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Monday Message Board

January 13th, 2014

After a long break, another Monday Message Board. Post comments on any topic. Civil discussion and no coarse language please. Side discussions and idees fixes to the sandpits, please

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  1. Newtownian
    January 13th, 2014 at 15:18 | #1

    This is not exactly a new story but a blogger on Naked Capitalism identified the following link/youtube presentation which provides an excellent summary for those interested in just how bad the statistics on ocean destruction are:

    Jeremy Jackson: Ocean Apocalypse | Peak Oil News and Message Boards

    The talk presented by one of the unknown greats (probably a mate of JQ’s mate Ove) at a Washington Naval forum outlines another one of those 600 lb near invisible environmental Gorilla stories – the death of the oceans at the hands of anthropocentric economics of all shades – which get so little coverage in Australia outside of local barbarities such as Gladstone and the Barrier Reef and WA and the Great Whites.

    The scale of dead zones needs to seen to believed even before considering the Pacific garbage patch (doesn’t even rate a mention) and the likely trashing of east Asia and India’s coastal waters. Most telling for the common man who wants to look, and as a response to the likes of the shooters and fishers party, are the happy snaps from Florida showing typical catch sizes declining from 300 lb Groupers in 1956 to 0.5 lb minnows today.

  2. January 13th, 2014 at 16:10 | #2

    Prof. Quiggin

    Do you still believe that full employment (conservatively defined to mean an unemployment rate of 3 per cent) is feasible and desirable?

    Kind Regards,


  3. David Allen
    January 14th, 2014 at 07:54 | #3

    Australia’s best female cricket player, Ellyse Perry. Second, daylight. Just saying,

  4. Paul Norton
    January 14th, 2014 at 13:42 | #4

    The centenary of the First World War has got the History Warriors and Cultural Warriors of the Right going in the UK and Australia, as I’ve already noted. The irony is that the logic of their position leads inexorably to the view that the left wing of the social democratic parties and labour movements of Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire were unambiguously the goodies of the piece, but don’t expect the likes of Michael Gove and Mad Merv Bendle to go there.

    Here are Peter Thompson and Martin Kettle in the Grauniad.

  5. Hermit
    January 14th, 2014 at 13:55 | #5

    It ain’t easy being green. I see power demand in SE Australia is very high this week and wholesale spot electricity prices may hit the cap of $12 per kwh.
    Note that is power supplied by big generators not rooftop solar.

    Apparently we’re not seeing factory and office workers insisting the air conditioning be turned down consistent with the new green sensibilities.

  6. Megan
    January 14th, 2014 at 14:27 | #6

    Yesterday Clive Palmer said that if his party wins government in Qld at the next election he would repeal all laws passed by Newman.

    The VLAD laws are very unpopular across the whole spectrum of citizens (outside hard-core News Ltd readers). They were supported by the ALP when Newman passed them – even though the easiest, and most politically astute, thing in the world would have been to oppose them.

    If Channel 7 online news can be believed, Newman has now said he will repeal them if he is re-elected in 2016!

    So, a win for Palmer as the unelected opposition and for the people’s will over the establishment media’s propaganda.

  7. Megan
    January 14th, 2014 at 15:07 | #7

    Here are some quotes regarding anti-association laws (H/T internet and Sunshine Coast Daily):

    While I agree that people need to be protected from organised crime, there must also be the protection of personal liberties such as the freedom of association. The Premier and the Minister for Police, Corrective Services and Emergency Services have stated that people who do the right thing have nothing to fear. I will repeat that: people who do the right thing have nothing to fear. I say to the people of Queensland that, with this government, they do have something to fear. This bill encroaches on their personal freedoms and liberties. A government that tries to remove these freedoms and liberties is a government that is to be feared.

    This bill is an attack on the right of freedom of association. While it is currently intended for motorcycle gangs, once again this bill does not mention the term ‘bikie’ or ‘motorcycle gangs’, and this piece of legislation could be used against any group that may fall into disfavour regardless of the purpose of their gathering.

    Another essential freedom and one that goes to the heart of our legal system is the right to a fair trial. Every person in Queensland, regardless of whether they are part of organised crime, has the right to a fair trial. In effect, this bill removes that right. It removes the rule of evidence. It lowers the standard of the burden of proof that is ordinarily required in criminal proceedings from being beyond reasonable doubt to the standard that is required in civil proceedings. It allows for the employment of people in certain occupations to be refused merely on the reliance of criminal intelligence without them even having a conviction of a criminal offence. This bill denies the rules of natural justice. It introduces anti-association laws.

    All true, of course. And in fact quite well put.

    That was Jarrod Bliejie from Hansard 25 November 2009 speaking against the ALP’s version of VLAD.

  8. W. Smith
    January 14th, 2014 at 15:42 | #8

    Senexx: do you volunteer to be one of those 3 per cent? Or should some other unfortunate person take your place?

  9. alfred venison
    January 14th, 2014 at 21:41 | #9

    tomorrow, january 15th, is the 95th anniversary of the murder of rosa luxemberg & karl liebknecht. -a.v.

  10. January 14th, 2014 at 22:12 | #10

    I’ll just mention that it was 45 degrees Celsius here in Adelaide today and a temperature of 46 degrees is predicted for tomorrow. I’ve been told this is a new record.

  11. Ikonoclast
    January 15th, 2014 at 00:14 | #11


    Australia is probably the best placed country on earth to replace coal and oil with renewable energy, probably mainly solar and wind power.

    There is no reason why every north facing new roof and new wall (homes, factories and skyscrapers) in Australia could not be entirely panelled with solar panels or even solar tiles (current technology). There are also now solar windows. This would easily supply all electrical power required in daylight hours including that for air-conditioning.

    When the sun does not shine or does not shine adequately, solar convection towers which produce power 24/7 can be utilised. Solar concentrating arrays and molten salt heat storage (for conversion / re-conversion to electrical power can also be utilised). Modern electrical engineering can meet the challenges of load management (matching dispatch, or is it despatch or power to meet demand).

    The engineering and all resource requirement challenges could be met for Australia at least.

    I know I hold that the earth cannot support 9 billion at middle class standards in the world in 2050 but that is another argument. Where I and those who reject my near limits to growth argument agree is that Australia could convert to fully renewable power even by 2030. Furthermore, it should begin the conversion at once.

  12. Ikonoclast
    January 15th, 2014 at 03:02 | #12


    I note that Jeremy Jackson is basically putting the views that I put on this blog (having gleaned my broad facts from scientists like Jackson). These are namely that we are in great trouble ecologically (and limits wise) and that an ocean apocalypse, and by implication a land and atmosphere apocalypse, is impending.

    Jackson points out that global warming and sea level rise are trending ahead of worst case IPCC predictions and perhaps implies that the IPCC are conservative and this conservatism is mediated by political pressure; all things I have said and taken flak for on this blog.

    Jackson also notes that we probably need a “salutary disaster” (my term not his term) in a large developed world country to galvanise us socially, politically and economically into making necessary changes. He admitted that wishing for this could seem macabre and I would add it could also seem cruel. Yet, I see that such an event is necessary to prevent even greater disaster.

    I am encouraged, at the intellectual level, to see that I agree with the best and most knowledgeable scientists in these arenas, albeit I am horrified at the human level that my bleak views are clearly more nearly correct than those of my blog critics. I’ve taken a bit of stick here, harmless as blog stick is, so I just point out occasionally that my views have a better empirical basis are being more continually borne out as events develop.

  13. rog
    January 15th, 2014 at 05:07 | #13

    @Ikonoclast In the “humanity is too stupid” article James Lovelock said that it will take something shocking, like the collapse of the Pine Is Glacier with subsequent and immediate rise in sea level, to get govts to act. After listening to Abbott comments on the wind farms near Lake George and his “when the sun don’t shine and the wind don’t blow the power don’t flow” slogan one can only wonder at how low the level of discussion in the cabinet room can go. As evidence mounts respected persons, eg ex Senator Rae, appear to be losing any influence and it may be that our current leaders will be unable to respond to any emergency.

