204 thoughts on “Monday Message Board

  1. @Hermit
    Do you have any source for the “negative growth” in solar installation, because I can’t find any information on this? By negative growth do you mean it is growing more slowly this year than in the past year?

  2. Val, I don’t know much more than you to be honest.

    But to answer your initial question, Vic power generation is so high because it’s always exporting 20-25% of its brown coal power north to NSW and Qld.

    The brown coal generation figures stay pretty much flat because they’re always running near full tilt (80-90% or so of capacity).

    Vic gets about a third of its peak power (4-500MW) from SA wind/solar/gas. As Ronald says, SA has plenty to spare compared to what it needs to support itself. I reckon Hermit is way off talking about potential power shortages in SA in the next few years.

    At night, things flip around and instead of importing peak power, Vic exports ~150MW of brown coal power to SA to make up for the loss of solar, and whatever SA wind and gas aren’t covering.

  3. @Hermit

    As for energy storage at the Gwh level no mostly flat country has come anywhere near it. Time to get real.

    I don’t quiite follow. Are you saying you agree with me that the future development of renewables with storage is a possibility, but that you think it’s unlikely, or are you saying that you think there is zero possibility that this could occur?

  4. And the party continues at CSIRO: the cuts that aren’t cuts are chewing into the research scientist staff and the core research engineers as well. Like the ABC, this has been a hammer blow to the head, affecting the southern states of SA and Tas quite disproportionately. Apparently industry confidence in putting money into research has dwindled, and since CSIRO relies on industry collaborations to fund much of its research, that too is putting pressure on things.

    The LNP must really love the smell of napalm in the morning, for this is turning into a scorched earth campaign against anyone who they perceive to be a threat, i.e. to the political left of Genghis Khan.

  5. Hermit, in our Australia we already have gigawatt-hours of pumped storage. At Tumat-3 in the Snowy Mountains and Wivenhoe dam. And the interesting thing is that increasing rooftop solar capacity is reducing the amount of grid electricity used during the day and allowing more hydroelectric and pumped storage capacity to be saved for the evening. Rooftop solar can also allow pumped storage to be charged in the middle of the day.

  6. @Val
    Val, the amount of rooftop solar being installed is not decreasing. When looking at Australia as a whole the rate capacity has increased at has been reasonably steady for years, although individual states have undergone busts and booms as subsidies have been cut. What Hermit is referring to is a decrease in the number of applications which has been offset by an increase in the average size of installed systems, so the amount of solar PV being installed isn’t going down.

  7. Snowy Mountains pumped storage is about 5 Gwh a day whereas Australia uses nearly 700 Gwh of electricity a day. That’s even before electric transport goes prime time. If a lot of that were to come from intermittent sources the storage requirement would be huge, noting that Germany says its aim is to store a week’s worth of electricity. We don’t have enough pumped storage though this reports lists possible new sites

    Click to access APPENDIX4-ROAM-report-on-pumped-storage.pdf

    On current specs batteries are too costly, bulky and short lived. At Long Island California a battery is to to be built that can supply 100 MW for 4 hours. We don’t know yet if it will be safe and reliable yet it’s a drop in the bucket of energy storage needs. Home batteries can at best hold a few days requirements. If grid connection is retained for rainy weeks then fixed charges must stay low. At this stage I think energy storage will be a fringe player and we must generate reasonable electricity requirements (eg for heat waves) in real time.

  8. So, Hermit, I take it when you wrote, “As for energy storage at the Gwh level no mostly flat country has come anywhere near it. Time to get real.” You were referring to places such as Holland and the Maldives? Because from the context it appeared that you meant Australia, and as you have just pointed out that would be silly.

  9. @Ronald Brak
    Make that newGwh energy storage. Cost and nimbyism will stop any of those other pumped hydro sites going ahead, other than perhaps a showpiece mini project. Tough for the platypus if the pond level went up and down 5 metres a day.

  10. Hermit, you mentined another country having a goal of a week’s worth of storage. Are you suggesting that a week’s worth of storage would be required for Australia to get the majority of its electricity from intermittent sources? Why would you think that when South Australia already gets 40% of its electricity from new renewables without storage? While having hours of storage would be useful, it is not required.

  11. @Hermit
    Hermit, so you have changed your mind from, “As for energy storage at the Gwh level no mostly flat country has come anywhere near it. Time to get real.” to, ““As for new energy storage at the Gwh level no mostly flat country will come anywhere near it. Time to get real.” Is that correct?

  12. http://cleantechnica.com/2014/09/19/25000-cell-battery-power-plant-switched-germany/

    “It has 5 MW[h] of storage capacity, and cost six million euros.”

    Any average size industrial park block in Australia could easily accommodate one of those.

