Return of ‘Lord Monckton’

While we are on the subject of irresponsible pranks, noted performance artist, “Lord Monckton” is returning to Australia after his highly successful tour a couple of years ago, when I was invited to, and then disinvited from, a debate with him. I had some good lines ready on my part in the conspiracy to impose a communist world government, but I never got to use them. On the other hand, Monckton played the straight man to Tim Lambert, reprising the famous McLuhan moment from Annie Hall.

It’s been suggested that “Monckton” is another manifestation of the multi-faceted Sacha Baron-Cohen, but this is incorrect. Like his model, the marvellous Screaming Lord Sutch, Monckton lives his character 24/7. In fact, Monckton outdoes Sutch in many respects. Sutch regularly ran for the English House of Commons as a candidate for the Monster Raving Loony Party, losing his deposit every time. Monckton topped this by running for the House of Lords, as an independent monster raving loony, and received zero votes. Emulating Monty Python’s Silly Party, he ran three times more, doubling his vote each time.

His latest tour will be a challenge. He doesn’t seem to have much new material to add to the loony climate denialist routines of his previous tours, and much of the audience is now in on the joke. For example, I’m pretty sure that Andrew Bolt tumbled after Monckton’s Galileo Movement prank. Still, fans of WWE wrestling are perfectly happy to cheer the faces and boo the heels, knowing perfectly well that the events are staged and scripted, and indeed getting additional entertainment from the soap opera of the “real story”

India also cold on coal

Following my post on China, I took a look at the situation in India, generally seen as the source of the next big ramp-up in coal-fired electricity. I found this article by Giles Parkinson, who suggests on the contrary

poor supply and pipeline infrastructure, and the high cost of coal imports mean that coal- and gas-fired generation is becoming unviable, even in a country with huge economic growth, an energy deficit and massive energy needs.

Following some of the companies mentioned by Parkinson, I found the recent news is even worse for coal-fired power, and better for renewables and the environment

Tata Power

As an aside, there have been a lot of stories about a boom in coal-fired power in Europe, in response to low global coal prices. At least in part, though, the story seems to be that the plants in question had been allotted a fixed number of operating hours before they closed down under the EU “large combustion plant directive which forces high-polluting power plants to close by the end of 2015 or after 20,000 operating hours from January 2008 unless they fitted greenhouse gas reducing equipment. So, the combination of cheap coal and expensive gas made it profitable to use up the hours quickly, then shut down, as with these UK plants.

Peak (thermal) coal ?

Most of the news on CO2 emissions has been bad. In particular, there are plenty of stories suggesting that coal-fired electricity is booming, and that this can be expected to continue. Although the evidence is mixed, I’m coming to the opposite conclusion. It’s already clear that no new coal-fired power stations will be constructed in the US for some time to come, and that many old ones will close, thanks to cheap gas and EPA regulations. And, while there are some new stations coming on-line in the EU, closures will predominate there too, although they still need to work out what to do with Poland.

But the big news is from China. Not that long ago, the standard story was that China was turning on two new coal-fired power stations every week. Now as this AFR report (paywalled, but another version here) says, China is cutting back hard on coal expansion. I found this story from March, in which the China Electricity Council says that it expects coal consumption in 2015 to be below the 2011 level, implying that the peak is very near. India is also planning some big expansions, but if China can grow without coal, so can they.

All of this suggests that the peak in global use of thermal coal could be much closer than is generally thought. Demand for metallurgical coal, used to produce steel, seems much more robust at least as long as investment-driven growth continues apace in China and India. Looking at the other fossil fuels, we reached plateau oil at least five years ago. On the other hand, gas (less carbon-intensive than the others, but still a source of CO2) is booming. So, there’s still a lot of work to be done before we can end the growth in emissions, let alone start on the 80 per cent reductions we need.

ACMA fails again

Following the tragic suicide of a British nurse, the victim of a cruel and unfunny practical joke by an Australian radio station 2DAYFM, what action can we expect from the Australian Communications and Media Authority which is supposed to regulate such matters? Following the most recent of many such breaches of license conditions, in May last year, ACMA warned 2DAY-FM that it could lose its license if such behavior continued. But ACMA has never cancelled a license, and clearly never will. So, we can expect another warning, or perhaps some meaningless, and unenforceable, license conditions.

ACMAs total failure contrasts with the success of the Facebook backlash against Alan Jones, which has cost him and his employers millions in lost advertising revenue, and greatly reduced his power and influence.

At this point, it’s clear that licensing has failed. Rather than continuing with this farce, we should auction the spectrum currently allocated to commercial radio, and let the winners do what they want with it, subject to the ordinary law of the land (which prohibits recording deceptive calls, though this law is never enforced against radio stations). As a community, we should continue to punish the corporations that sponsor the likes of Jones, Kyle Sandilands, and their latest imitators.

Just when you think they couldn’t get any worse …

The Queensland LNP comes up with this. Fortunately, I doubt that this silliness will have any effect, except to increase the likelihood of a one-term Newman government, already close to even money in my view.

Having lived in Queensland for most of the last 20 years, the only LNP government I can remember is that of Rob Borbidge, who seemed like a paragon of good sense compared to this lot. It really is as if the entire LNP has been in cold storage since the Joh era and revived for the occasion. But, given Labor’s appalling betrayals of its own voters, they were certain to win, and better that they should be so obviously silly as to make the next election a chance for real change.