  14. Hermit
    January 15th, 2014 at 05:55 | #14

    Some people I know have installed 10 kw of PV, about 40 panels, on the roof of a large house. The result is that some panels do not face north. A kilometre away some other people installed a 10 kw vertical axis wind turbine but it toppled over in strong winds. One issue with solar power of any kind…winter and extended overcast conditions.

    Then there’s the empirical evidence. Germany with about half the world’s installed solar PV is building new coal fired power stations and their emissions have increased the last two years. Therefore your claim that solar in various forms can replace coal is questionable.

  15. Ikonoclast
    January 15th, 2014 at 07:05 | #15


    Let me answer that point by point. I have installed 5.5 kW nameplate capacity solar plus an evacuated tube hot water heater on my roof. I still have enough spare north facing roof and north facing walls to take at least another 5.5kW capacity if I wished it. The wall installation could be on brackets to get the optimum angle. My roof is near the optimum slope. My house is long and thin on an east to west orientation. This works at all levels to reduce afternoon sun on the western wall (bedroom end), to allow plenty of north facing roof and to take best advantage of breezes that cross-flow through the house.

    I have calculated that my current installation powers our house and another house that uses 50% more power than we do. This is with the proviso of course that I use the existing power network and stations as an energy store. I feed in power most days and take some back at night. I save coal burning in the day and use some of that coal, an energy store, at night (in effect).

    In my area, about 1 in 8 houses now have solar panels and solar hot water. Average nameplate capacity is probably about 3.5 to 4.5 kW. I have noticed no supply problems caused by this level of solar power, at least not at the home or suburb level. So it is easy enough to install enough capacity at least up to the suburban infrastructure’s capacity to cope with it.

    With regard to the wind turbine that toppled over. Any standing structure will topple over if not adequately engineered to cope with prevailing conditions including rare but still expected events. One inadequately engineered wind turbine is not an argument against wind turbines though it is an argument against that company, contractor and designer.

    Beyond Zero Emissions have advanced a plan for replacing all stationary power generation in Australia. A number of scientists and economists in relevant and related fields have stated that the numbers (physical and economic) add up and the plan is viable.

    You have very possibly misinterpreted the empirical evidence from Germany. The evidence as you report it does not preclude the possibilities that;

    (a) the world still has so little solar capacity overall, that Germany’s possession of half of that might still be very inadequate for a large industrial power like Germany; and
    (b) German growth (and retirement of nuclear power) is not yet being met by solar power growth thus coal fired growth is required to make up the difference.

    I am not saying it is easy to convert to renewable power nor am I saying the whole world can do it at current and projected living levels and demand. However, Australia could certainly do it and there are technologies to essentially supply solar power at night (solar convection towers and concentrating thermal with molten salt heat storage).

    However, we will sooner or later have to convert our economies to run on 100% renewable power. That is an inescapable fact. The other stuff runs out or totally wrecks our climate or environment (whichever disaster comes first). So forget your bias against renewable and face the facts. It’s a renewables modern(ish) economy at a sustainable level or renewables hunter-gathering or extinction. Those are the ONLY options.

  16. Ikonoclast
    January 15th, 2014 at 07:21 | #16


    Eventually, the “reality gap” will become too great and too obvious for deniers like Abbott to maintain political traction. When it becomes obvious, via some form of “salutary disaster” that fossil-fuelled BAU will kill us all, literally, then the popular demand for real change, not Obama’s fake change, will become enormous. Those who still oppose it will be swept into political and maybe even existential oblivion if that revolution goes right. Possibly, a final reaction could set in and corporate capital could retain power by force until the bitter end; a Margaret Attwood “Crake and Oryx” type dystopian future.

  17. rog
    January 15th, 2014 at 07:31 | #17

    @Hermit The German experience has been worthwhile. Solar and wind have been unpredictable and disruptive to the established network and have yet to fill the void left by the abandonment of nuclear. The evidence from Fukushima appears to be that the fears have not eventuated and the losses to life are minimal if at all. Time to take stock – by stopping all nuclear Germany has increased not decreased nett pollution.

  18. Paul Norton
    January 15th, 2014 at 08:00 | #18

    The famous song about the Irish Diaspora, “Kilkelly, Ireland”, is somewhat comic if analysed from a certain angle. The song is a poetic rendering of a series of letters from an Irish father to his son who has gone to the USA to find work in the mid-late C19, and the basic narrative consists of the father beginning by congratulating the son on finding work, getting married and having children, then going on to report that back in Ireland the weather is dreadful, the crops have all failed, the potatoes are all blighted, there is no fuel to light fires with, everybody is broke, and the only thing keeping the father out of the workhouse is his son’s remittances, then ending with the father asking the son “Why aren’t you coming home?”.

  19. Hermit
    January 15th, 2014 at 09:10 | #19

    I must admit to their credit Germany is not hiding away from their energy problems, allowing Der Spiegel and other media outlets to get the boot in. I believe their electricity mix is still some 13% nuclear which makes the phaseout by 2022 seem unlikely. Meanwhile here in Oz we’ll have to adapt better as we can’t go on like this year after year with bushfire dramas.

  20. Ernestine Gross
    January 15th, 2014 at 10:36 | #20

    rog and Hermit,

    Renewable energy provided 25% of all power production in Germany during the year 2013.

    It is the case that during 2012, ghg emissions increased by 1.6%, after having fallen by 2.4% during the preceding year. I do not as yet know the result for 2013.

    It is acknowledged that the change in the time profile o the plan to decommission nuclear plants (more rapidly than originally planned) resulted in the increase of coal fired power stations. However, it should not be surprising and therefore newsworthy, that as a result of the modified plan there is an increase in ghg emissions. It merely means that the time profile of the ‘ghg emission performance’ of the original plan is different from that of the modified plan. This again should not be surprising because, contrary to the assumption of fungible ‘capital’, physical capital is not fungible – it takes time to change production plans and it takes time to implement the adjustments.

    By focusing on 1 year, 2012, which happened to involve a very cold and long winter, you are doing something akin to those who believe they can draw firm conclusions about average global warming by observing the temperature in one location at one point in time or during a short period of time.

    I have come across an interesting portfolio (in physical assets) management problem. The success of the renewable energy program in Germany, in terms of declining production costs, may require the payment of subsidies for coal fired electricity production units during some stages of the technological change process. Similar to nuclear power production, coal power production is also operationally ‘inflexible’; the process can’t be ‘turned on’ or ‘turned off’ like gas or hydro. Until such time when no coal power production is required to ensure continuous supply of electricity, these power plants have to be run at levels and with costs that are not profitable, given the renewable energy prices. Suppose this time never comes. This is also not a problem because the aim is not to ‘fight coal’ (ie to aim to close all coal fired power stations) but to reduce ghg emissions to a scientifically determined ‘sustainable level’. Surely management by reason is more important than management by the ‘strong belief that a strong belief matters’. [1].

    Source: official statistics and reports in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

    [1] I acknowledge my intellectual debt to ChrisB whose phrase, in an earlier thread, about someone having the strong belief that a strong belief matters, I have borrowed, hopefully without destroying its insightful punch.

  21. January 15th, 2014 at 12:33 | #21

    It’s heating up here in Adelaide but fortunately we are unlikely to experience rolling blackouts as we did in the 2009 heatwave, for although temperatues will get even higher, our abillity to meet peak demand is much better than it was thanks largely to the considerable amount of rooftop solar that has been installed here over the last five years. While it’s always possible that a fossil fuel plant will suffer a fire or a breakdown or be closed for “maintenance”, barring that, our electricity supply should be uninterrupted and our position will become more secure as solar capacity expands in the future.