    200 of them across the state = 1GWh of storage = €120 million

    That sounds decidedly cheap to me. Especially as in Victoria we’re currently considering spending $6.8 billion to construct a largely unnecessary road tunnel.

    And hardly impossible.

  13. So Tony Abbott had written an open letter to the party leaders in Victoria saying if Victoria doesn’t proceed with EastWest link after the election, we won’t get the $3b infrastructure money. http://bit.ly/1plylcI

    In other words he’s saying to Victorians, vote for the LNP or lose $3b. Do you think he’s jumped the shark yet?

  14. Val

    [In other words he’s saying to Victorians, vote for the LNP or lose $3b. Do you think he’s jumped the shark yet?]

    Not if you think about it. The EW link (aptly named IMO) will cost Victorians far more than $3bn and will hurt them for years to come. This is just another developer porkbarrell.

    Victorians will be better off without it. Seriously better off, even if it were free, which it isn’t.

  15. @Fran Barlow
    Fran not quite sure what you’re getting at there, but I think you may have missed the point. I’m not talking about whether EW link should go ahead or not. As a lefty in the northern suburbs of Melbourne, of course I’m opposed to it.

    I’m talking about what Abbott has done as a political tactic. As a political tactic, it’s terrible. I tweeted about it, and my twitter feed has gone crazy with retweets. People really don’t like being threatened.

  16. Every time that the budget situation is used as an excuse for breaking an election promise, it pays to remember how Tony Abbott was asked these questions before the election:

    QUESTION: So, all your promises that you’re announcing during this election campaign, they will be implemented in full, That is a rock solid commitment?

    TONY ABBOTT: I will do what I say we will do. I want to be known as someone who under-promises and over-delivers.

    QUESTION: The condition of the Budget will not be an excuse for breaking promises?

    TONY ABBOTT: Exactly right. We will make – we will keep the commitments that we make. All of the commitments that we make will be commitments that are carefully costed and the savings to fund them will all be well-known well before people go to the polls on Saturday, September the 7th.

    There you have it, in his own words.

    [From the Australian Parliament House ParLinfo database, Transcript of joint press conference: Colo Heights: 13 August 2013.]

  17. ” That’s even before electric transport goes prime time.”

    You have that the wrong way around, I think. Electric transport implies batteries, and therefore a huge addition to storage capacity.

  18. Rev-Heads would be pleased to see that the 0-100kph record is held by an electric motorcycle (0.97 seconds). The fastest fossil fuel vehicles take about 4 seconds, and most can only do about 6 or 7.

    Not that there is any practical need for this. Just fun to see the FF fans getting thumped by alternatives.

    In NZ this Sunday the record holder, “Killacycle”, and others are having an ‘E’ fest near Christchurch with all sorts of electric vehicles showing off.

  19. Well, John, you’d think that, but you see, with the electrification of transport what we will have is millions of people with huge battery packs in their cars which they will all attempt to charge at the worst possible time and that will collapse the grid and destroy civilisation and we will have no choice other than to revert to cannibalism. Or, for those people who have never engaged in cannibalism in the past and therefore cannot revert back to it, they will have no choice other than to enter a brave new world of cannibalism. Now you might say that price incentives would encourage people to charge their electric cars when electricity prices are low and not charge them, or even export electricity from the battery packs, when the price is high and thus stabilise the grid. But that thinking is… two dimensional. You see, to people price indicates quality so everyone will attempt to charge their cars when the price is high in order to get some of that high quality electricity. And if this isn’t true, then why are faberge eggs so much more valuable then real eggs when you can’t even eat them?

  20. @Donald Oats

    I’ll see you and trump you, from May 2010:

    TONY ABBOTT: But the thing is I made a statement in a radio interview in February and then I think in March I made a commitment to paid parental leave. Now, …

    KERRY O’BRIEN: Which was the opposite of what you’d said the month before.

    TONY ABBOTT: Well, it wasn’t absolutely consistent with what I said the month before.

    KERRY O’BRIEN: It was the opposite! One month you say no new tax, the next month you say a $2.7 billion tax.

    TONY ABBOTT: OK. This is an argument that we could well have had in March and we did have it in March and a lot of people pointed out back then that there was a bit of inconsistency and I accept that. There is a bit of inconsistency.

    KERRY O’BRIEN: Is that why your colleagues over the years have come to call you “The Weathervane”?

    TONY ABBOTT: Well, I don’t know that I have been much called that over the years. I think that was a phrase that was bandied around in one context. I think the argument from the Labor Party much more often has been that I am so consistently on one side of the argument that I’m some kind of conservative ogre – I thought that was the argument that the Labor Party put more often.

    KERRY O’BRIEN: But this business about times when you’re – what you say can be believed or trusted and times when we should accept that it’s not necessarily the truth – it makes it very hard for people – I mean, if we go back …

    TONY ABBOTT: If you gave an Andrew Olle Lecture, that would obviously be the distilled essence of what Kerry O’Brien thinks on a particular issue.

