
    April 11th, 2011 at 13:48 | #39

    @Doug Evans
    One of the links is to the same source as before, and the other doesn’t cite any supporting research, only “pushback” from the industry which, while predictable seems to make a valid point – the analysis apparently doesn’t take proper account of the fact that CO2 has a much longer residence time than methane.

    Is there any additional research you can point to? I’m planning a post about this, so I’d like to get it right.

  40. jakerman
    April 11th, 2011 at 14:19 | #40


    “at least one year” is not a minimum period that excludes the need for 50 years of pool storage.

    At least one year certainly includes the greater than 7 years of cooling required for rods at Fukushima Daiichi.


    Dry cask may be better, but its not done for most rods because its more expensive, and another Chernobyl is impossible and 3 Mile Island won’t happen again so there is no need to waste money on these measures. Right?

    And there is no need to design safety measures for 9.0 earthquakes and Tsunamis as these won’t happen on coastal fault zones either?

  41. Alice
    April 11th, 2011 at 20:04 | #41

    Really Quokka? Even spent fuel rods out of their pool and borken to bits in an explosion? Why dont you come here next year and tell me whether the spent fuel rods at Fukushima have been able to be moved to “dry storage”

    And where is dry storage Quokka for things that take 50 years to cool under water…and if they had a nice cosy dry storage for the psent fuel rods, why were three decades worth of spent fuel rods still in “wet storage” at the nuclear facility at Fukushima?

    I could be rude, very very rude, at this point Quokka because I dont suffer fools gladly…so until next year eh?

  42. jakerman
    April 11th, 2011 at 20:42 | #42


    why were three decades worth of spent fuel rods still in “wet storage” at the nuclear facility at Fukushima?

    Cost = profit..

  43. Alice
    April 11th, 2011 at 20:52 | #43

    “why were three decades worth of spent fuel rods still in “wet storage” at the nuclear facility at Fukushima?

    Profit = greed and electricity companies, who own nuclear companies, not spending money to clean up their own waste for so long…now nature exposes ithe underbelly of the nuclear industry to all except the fools who choose not to see it.

  44. jquiggin
    April 11th, 2011 at 21:40 | #44

    Alice, no attacks and no thread-flooding please.

  45. Alice
    April 12th, 2011 at 07:19 | #45

    Sorry Professor and I apologise for the personal comments but Quokkas comment at post 37 at shows outrageous denial about the reality of spent fuel storage at nuclear facilities across the globe and as Jakerman notes above it is about costs and profits for nuclear firms.


  46. TerjeP
    April 12th, 2011 at 07:39 | #46

    Whilst the politics may be clever the actual policy position of the Liberals is crap. The reason they are not the point of focus is because they are not the government and there is no election looming.

  47. quokka
    April 12th, 2011 at 10:59 | #47


    My comment shows “outrageous denial” of absolutely nothing. You are making stuff up, just to add to your narrative. I simply pointed out that dry cask storage can be and is used.

    If you want my opinion, the US bears a lot of responsibility for all the foot dragging on used fuel management because of it’s irrational opposition to fuel recycling by advanced methods such as pyroprocessing. This supposedly is because of weapons proliferation risk, but pyroprocessing cannot produce weapons grade material so I must conclude that there is some other reason though I don’t know what it is. There is real friction between the US and Sth Korea over this issue as Sth Korea really does want to make some serious advances in this area, unlike the US which seems content to sit on it’s hands. Above all this is a political problem, and nuclear operators only can operate in the regulatory environment in which they find themselves.

    I completely agree that used fuel management should have been much better addressed years ago and it is a travesty that it hasn’t been, but that is a far cry from maintaining that spent fuel must be kept in pools for 50 years or more because “nobody has any idea of what to do with it”. It is a political problem. The engineering solutions are either available or could be made available fairly quickly.

  48. Alice
    April 12th, 2011 at 11:41 | #48

    Quokka – nuclear waste fuel management wasnt addressed years ago because it would appear the nuclear industry wants “the government” to solve the problem of disposal of their waste in places like Yucca Mountain. This is no easy task. The dry canisters must be buried very deeply and it has to be bone dry lest water erode the cainsters and contaminate water supplies over time.

    According to this article “In a recent interview with The Real News Network, Robert Alvarez, a nuclear policy specialist since 1975, reports that spent nuclear fuel in the United States comprises the largest concentration of radioactivity on the planet: 71,000 metric tons. Worse, since the Yucca Mountain waste repository has been scrapped due to its proximity to active faults (see last image), the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has allowed reactor operators to store four times more waste in the spent fuel pools than they’re designed to handle.”

    Its quite clear the nuclear industry is not costing or handling or disposing of its waste and its simply adding more and more to its interanal facility colling pools (decades worth).

    Why should the government be the body to take their cares away?. If waste disposal cant effectively be managed or handled by the nuclear industry on its own, and it refuses to pay for the cost of safe disposal, then obviously nuclear is nowhere near as viable as some would have us believe.

    But to simply imply that “dry storage” is the answer Quokka is blatantly misleading. Its tantamount to implying that “woulda coulda shoulda” is the simple solution.

    I stand by my words. You come back and tell me in a years time if they were able to move the Fukushima spent fuel rods to dry storage.


  49. quokka
    April 12th, 2011 at 12:24 | #49


    Why do you see fit to repeatedly misrepresent what I wrote? Nowhere did I advocate dry cask storage as the best solution. I pretty much stated my view of where the nuclear fuel cycle should be headed – close the fuel cycle, recycle the actinides into new fuel and dispose of the fission products probably encased in some sort of ceramic in geologic storage where it will be safe after a few hundred years because of the short half lives.

    As for who would operate nuclear waste repositories my overwhelming choice is that they should be state run with plant operators paying a fee to completely cover the cost. Theoretically this is the case in the US where NPP operators pay a $0.001 per kWh fee to the US government to develop suitable facilities. Whether that is too little or too much is up for discussion, but at the moment there is over $20 billion dollars sitting in the fund and the US government is just sitting on it’s hands. This is a political problem and while NPP operators could perhaps be more proactive, it does not stop it from being a political problem.

    Why anti-nukes who profess to be on the left throw up their hands in horror at the prospect of state involvement, regulation and guidance of nuclear power, insisting instead that everything is privatized in a sense little different from libertarians strikes me as rather odd and not a little hypocritical.

  50. Ernestine Gross
    April 12th, 2011 at 15:17 | #50

    1. The news is that the Fukushima nuclear power station ‘accident’ has been reclassified as a number 7 (like Chernobyl)

    2. Turning to my accidents, I have to make an another correction* to my post @24, followed by a correction @ 25 and 29. In the post @29 ‘milli Sievert should read micro Sievert’.

    * The thought of knowing a mistake without correcting it would haunt me for a very long time.

  51. Alice
    April 12th, 2011 at 20:08 | #51

    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.

  52. April 14th, 2011 at 18:15 | #52

    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.

  53. April 14th, 2011 at 18:28 | #53

    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.

  54. April 15th, 2011 at 11:37 | #54

    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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