  22. Hermit
    January 15th, 2014 at 12:48 | #22

    @Ernestine Gross
    There’s an old saying one good deed deserves another so perhaps one subsidy deserves another. That will happen if ‘capacity payments’ are introduced. Where intermittent sources get preferential treatment on the grid dispatchable generators may have to be paid to remain on standby. It will all get rather expensive. As you allude most thermal plant needs to maintain steam pressure. That’s why I agree with the UK view that the primary objective should be the shrinking CO2 cap not a prescribed percentage x% of Technology Y. Hopefully the market will then decide the dynamic least cost combination. That will take into account leads and lags in various forms of generation as well as ‘dead’ fixed costs in duplicated assets.

    Germany seems to be showing us that ~20% of the electricity mix seems to be the sweet spot for mandated wind and solar. This could all change if a cheap way is found for storing gigawatt-hours of electricity in arbitrary locations.

  23. Tim Macknay
    January 15th, 2014 at 12:57 | #23

    @Ernestine Gross
    On the German situation, my personal view is that they’re phasing out the wrong energy source first (i.e. they should go for removing coal/fossil fuel first, then worry about nuclear later).

    But I’m constantly surprised at the silliness of some of the arguments put forward by Hermit, et al, against the effectiveness of renewable energy. I mean “not everyone has north-facing roof space, and someone had a wind turbine that fell over” is supposed to be an argument against renewable energy? Give me a break!

    Ikon, I’m not sure if you have any west-facing roof space, but my understanding is that if you put panels on the west side as well as the north, you get a better match for demand (as it tends to peak late in the day). I’m planning on expanding my own solar system but I have a large tree that shades the west side of my house, so mine will go on the remaining north-facing roof space as well. I like the tree.

  24. January 15th, 2014 at 15:20 | #24

    Rather than looking at leather pants wearning European countries, an example of what can easily be done in Australia can be provided by looking at Australia. Specifically South Australia. The State’s electricity went from being all fossil fuel powered to being about one third wind and solar, with most of it being done in seven years with power reliability improving as a result. With the now much lower cost of wind and solar capacity it will obviously be very easy for other mainland states to do the same. There’s no technological problem, there’s no money problem, and there’s no reliability problem. Just sometimes people are a bit slack.

    But anyway, South Australia’s largest wind farm is under construction at Snowtown and we’re well underway to getting 50% of our electricity from renewables. Tasmania can of course go all renewable at a drop of a hat and has plans to by 2020.

  25. Fran Barlow
    January 15th, 2014 at 20:48 | #25

    Interesting argument put by the President of the Maldives on climate denialism.


    He argues that he is finding being a conservative and an environmentalist harder and harder to reconcile.

  26. Ikonoclast
    January 15th, 2014 at 21:24 | #26

    @Tim Macknay

    I don’t have any west facing roof though maybe a small bit of north-west facing roof. This is due to the long, thin design and east-west axis of my house. Demand matching is not really important if one can feed or draw from the grid at anytime of the day or night and if one gets a parity price or better than parity for feeding in power.

    There is an argument that people who get better than parity (subsidies) for solar power fed in to the grid actually deserve that price. Solar power improves the grid’s ability to respond to hot, sunny daytime peaks related to air-conditioner use. This reduces the need and cost of installing network transmission capacity to meet such peaks. It appears that no extra local, sub-station / transformer costs, or other suburban costs to the network are incurred, at least up to an installed capacity of about 25% of daylight requirements.

    Ronald Brak’s statements about South Australia’s wind power and grid bear this out. South Australia’s move to wind power and rooftop solar is an unmitigated success so far. They have taken clever advantage of a set of advantageous factors. South Australia is very sunny, it’s southern coast is very windy, it has gas power stations to meet peaks (easily powered up and down) and it is well connected to the Victorian and Eastern grids to sell or buy power at need.

  27. Ikonoclast
    January 15th, 2014 at 21:56 | #27


    Viable ways exist to store energy and reconvert it to electric power. Viable ways also exist to generate electric power at night from electric sources. Let me enumerate some of the ways. Whether these ways are conventionally cheap yet I do not know but I am certain they are cheaper than destroying the climate and thus our whole civilization and economy. Note, I use “conventionally cheap” to mean “cheap while negative externalities are not costed”.

    A. Storing Energy

    1. PSH or Pumped Storage Hydro. PSH energy efficiency varies in practice between 70% to 75%. In a grid with some hydro power, water can pumped back to the uphill reservoir when hydro power is not required and when the rest of the grid is producing power surplus to demand. The uphill reservoir is an energy store (potential energy).

    2. Molten salt storage tanks can store energy as heat. This can be re-converted to electrical energy at night via steam or heated gas turbines. This is viable, scalable and can be built anywhere a small industrial tank can be built safely. That is they can built in any industrial or light industrial estate.

    3. The solar hot water systems on many a roof are currently a viable energy store. In total, the solar hot water tanks of all houses and commercial premises with same in a city constitute a significant energy store reducing the need for night time water heating via transmitted electricity.

    4. Solution 3 can be extended to domestic and commercial space heating by storing winter daytime sunlight as heated water to assist heating premises at night. This solution would be very viable in Australian cities and towns with sunny winter days.

    Look up Grid Energy Storage and Load Levelling Storage on Wikipedia.

    B. Producing Renewable Power at Night

    1. Wind turbines and wave and tide power systems can all produce power at night when the wind is blowing or the waves and tides are running.

    2. Geothermal power and hot rocks power can be produced 24/7. (Maybe not strictly renewable.)

    3. Solar convection towers can produce power 24/7. I keep telling you this Hermit. You keep ignoring it.

    C. Network Sharing

    1. Finally, a large distributed network (over half of a continent for example) can share power and load smooth across the network. The effective day is a few hours longer and winds are often blowing somewhere.

    D. Energy efficiency and Passive Design.

    Many gains can be made in this arena also.

  28. Ikonoclast
    January 15th, 2014 at 21:57 | #28

    Correction:”Viable ways also exist to generate electric power at night from electric renewable sources.”

  29. Megan
    January 15th, 2014 at 21:58 | #29

    I saw something today from “eco-news” about solar in California.

    Here’s the first few pars:

    Renewable power companies MidAmerican Solar and SunPower Corporation said they have connected the first 57 megawatts (MW) to the power grid from California’s 579MW Solar Star solar power plant, one of the biggest in the US.

    The Solar Star project, which involves two plants in Kern and Los Angeles counties, is expected to power about 255,000 homes once complete, the two companies said in a statement.

    According to ‘energex’, South East Queensland is currently using 2837 MW – that is around ‘moderate’ demand.

    No reason we couldn’t be massively (as in the hackneyed ‘war-footing’ sense) upgrading renewables and energy conservation to try approaching ‘sustainability’ and stop digging up and burning FFs – unless you include as ‘reasons’ the hugely powerful forces lined up against us doing anything of the sort (ie: all the money which runs our economy and politicians)!

  30. Ikonoclast
    January 15th, 2014 at 22:07 | #30

    @Fran Barlow

    The next large event that (permanently) destroys New Orleans or Miami and southern Florida may well be the “salutary disaster” needed to create a sea-change (pun intended) in AGW politics. According to Jeremy Jackson that event is likely relatively soon. I think even if I only live another 20 years (i.e. to 80) I can expect to see it on the news.

    A rapid, catastrophic collapse of the Greenland ice cap (an event Jeremy Jackson clearly thinks should not be entirely ruled out in this century) would go far beyond a mere salutary disaster. Deaths and refugee displacements combined would run into a few billions.

  31. Ikonoclast
    January 15th, 2014 at 22:18 | #31


    You are absolutely right. Large solar convection power has arrived. It is viable and it is 24/7 power. The temperature differential between the base and top of the solar “chimney”, actually increases at night. It is this temperature differential and resulting air flow which drives the wind turbines around the base (which turbines can be switched out sequentially for maintenance so the tower runs not just 24/7 but 24/365).