    KERRY O’BRIEN: But I’ll say again: I’m not aspiring to be the Prime Minister of Australia, no matter what I say.

    TONY ABBOTT: But I’m just – I mean, people will make their judgments of me, Kerry, and I accept that and I understand that, and some of them will say, “Ah ha, he said this in a radio interview in February and then a month later in March he made a commitment on paid parental leave which is not completely consistent with that former statement.”

    KERRY O’BRIEN: No, no; it was the opposite! It was the opposite of the first statement, Mr Abbott?

    TONY ABBOTT: And some people, Kerry, will judge me very harshly.

    KERRY O’BRIEN: But I’d like to hear you acknowledge this. It wasn’t just a little bit different; it was the complete opposite. One was no new tax, the other was a new tax of $2.7 billion within a month.

    TONY ABBOTT: And, Kerry, at the risk of just repeating over and over again an argument that we’ve had before, I said at the time I would be prefer not to fund it this way and I would hope when the Budget returned to surplus that we wouldn’t have to do this increase in the tax burden, but nevertheless that was the least bad way of proceeding at the time.

    KERRY O’BRIEN: But we are going to hear a lot from you over the next few months leading up to the election and what you are saying …

    TONY ABBOTT: You’re not gonna hear any big promises from me.

    KERRY O’BRIEN: But what you are saying is that the public are not going to know from one day to the next when you are saying something that’s absolutely rock solid and when it’s not. Are there two Tony Abbotts? The real Tony Abbott and the Tony Abbott who tailors what he has to say to whatever audience he has in front of him. We’ve talked about – I’ll say this quickly. We’ve talked about the time you told the audience in a Victorian country town that the climate change argument was “absolute crap”. And then you told me later that you were just being loose with your language. “It didn’t represent my true position,” you said. How are we to know when we’re hearing your true position and when you’re fudging the truth?

    TONY ABBOTT: Well, again, I think that most of us know when we’re talking to people or when we’re listening to people, I think we know when we can put absolute weight on what’s being said and when it’s just the give and take of standard conversation.

    KERRY O’BRIEN: This is sounding suspiciously like core promises and non-core promises?

    TONY ABBOTT: Well, look, Kerry, I’m doing my best to try to give a reasonable, intelligible answer to your questions, but as I said, this was a subject that was run up the flagpole and down the flagpole lots of times back in March because you’re not the first person to have noticed what you think is a serious inconsistency.

    KERRY O’BRIEN: When you say you won’t bring back the Australian Workplace Agreements of old under WorkChoices, you’ll just tweak the existing legislation, is that the real Tony Abbott or are we being loose with the language?

    TONY ABBOTT: That is a very considered position.


    TONY ABBOTT: That is a very considered position.

    KERRY O’BRIEN: So that one’s real?

    TONY ABBOTT: Look, you haven’t sprung me, you haven’t sprung some question on me out of the blue. I mean, we haven’t slipped from one subject onto another subject. I mean, this obviously is gonna be a very important issue in the election campaign. Labor and the unions will run the mother of all scare campaigns here. It won’t be true. We will work within the current legislation.

    KERRY O’BRIEN: But you’re going to change it. When you say you’re gonna work within it, you will make changes to it.

    TONY ABBOTT: I want it to be more flexible and more workable, but we’re talking about flexibility upwards here, not downwards. Labor’s safety net stays.

    KERRY O’BRIEN: Tony Abbott, thanks for talking with us.

    TONY ABBOTT: Thanks, Kerry.

    And the ALP actually managed to LOSE AN ELECTION TO THIS LIAR???

    That takes some massive incompetence on the part of the ALP.

    The sad thing is that they think they will win the next election by doing exactly the same thing.

    The only people I hold in greater contempt that LNP supporters are ALP supporters.

  21. Vehicle to grid two way energy transfer is being trialled at places like the University of Delaware
    Suffice to say it hasn’t caught on yet. If your traction battery is good for just 2000 deep discharge cycles I think you’d be a mug to let others shorten its life. There is also a huge cost in providing charging points for vehicles parked away from home plus the software issues in co-ordinating the individual and aggregate power flows. Maybe it’s just simpler to take the bus to work and meetings.

    RB I’m saying electrochemical batteries will probably not solve the Gwh storage problem. The 0.4 Gwh ‘super’ battery may overheat or need chunks regularly replacing; let’s wait and see. That means for most users PV only works in the middle of sunny days. Therefore it doesn’t matter how many gazillion watts are streamed down from the sun we can only ever use some of it.