    There is absolutely no reason why Australia could not go on a “war-footing” (the War Against Climate Change) and build our entire stationary power requirement in 10 to 20 years. Currently, the War Against Our Own Extinction is the only war we should be fighting. Coincidently, what preserves us would also strongly tend to preserve what’s left of the highly varied Holocene natural environment (a value in itself) so it would be a win-win.

  32. alfred venison
    January 15th, 2014 at 22:55 | #32

    take or leave it. here’s audio-video of david suzuki at a symposium on water ecology in october last year speaking about the fukushima plant. recorded on cell phone by a student who attended, posted by him on his site because he thought it was important and picked up by huffington post.

    Fukushima is the most terrifying situation I can imagine

    Three out of the four plants were destroyed in the earthquake and in the tsunami. The fourth one has been so badly damaged that the fear is, if there’s another earthquake of a seven or above that, that building will go and then all hell breaks loose.

    And the probability of a seven or above earthquake in the next three years is over 95 per cent.

    I have seen a paper which says that if in fact the fourth plant goes under in an earthquake and those rods are exposed, it’s bye bye Japan and everybody on the west coast of North America should evacuate

    in other news that october day radiation from the fukushima site was determined to have reached alaska and the north american west coast.

  33. Hermit
    January 16th, 2014 at 06:53 | #33

    Re SA’s ‘success’ with wind and solar a couple of stark facts need pointing out. One is that today raises the prospect of rolling blackouts in Adelaide to due to high air conditioning demand. I guess wind and solar aren’t enough sometimes. I notice Premier Weatherill insists on wearing dark suits in 40C+ heat thereby not setting an example of energy conservation.

    The other sobering issue is vulnerability to the price of natural gas. From the AEMO website download 2014 South Australian Fuel and Technology Report. On Figure 2-1 you see that gas fired electricity is a neat 50% of the pie chart. Since that gas can be sold for double the price to the Gladstone LNG plants SA will have to match that price. Ergo when Holden skip town I don”t see other large manufacturers moving in and paying full electricity prices. SA can have all the wind and solar it wants just not enough to cope with heatwaves or entice new business.

  34. JKUU
    January 16th, 2014 at 08:36 | #34

    Reading through the “Goodbye, Again” thread on Larvatus Prodeo after the announcement of its second death on New Years Day, I was disturbed to read a comment by “Val” on whether this blogsite would be a good place for LP refugees. Briefly, “Val” is Valerie Kay, a university-based environmentalist with website: fairgreenplanet.blogspot.com. Here’s what she said:

    John Quiggin is good but it is just too inherently sexist – LP has problems with sexism, but they can be debated, even if someone like me occasionally loses her temper – but there they seem inherent – it seems fruitless to debate them. Also at times non-economists seem on the outer there.

    I form an image in my mind of a bunch of middle -aged white guys (and a few women) sitting around arguing about money.

    I’m relatively new here, so I’m asking if “Val”s comments are valid. Prof. Q? anyone?

  35. Donald Oats
    January 16th, 2014 at 08:57 | #35

    @Ronald Brak
    Yeah, it is toasty: 33.3C in my apartment at 4:45am this morning—positively chilly compared to the daytime temps.

    On another topic, when did the Aus Navy think that firing a gun into the air is better than using a sea horn to hail a boat full of asylum seekers? If it was intended as a warning shot, that is only credible to the boat’s occupants if they truly believe that the navy is willing to escalate. Why fire a shot in the air if there is no intention of escalation should the warning shot be ignored? Seems to me to be a serious tactical error, one with diplomatic implications. Honestly, I hope this news story is in error on the gun firing thing.

  36. Donald Oats
    January 16th, 2014 at 09:22 | #36

    Will Steffen et al have examined the historical temperature data for Australia, concluding that there is clear evidence of an increase in the number of hot days, and records broken, compared to the cold days, and cold records broken. There are a number of ways of getting a fix on how the extreme weather events are changing (eg increased hot days above 35C, measures of the time taken to break a record high temperature again, number of heat records broken compared to the number of cold records broken, etc), some more sophisticated than others, but they tell the basic story: we are getting more hot weather, trending as expected for an overall increase in underlying long term climate temperature averages—eg, global temperature trend.

    I think the biggest difficulty in conveying to people what is going on is that in Australia, we have all lived through significant heat wave events in the past, as have our parents and grandparents (assuming they lived in Australia, of course). Our brains are hopeless at determining if there are changes to the overall pattern though. The best way to cut through that is to present good graphical illustrations of the data. Simple things like Eli Rabett’s coloured record hot/record cold histogram overlaying a map of the USA really makes it clear what is happening. Following up with the ratio of record hot to record cold days and how it is increasing as time goes on, makes the point even clearer. Better graphical representations should be part of what is incorporated into news stories these days.

  37. Ikonoclast
    January 16th, 2014 at 09:31 | #37


    These produce power 24/7.

    What else do you suggest? It seems no solution would satisfy your requirement for a perfectly powered and totally problem-free existence. I don’t see any of the problems you raise as reasons against renewable power as such but just as examples that life will never be perfect even if we avoid the very worst of global warming by employing renewables.

    Every generating and transmission system will sometimes suffer capacity problems at the high end. It becomes prohibitively expensive to build so much excess capacity that no foreseeable event will ever cause any load shedding. Also, every fuelled system is vulnerable to high prices. Can you name any non-renewable fuel that is not vulnerable to potential price rises at any time in the future? Growing scarcity in itself presages rising prices let alone other factors.

    It simply not true that S.A. could not have all the power it wants within reason. Build solar convection towers. Nine-tenths of your state is a giant desert solar field which is better than any oil field.

  38. Ikonoclast
    January 16th, 2014 at 09:56 | #38


    Was it Val who stated or strongly implied that if you didn’t support Julia Gillard (over Rudd or whoever back when it mattered) it proved you were, ipso facto, a sexist?

    I rejected that reasoning and stated I could never support Julia Gillard who conspired with right wing union bosses and mining capitalists to sink the resource rent tax on miners. That made me a sexist apparently equal to Alan Jones in Val’s book. Val needs to discern that sexism is not the ONLY issue in political economy.

  39. Megan
    January 16th, 2014 at 10:46 | #39


    There may be a bit of truth in the “middle-aged white people” part, but “arguing about money” I would say is to miss the breadth of topics discussed.

    In any case, that isn’t how I interpret the passage you quote. I distill it as “the JQ site is sexist and non-economists don’t get to join in discussions.”

    There must be some other JQ site out there because that just doesn’t stand up.

  40. January 16th, 2014 at 10:47 | #40


    In my opinion while there are professional economists who sometimes comments here, this blog has more scientists, environmentalists and commenters with substantial knowledge in technology than trained economists. There are a few notable lay persons in economics who also makes informed opinions.

    With regards to sexism, I would recommend you to observe yourself while you’re here.

  41. January 16th, 2014 at 11:13 | #41

    Hermit, if Adelaide doesn’t suffer rolling blackouts today, will you write a comment here saying you were wrong when you wrote, “I guess wind and solar aren’t enough sometimes.”

  42. Tim Macknay
    January 16th, 2014 at 11:21 | #42

    Hermit, presumably you are aware that the increased risk of blackouts during heatwaves has nothing to do with renewable energy – it’s caused by transformers failing because of the increased load and insufficient cooling. The problem would be just as bad if SA ran on 100% coal. Rooftop PV actually mitigates this problem by reducing the load on grid infrastructure.

    Again, another pointless side-issue masquerading as an argument against renewable energy. I just don’t get it.

  43. Tim Macknay
    January 16th, 2014 at 11:52 | #43

    JKUU, I certainly don’t think that non-economists are excluded from discussions on this blog. As a non-economist, I’ve been participating in discussions here for many years. It’s true that occasionally, Prof Q will post on a relatively technical economic topic, but the vast majority of the posts are highly accessible to non-economists. The blog regularly covers a wide range of topics related to politics and the environment, as well as economics.

    And as for this blog being a suitable site for LP “refugees”, I’ve been a reader of this blog and LP since 2006 or thereabouts, and it’s always seemed to me that there’s been a significant crossover between the readership of both blogs.

    Val herself is a relative newcomer to this blog and LP, and her concerns about sexism (AFAICT) appear to be mainly related to discussions around Julia Gillard and the Labor Party’s internal convulsions of the last couple of years. The discussion of that issue became quite heated both here and over at LP, and accusations of sexism, as well as rebuttals to the accusations, were part of the mix. Val’s perspective is one, but there are others.

    Others may differ, but Julia Gillard aside, personally I’ve never seen any indication of significant sexism on this blog in the 7-odd years I’ve been coming here.

  44. Hermit
    January 16th, 2014 at 12:13 | #44

    @Tim Macknay
    Two points
    1) evidently household solar does not fully erase the strain on the grid
    2) ABC reckons Adelaide was 35C at 1 am. Did solar power air conditioners at that time?

    For good measure I might throw in the fact that a US solar thermal plant with nighttime energy storage will now be daytime PV with no battery bank I’m aware of. Dare I suggest they are chasing subsidies rather than seriously replacing emissions?

    I’m not anti renewables. I’ve had PV since 2005, drive a biodiesel fuelled car, cook on a wood stove and help on a microhydro project. It’s just I can clearly see they will never replace fossil fuels. Perhaps I need counselling.

  45. Tim Macknay
    January 16th, 2014 at 12:46 | #45


    Two points
    1) evidently household solar does not fully erase the strain on the grid
    2) ABC reckons Adelaide was 35C at 1 am. Did solar power air conditioners at that time?

    Yes, clearly solar PV only mitigates the problem a little bit. But my point was that renewable energy has nothing to do with the problem of blackouts, and to the extent that renewable energy has any impact at all, it tends towards mitigating the problem. My point stands.

    And on your second point, so what? Renewable energy still has nothing to do with the risk of blackouts. Presumably you’re alluding to the fact that PV solar energy does not generate power at night. This is indeed a significant limitation of solar PV (although as Ikon points out, there are technically proven solar technologies that are capable of operating at night, so looking forward, that limitation is capable of being overcome).

    For good measure I might throw in the fact that a US solar thermal plant with nighttime energy storage will now be daytime PV with no battery bank I’m aware of. Dare I suggest they are chasing subsidies rather than seriously replacing emissions?

    The drop in the cost of PV over the last few years has been bad news for the development of solar thermal technology, certainly. To that extent, it’s been a double-edged sword. I think that, subsidies aside, electricity producers in California are in a competitive market and clearly solar PV currently delivers power at a better price than solar thermal at present. I think your suggestion only really holds water if you think solar PV-delivered daytime power is useless at reducing emissions. Not as good as 24/7 renewable energy? Sure. But it still reduces emissions.

    I’m not anti renewables. I’ve had PV since 2005, drive a biodiesel fuelled car, cook on a wood stove and help on a microhydro project. It’s just I can clearly see they will never replace fossil fuels. Perhaps I need counselling.

    I’ve never denied that renewable energy, particularly in its current state, has significant limitations, nor would I in any way criticise your considerable personal efforts to reduce your own environmental impact.

    But your habit of using silly talking points to criticise renewable energy (e.g. blackouts, lack of north-facing roof space, someone’s personal turbine fell over) does suggest to me that your belief that renewables can never replace fossil fuels is not quite as objective and rationally founded as you may think it is.

  46. Tim Macknay
    January 16th, 2014 at 12:48 | #46

    Oops – I redundantly included “currently” and “at present” in the same sentence. Composition fail.

  47. January 16th, 2014 at 13:48 | #47

    Hermit, you wrote, “1) evidently household solar does not fully erase the strain on the grid”

    Actually solar power greatly eases the strain on the grid. Let me explain it to you. You see, we use the most electricity during the day. This is when our peak demand is and it is this peak demand that our grid has trouble meeting either because the generating capacity can’t meet demand or because the transmission infrastructure can’t handle that much power. But rooftop solar power produces electricity during the day when our peak demand is and it produces it exactly where it is needed and doesn’t require the use of potentially overloaded transmission wires or substations. Do you understand?

    You also wrote, “2) ABC reckons Adelaide was 35C at 1 am. Did solar power air conditioners at that time?”

    The answer to that question is, no it didn’t, because solar power doesn’t produce electicity at night. I think I’ve mentioned this fact to you before. Other generating capacity powered any air conditioners operating at that time. But the good news is that was not the peak demand time at which the grid was under strain. Peak demand was in the daytime when rooftop solar did help ease the strain on the grid. While here in Adelaide it probably only provided a few percent of total electricity use when demand was at its peak, that few percent was very important as it did not put any strain on the transmission infrastructure at all and the amount rooftop solar supplies during these peak periods will increase as more rooftop solar capacity is installed.

  48. Julie Thomas
    January 16th, 2014 at 13:51 | #48


    I don’t see any sexism here that needs calling out but then I’m not as good as some people are at seeing these things.

  49. alfred venison
    January 16th, 2014 at 17:07 | #49

    it must have been me.

  50. January 16th, 2014 at 17:35 | #50

    Well, it’s just past 6:00 pm here in Adelaide and the peak is over with no blackouts. The sun is still blazing away in the sky and will continue to do so for another two hours. We didn’t even come close to having a problem meeting demand with electricity spot prices only hitting a about $25 a megawatt-hour for five minutes which is less than a fifth of the capped maximum price. In fact, today is notable for how low prices have been in the National Electricity Market during heatwave conditions. Hermit, will you write a comment saying that you were wrong?

  51. rog
    January 16th, 2014 at 18:43 | #51

    Interesting comparison with the Australian Open, despite record temps play was continued. Did the investment in the infrastructure and competition force organisers to deny the evidence of the weather?

    We can see the same with energy, investment in infrastructure (grid) is driving denial of renewables.

  52. Donald Oats
    January 16th, 2014 at 18:56 | #52

    Hermit, yesterday on ABC 24, they spoke with one of the energy guys about the prospect of load shedding in SA and Vic. He made the point of saying that the interviewer was mistaken in their portrayal of (presumably the likelihood of) blackouts in SA, saying two things about it:
    1) because SA has such a high household installation of PV (20%, he said), and because the solar power runs best at one of the peak power demand periods in summer heat waves, the actual effect was to reduce the change of hitting peak conditions which warrant blackouts. He even referred to the positive impact of solar on reducing instability of the grid in peak (daylight) times;
    2) he said that if they did need to do load shedding, they would attempt to do rolling blackouts of 30 minutes duration, minimising the impact upon individuals as much as possible.

    I’m afraid I can’t see the transcript of this on ABC website, but it should be there somewhere.

    Oh, and they also made mention of a general modest reduction in demand for power in SA, I think. So it is a combination of factors, but it is interesting, nevertheless, that the energy guy made explicit mention of the effect of household solar upon the peak demand profile in SA.

  53. January 16th, 2014 at 19:21 | #53

    Oh, my mistake, sunset in Adelaide is at 8:31 pm today, so the sun would be shining for two and a half hours after 6:00 pm. At least it’s getting close to setting now. Fortunately it will only be a balmy 5 degrees over human body temperature tomorrow with a cold front moving in late in the afternoon, although I guess a not quite so hot front would be a more accurate name for it.

  54. rog
    January 16th, 2014 at 20:27 | #54

    Blackouts in Vic were caused, not by failure of sun to shine and/or wind to blow, but by failure of one of the Loy Yang brown coal generators. Power restoration was further delayed by high temps raising the fire alert. So it would appear a centralised system has its downsides.

  55. sunshine
    January 16th, 2014 at 22:07 | #55


    I didnt read all the relevant posts, but I liked Vals line of inquiry at the time (as a mental exercise). I dont think others just tried to shut it down ,and, it seemed a mostly cordial and polite discussion. In the end Val didnt get the level of support for her idea that she was after ,but at least from my point of view it was a worthy question to consider.

  56. Alan
    January 17th, 2014 at 03:24 | #56

    Once upon a time if you got sick and you were poor you went to a traditional healer or you relied on religion. Some of the healer’s herbs would actually work and some wouldn’t. Religious interventions might have a placebo effect. Walnut juice doesn’t help headaches even if the inside of a walnut looks a lot like brain but some of the herbs dispensed by the healer or the priest did work.

    After about 1200 if you were rich and lived Western Europe you went to licensed medical practitioner with a degree from one of the new universities, they would try to correct your humors by either bleeding or purging you and they were likely to vastly hasten your death. medical ‘science’ eschewed experiment and relied on classical texts.

    As often the texts were imported from Byzantium as the Muslim world, but that’s another story and in any case the Muslims got their texts from the Byzantines anyway.

    The weird thing is the four humors described by Galen dominated Western medical practice from about 1200 to 1820 and in all that time the doctor was not less effective than the contemporary economist or MBA graduate in our times, they were likely to kill you. But the traditional healers were burnt in large numbers and the doctors were paid vast incomes for bleeding and purging their patients to death. There were ‘sound science’ movements of doctors insisting that bleeding worked as late as 1871 and the last medical text to recommend bleeding was published in 1921. In the 1850s some doctors even opposed anesthesia because they were convinced it made bleeding less effective if you didn’t the pain.

    You may have noted that bleeding and purging are actually dangerous close to the contemporary recommendations for curing an economy or an enterprise and that the neoliberals tend to rely on ancient text and tradition almost as much as medieval and early modern doctors.

    The really interesting question is not why the doctors believed in remedies that clearly didn’t work. Why did the elite get themselves bled and purged, at vast expense and risk of life and health, while others went to much less invasive healers?

    I say this is related to the Rudd/Gillard mess which I think is more an Abbot mess than anything else. I don’t remember an opposition leader who was so relentlessly personal in his campaigning, so indulged by the media, or so vacuous in his political program. I don’t think that Abbot is the only bleeder/purger in this tale.

    Our contemporary Galenic medical professions are economists (with notable exceptions like our host), management consultants, political advisers and motivational gurus. Our dominant belief is magical thinking with a tincture of Arianism, Buddhism, Daoism, Zen or old-time Christianity in the case of figures like Sculler of Crystal Cathedral fame. They all tell you that if you think positive material prosperity will be given unto you.

    Sculler gave his last hugely profitable motivation seminar days before declaring bankruptcy. His relentless preaching at the seminar was “Cut the word ‘Impossible’ out of your vocabulary.” Quite often people are required by their employers to attend these motivational autos-de-fé. The few voices in the US financial industry calling for restraint before the GFC were ignored and anyone working for the great usurers like Goldman Sachs were likely to be sanctioned for not being ‘positive.

    This comment is already getting too long and I’ll relate all this brouhaha to the Rudd/Gillard thing in another comment some time today.

  57. Donald Oats
    January 17th, 2014 at 07:07 | #57

    Alan, Australia has a rich tradition of little Aussie bleeders 🙂

    As for the power of positive thinking, I prefer Bertrand Russell’s “The Conquest of Happiness” to the contemporary bulls**ters. At least he gave it some thought, and allows for the possibility that he is wrong on some things. Never could handle the positive thinker malarkey; interestingly, in Russell’s book he mentions the early positive thinkers, and not in a good way.

  58. Fran Barlow
    January 17th, 2014 at 07:27 | #58


    Excellent post Alan.

    It does underline one of the paradoxes of elite rule — that to continue to hold unwarranted privilege one must as a group devise an intellectual paradigm consonant therewith and if one is ignorant of salient data and concepts, even ideas that will harm individual members of the ruling class will be admitted. For them too, the collective stands higher than the individual. Ignorance and incoherence impose themselves upon even the most self-serving.

    This reminds us why reason and insight is as fundamental to the liberation of working humanity and the full flowering of the possibility of every human being as the struggle against unwarranted privilege.

  59. Fran Barlow
    January 17th, 2014 at 07:31 | #59

    @Donald Oats
    Interestingly yesterday, when the AEMO fellow was on he said that SA had access to extra capacity. When the ABC reporter suggested it might be LOY Yang, he corrected her and told her it was in fact Basslink. Go Tasmania!

  60. Donald Oats
    January 17th, 2014 at 07:55 | #60

    This is a sad story a lot like a road rage incident, only it involved a gun and popcorn throwing.

    I’m counting down until some NRA spokesman (it is always a man) says “If the texting guy had carried, he could have defended himself.”

    In reality, it is a tragic example of how someone “seeing red” can end up a murderer, simply because they were equipped with the tools to do it without even thinking about it.

  61. Hermit
    January 17th, 2014 at 09:28 | #61

    I’m hoping those who can turn the NEM’s obscure csv files into graphs and charts will be able to show the contribution of various power sources to this week’s high demand. For PV that would have to be an estimate though maybe when sufficiently smart smart meters become universal it may be possible.

    The use of Basslink as a reserve battery is limited by the present cable capacity and the safe water level drop in the dams. I see both Libs and Labs-minus-Greens in Tasmania want to duplicate the cable. If it doesn’t rain and there is an autumn heatwave the penny will have been spent.

  62. January 17th, 2014 at 09:50 | #62

    Fran, I’ve been looking at what Tasmania has been doing the last couple of days and it looks like they’ve been exporting hydrocapacity like mad during the periods of high demand in Victoria. It’s a nice little earner for them even though wholesale electricity prices are falling. Increasing solar and wind capacity in Tasmania, along with efficiency, is resulting in them having more dispatchable electricity to sell when demand is high across the straight.

  63. January 17th, 2014 at 09:52 | #63

    Hermit, will you write a comment saying you were wrong about how South Australia might suffer rolling blackouts or that the price might max out?

  64. January 17th, 2014 at 10:28 | #64

    If anyone is wondering how much electricity rooftop solar was providing yesterday, South Australia’s PV can provide around 360+ megawatts at around noon when it’s sunny. While one would expect there to be more west facing panels than east facing panels, I’ll be agnostic on this and pretend it’s a wash. This means that solar power would have been providing about 13% of electricity use at noon. For the peak demand period, starting at 5:00 pm rooftop solar would have been operating at very close to one half its noontime capacity and would have provided about 180 megawatts or about 5.5% of total electricity use. At 6:00 pm solar would have provided about 156 megawatts or about 4.8% of total electricity use. So without rooftop solar the grid would have to provide about 5% more electricity during the peak period and handle about 5% more load. And we know from plenty of past experience that last few percent is the most difficult and most expensive to provide. Rooftop solar has clearly saved South Australians a considerable amount of money in transmission infrastructure costs and wholesale electricity prices.

  65. Doug
    January 17th, 2014 at 10:48 | #65

    @Ronald Brak
    Thanks – that question has been on my mind this week. While I am guessing that the contribution across Victoria, ACT NSW has been less that marginal amount may well have been significant as the AMEO admitted on interviews that the supply against demand balance was on a very fine margin.

  66. Doug
    January 17th, 2014 at 11:42 | #66

    Answer to that question on the Renew Economy site http://reneweconomy.com.au/2014/solar-23763

  67. January 17th, 2014 at 11:42 | #67

    You’re welcome, Doug. Note that’s just a back of the envelope calculation, but I am pretty confident that I have erred on the side of caution. A list of an estimate of how much solar is installed by state can be found here:


    Note that rooftop solar operates at an average of about 80% of the capacity one would expect from optimally aligned panels.

  68. Hermit
    January 17th, 2014 at 11:56 | #68

    @Ronald Brak
    I’m pretty sure I said there might be rolling blackouts, merely repeating what a SAPN spokesman said. Maybe prices didn’t hit $12,000/Mwh yesterday but they did hit -$90 according to WattClarity. Not sure that reflects rational behaviour.

    We need to see an easy to read graph showing for example by how much electrical demand declined after sunset. If the east Australian grid (NEM) demanded 34 GW yesterday and all PV (including Perth and Darwin) totals about 3 GW I’d say rooftop is a helper not a salvation.

    Some factoids about Tas hydro. The Basslik converter station backs on to Loy Yang brown coal fired power station. Tas Hydro admit their policy is to sell at high spot prices and import brown coal power cheaply at other times to fulfill contracts to large electrometallurgical plants. Carbon tax (the unexempted bit) inhibits that to some extent when it goes who knows what will happen.

  69. January 17th, 2014 at 12:16 | #69

    Hermit, do you agree the situation is much improved upon than in the 2009 heatwave when when there were rolling blackouts in South Australia and wind and solar capacity was a fraction of what it is now? Basically I would like you to accept what happened yesterday as evidence that South Australia’s wind and solar capacity does not threaten grid reliability. If you could let me know whether or not you accept this as evidence I would appreciate it.

    PS: Electricty prices did not reach $90. Where was this supposed to have happened? I’ve heard the same nonsense repeated on another site as if it was some sort of repeated lie. And even if they hit $90 that’s still an excellent result for yesterday’s conditions. ‘Cause, you know, 2009 heatwave – rolling blackouts.

  70. Hermit
    January 17th, 2014 at 12:35 | #70

    @Ronald Brak
    That was minus $90. Possible explanation here
    Other reasons for coping could include voluntary cuts by big electricity users. However in general terms we’re learning to cope with high energy prices and extreme events. Take bushfires for example; in the 1980s people ran into the flames like headless chooks nowadays they are more cautious. The problem is if it gets beyond our coping ability. For example an El Nino on top of general warming coupled with water shortages and mega fires too extensive for the emergency services.

  71. alfred venison
    January 17th, 2014 at 15:43 | #71

    could be an increase in auditions for the climate change bandwagon.

  72. January 17th, 2014 at 23:04 | #72

    We’ve had a cold front move in and the wind is really blowing. It looks like in a couple of hours wind power alone may be able to generate power equal to South Australia’s entire demand.

  73. alfred venison
    January 18th, 2014 at 00:05 | #73
  74. Megan
    January 18th, 2014 at 00:12 | #74

    testing, testing….

  75. Megan
    January 18th, 2014 at 00:14 | #75

    I’ll try this again to see if our friendly tyrant might let it through now!

    Just watched an astonishing film:

    Five Steps To Tyranny (2001)

    Released 1st February, 2001.

    I’m still banned from using links or even mentioning my own website for some reason – so those interested will have to look it up, but is available to watch for free from, eg, ‘films for action’.

    A Synopsis:

    This film analyzes the movement of a society from freedom to tyranny in five steps. It clearly shows how those in positions of power may cultivate the conditions of tyranny in any population by demonstrating how easily ordinary people may be manipulated into compliance with “authority”, into silence before criminality and even how easily most people may be coerced into performing profoundly immoral acts. Ultimately tyrannies happen because ordinary people are surprisingly willing to do tyranny’s dirty work. We all need to become sensitive to the conditions under which ordinary people can be led to do “evil” deeds and to take a position of resistance to tyranny at the very first signs of its existence.

    Quote from the film:

    “Over the course of human history there have been more crimes committed in the name of obedience than in the name of disobedience.

    So it is not the disobedient, it’s not the rebels, it’s not the unusual kind of deviant person who is the threat to the society.

    The real threat to all societies are the mindlessly, blindly obedient people who follow ANY authority.”

    – Philip Zimbardo

    Apart from the fact that it is a great doco, one of its central premises is borne out by the fact that it was first broadcast early in 2001 and within eight months the western world was acting out the very things depicted in the film.

  76. Megan
    January 18th, 2014 at 00:15 | #76

    Five Steps To Tyranny (2001)

  77. Megan
    January 18th, 2014 at 00:16 | #77

    Quote from the film:

    “Over the course of human history there have been more crimes committed in the name of obedience than in the name of disobedience.

    So it is not the disobedient, it’s not the rebels, it’s not the unusual kind of deviant person who is the threat to the society.

    The real threat to all societies are the mindlessly, blindly obedient people who follow ANY authority.”

  78. Megan
    January 18th, 2014 at 00:20 | #78

    Weird what gets eternal moderation, isn’t it?

    The film was first broadcast on UK TV in about February 2001.

    It was titled “Five Steps to Tyr….y” and I just watched it online.

    Here we are in 2014 and I can’t even mention its name.

    Nothing to see here folks, carry on.

  79. Megan
    January 18th, 2014 at 00:40 | #79

    A Synopsis:

    This film analyzes the movement of a society from freedom to tyr…y in five steps. It clearly shows how those in positions of power may cultivate the conditions of tyr….y in any population by demonstrating how easily ordinary people may be manipulated into compliance with “authority”, into silence before criminality and even how easily most people may be coerced into performing profoundly immoral acts. Ultimately tyr…ies happen because ordinary people are surprisingly willing to do tyr…y’s dirty work. We all need to become sensitive to the conditions under which ordinary people can be led to do “evil” deeds and to take a position of resistance to tyr…y at the very first signs of its existence.

    Apart from the fact that it is a great doco, one of its central premises is borne out by the fact that it was first broadcast early in 2001 and within eight months the western world was acting out the very things depicted in the film.

    And it’s also interesting that the word in the title which is the central focus of the whole film cannot even be mentioned on an Australian website.

  80. January 18th, 2014 at 01:41 | #80

    And the electricity spot price in South Australia has dropped to zero and we are exporting electricity to Victoria.

  81. Fran Barlow
    January 18th, 2014 at 07:36 | #81


    Is it the case that Maurice Newman has withdrawn his ostensible offer to bet $10k with climate scientists that surface air temperatures will be cooler in 20 years’ time?

  82. Ikonoclast
    January 18th, 2014 at 08:47 | #82

    Hermit, I am intrigued. What would you do if you were able to dictate Australian energy policy? You seem to be critical of everything (fossil fuels and renewables) but state no viable alternatives.

    To put my cards on the table, I would;

    1. Adopt the Zero Carbon Australia plan and push it through in as little as 10 years if possible.
    2. Introduce a carbon tax and rapidly push it to something like $60 per ton of CO2 emissions.
    3. Remove all fossil fuel subsidies in as little a five years.
    4. Institute large public works for rail and mass transit.
    5. Further stimulate the economy, if necessary in health, education and human services.

  83. Doug
    January 18th, 2014 at 09:08 | #83

    Newman said that he never made the offer – he was just quoting what someone else had said

  84. BilB
    January 18th, 2014 at 09:57 | #84


    The futile aspect of the Carbon Tax (nee Price) was that the collections were not used effectively. The biggest part of the problem is coal and gas powered electricity. For a rapid change to alleviate the problem most of those funds should have become the investment fund for new power infrastructure.

    The “spend the money then wait for market forces to correct the problem” approach has failed. Not because market forces do not work, but because political forces have damaged the process, and because there was far less than possible energy infrastructure creation undertaken, the one real opportunity to make a difference has been lost again. The largest investment made was in fattening up the power distribution network to better facilitate the distribution of fossil fuel energy.

    There was the opportunity to get 2 or 3 gigawatts of non wind energy renewable power generation machinery underway during the short period of environmental enlightenment , but instead we fiddled around the edges. South Australia’s wind energy achievement is indeed to be applauded as an example of what is possible when good sense prevails.

    The main development from Australia’s brief period of environmental enlightenment was the enabling of distributed energy production, and to an extent that there can be no reversal from this position. Availability of affordable solar energy systems gives us a degree of energy independence and a very valuable device for the protection of our standard of living. And there is a lot more yet to be done.

    I am predicting that our future living comfort will involve a long forgotten technology once used widely in outback Australia. Have a look at and a long think about the Hallstrom refrigerator and the Crosley Icy Ball, both fore runners of the famous kerosene refrigerator.


  85. Hermit
    January 18th, 2014 at 10:07 | #85

    ZCA is off the table for starters as I regard it as a fantasy. See the critiques by Ted Trainer and others. I would have a CO2 cap based system with minimal concessions. I’d not only phase out FF subsidies (which in my opinion are only moderate here) but the RET as well. I’d have unilateral carbon tariffs on goods made in China…see the Crikey article by Cathy Alexander. Repeal sections of the biodiversity and radiation acts so if someone wants to build nukes let them. If it means future price guarantees then give the same deal to wind power in lieu of the RET.

    I’m not sure fast trains and the like are ‘better’ than budget air travel. High fuel prices may make this clearer. Ditto spending billions on smart meters because we may get a similar effect more cheaply. The grey area is holding up future GDP. I suspect whatever we do most work will end up casual and people will spend a lot of time in the vegie garden. Ergo real house prices will be lower as people won’t be able to afford big mortgages even at 2%. Beyond that is the mist of time, future time that is.

  86. BilB
    January 18th, 2014 at 10:09 | #86

    Good information Ronald B @ 13. South Australia continues to punch well above its weight in so many fields.

  87. Donald Oats
    January 18th, 2014 at 10:31 | #87

    Oops. Multiple incursions into Indonesian territorial waters? Where was the sextant? GPS? Did we get an invite? Did we have good reason (eg to rescue people from a sinking vessel)? Who knows?—after all, it is an operational matter!

    Multiple incursions does not sound like an accidental, inadvertent slip of the throttle: it sounds intentional; perhaps a single incursion could be explained away, but more than one? This is going to be very hard to explain away, especially in the wake of the Timor bugging event(s) being made public. Spy vs Spy, it seems to be, and we are not looking like the white-hat spy…

  88. BilB
    January 18th, 2014 at 10:31 | #88

    Trains versus Plains? here are some figures


    but watch the video to learn more about where aviation is heading.

    The problem with fast trains is that the cost of achieving them for Australia’s 30 hectare per person to Europe’s 1.4 hectares per person population density is not justified on the basis of the savings and the potential traffic. And air travel could well adapt to eliminate the benefits.

    ZCA is an aspiration, and 80% achievable for a committed community. I don’t believe that 100% is a practical target, nor is it necessary.

  89. sunshine
    January 18th, 2014 at 10:40 | #89

    In Spain last year they got more energy from wind than any other source (it just beat nuclear). But the world spends more on fossil fuel subsidies than on promotion of renewable s. The Spanish may have to step down their renewable support due to the state of their economy .

    This morning I find myself wondering why I usually expect that humanity would care about the Earths future .There is so much suffering going on all the time that people seem not to care much, if at all ,about -why would they care what kind of future the Earth has after they are gone ? That most people have, or know some ,children is the only reason I can find today.

  90. BilB
    January 18th, 2014 at 10:41 | #90

    Donald Oates,

    The GPS on my phone is sufficient to stay within 10 metres of Australian waters, I tested this on a recent flight from Melbourne to Sydney where both TomTom and Rout66 were spot on accurate. And if Australia’s aircraft make the same kind of incursions then maybe the government should consider making the free App PFD Boeing (Android) available to all pilots. The government is totally without credibility in claiming that this was an accident.

    Is the minister going to claim that the ships were operating in a “radio silent” mode? All of the phones were turned off and the ships’ considerable navigation equipment was non operational?

  91. sunshine
    January 18th, 2014 at 10:48 | #91

    Re ; Operation Violation of Indonesia’s Sovereign Borders .
    Why did Morrrison suddenly volunteer this information ? does that not seem unusual ? Maybe the Indos found out and told him to make full public apology ASAP or else! .

  92. Donald Oats
    January 18th, 2014 at 11:04 | #92


    Perhaps the navigational equipment was non-operational, and that is why they could tell us about the non-operational incursions 🙂

    Ah, politics.

  93. Doug
    January 18th, 2014 at 11:11 | #93

    One incursion – an accident, two incursions – check the competence of the navigator, multiple incursions on the one day – operating under orders and not willing to back off. Indonesian navy is going to help us out by sending down some ships to help us identify where territorial waters are. Very helpful lot

  94. Megan
    January 18th, 2014 at 11:59 | #94

    Using these comments as a ‘straw poll’, it seems likely that a high proportion of Australian’s BS-O-meter went off instantly (and non-partisanly) when they heard about these ‘accidental incursions’, as did mine.

    Hopeful sign that credulity is not a given.

  95. Fran Barlow
    January 18th, 2014 at 14:49 | #95

    I’ve just read some research that attributes proportionate cause to GHGs in the atmosphere between 1906 and 2012. Apparently 60% is down to seven countries:


    The USA accounts for 22% — nearly twice as much as the next country — China (12%) and from there it’s all single digits. Of course China’s emissions are very substantially the result of manufacturing goods for countries with lower emissions in part because China is manufacturing them. China’s breakneck industrialisation and subsequent openness to foreign investment was welcomed by the west as was that in other second and third world countries so ethically speaking one can attribute almost all of the responsibility for the global ecosystem anomaly to the west, and therefore expect that the richest parts of the world ought to shoulder the principal burden of mitigation, remediation and adaptation. Plainly we westerners are the principal beneficiaries of the malfeasant conduct and best equipped to make amends as well. If anyone should go first in taking action, it ought to be us. Yet instead, states like the USA, Canada and Australia are doing the exact opposite and also working to undermine moves towards an effective deal.

    It really is shameful and if we more plebeian westerners had a decisive role in shaping our government’s policies, we would own this shame.

  96. January 18th, 2014 at 14:55 | #96

    Hermit, I’m still waiting to see if you will answer my question. Do you accept the performance of South Australia’s grid in the heatwave we just had as evidence that wind and solar power don’t endanger grid stability? If you don’t accept it as evidence then what would you accept as evidence?

  97. BilB
    January 18th, 2014 at 17:05 | #97

    Hermits away for the moment, Ronald B, picking cherries I suspect.

  98. Donald Oats
    January 18th, 2014 at 18:46 | #98

    So called “climate sceptics” created their own science journal (i.e. they were the editors), loaded it up with articles following the standard contrarian glibbish, and then got sprung by the publisher, Copernicus. Copernicus bandied about words like, ah, “malpractice”, and other cool things like that. They weren’t happy at Copernicus, being taken for a ride…

    Meanwhile, Andrew Dessler gave a most excellent presentation on climate science and global warming, to the US Senate, as discussed at the Rabett Run blog.

  99. Ikonoclast
    January 19th, 2014 at 05:27 | #99


    Ted Trainer is not a scientist in any of the hard sciences, nor is he an engineer. Simply put, Ted is not an authority on this issue. ZCA for stationary power is feasible according to scientists, engineers and economists familiar with the plan and not motivated by ideological opposition. The sums actually do add up physically and economically.

    The above does not mean we were out of the woods. There is still all the fossil fuel (oil and gas products) that we use for transport. How we replace our fossil fuelled transport fleet is a further big problem and I don’t know the answer.

    Then in terms of sustainability we have water issues and other resource limits. Plenty of problems but ZCA’s plan would be a step in the right direction.

    It seems some people won’t accept part solutions. We will have to accept part solutions in a lot of areas and hope they add up to a controlled power down to stable sustainability rather than a totally disastrous collapse. The personal automobile will have to be phased out for example. Even electric cars will only be for a wealthy minority. (I don’t expect social equity any time soon.)

  100. Alan
    January 19th, 2014 at 05:40 | #100


    When Abbot was prime minster he asked to to go on a military patrol with actual soldiers in a real war zone. He is living in a flat at the police academy.

    Multiple incursions in one day, Abbot with a big video screen playing Jeb Bartlett or Francis Urquhart?

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