  22. One option is to have cars with easily replaced battery packs: drive into the local recharge bay, drop off your battery packs for recharged ones, and drive away. It would require substantial redesign of the cars though 😦

  23. Donald, I suspect that self driving vehicles will soon change the way we related to cars before too long. For people in towns and cities who just want to get from A to B I imagine they will simply take a self driving taxi, which I presume will be much cheaper than the cost of owning a car. When a car can go charge itself I won’t really care whether it does so by plugging in or swapping batteries, just so long as I get to go where I want conveniently.

  24. Hermit, cheap energy storage would be a very useful thing to have, but it is not necessary for us to get a lot of energy from wind and/or solar. With solar, since we use more than half our electricity during the day, even without storage we could get more than half our electricity from it. This would involve some overcapacity and plenty of west or north-west facing panels, but it could be done. And given the declining cost of point of use solar and stubbonly high retail electricity prices we may end up with such a situation. And as demand shifts to take advantage of cheap electricity prices during the day, the amount of electricity we can get from solar increases.

    And I feel I should point out that even a fixed north facing solar array doesn’t only produce electricity in “the middle of the day”. In practice the varied arrangement of muliple installations smears out production to an extent so that in Adelaide rooftop solar on a fine day in summer will typically produce about 50% or more of its noon output from nine to five, which conveniently is the working day.

    As for batteries used for energy storage they are far more likely to be located in people’s homes and businesses than on the grid. Looking at November the 14th when temperatures hit 40 degrees in Brisbane I see the difference between the maxiumum and the minumum wholesale electricity prices was little more than three and a half cents. That’s pretty amazing and a large part of it is due to the magic of rooftop solar. The fact it was a weekend also helped. But, on grid storage isn’t going to have much room for arbitage. But a person getting the now typical zero to six cents feed-in tariff for new solar can save themselves perhaps 25 cents or more for every kilowatt-hour of rooftop solar electricity they save for the evening. And clearly about 25 cents is a lot more than about three and a half cents.

  25. John Quiggin :
    ” That’s even before electric transport goes prime time.”
    You have that the wrong way around, I think. Electric transport implies batteries, and therefore a huge addition to storage capacity.

    Enh. Trolleybuses are cool.

    [trains even more so…]

  26. will solar pvc ever become cheap enough to incorporate into the outward facing side of drapery material so queenslanders can have daylight saving? seriously though, as a lazy end-user myself i’d like to see this stuff cheap enough to be made into sheets like space blankets i could hang over the balcony rail on sunny days, if only to *supplement a bit* or *reduce a bit* power bought from the usual suspects.

    you guys – respectfully – keep talking about this like people who own houses and have a car or two. half the population lives in rented accommodation and most of them will probably never own a house. and many people renting now have landlords who don’t give a toss about improvements or cry poor while laughing all the way to the bank.

    there need to be solutions that renters can afford and that renters can set up and take down easily when they inevitably move and without drilling holes in some precious cheapskate’s precious property. -a.v.

  27. @alfred venison
    Aargh – automod. Trying again sans link:

    there need to be solutions that renters can afford and that renters can set up and take down easily when they inevitably move and without drilling holes in some precious cheapskate’s precious property

    You mean guerrilla solar? There is tech out there that lets you do this. There are *ahem* legal obstacles though. Some introductory info is here: http://www.energymatters.com.au/renewable-news/em3296/

    Renew Magazine had a great article a few years ago called “Renewables for Renters” about a DIY solar/small wind and battery combo some people in Perth put together. I think it was in issue 73.

  28. @alfred venison
    Third attempt:

    Alfred, there is affordable tech around that enables renters to install “guerrilla solar”, or potentially small wind turbines, that can be moved from property to property.

    There are portable inverters on the market that can be attached to solar panels or a small wind turbine and plugged into a wall socket to deliver the power to the household (and grid) without needing installation by an electrician. Depending on the system size, a rig like this can cost from several hundred to a couple of thousand dollars (at today’s panel prices).

    Some people have also put together small transportable battery packs with camping inverters and attached them to solar panels or wind turbines. There was a good article about this in Renew magazine a few years ago (issue 73, I believe).

    There are potential insurance and legal issues with this approach when it’s done without permission from the utility company; hence the term “guerrilla solar”.

  29. @alfred venison
    Alfred, people are working on drapery PV so keep an eye out for that.

    And I’ll mention that two thirds of Australians live in family owned accommodation. It’s not like Romania which has 96% home ownership, but the rate is higher than most developed countries.

    There are systems in Germany and elsewhere that are of use to apartment dwellers and can be put on balconies and simply plugged into a power point. But you’d want to be careful in Australia because utilities might accuse you of tampering if you tried that here and get you fined over $300,000. (Don’t feel too sorry for yourself, in Spain the fine for unreported solar capacity can be 60 million euros.) To be safe you might want to use a system that doesn’t feed into the grid.

    On a more practical note, the lower income half of Australians have more rooftop solar installations than the higher income half. This is because those who have less income are more on the look out for bargains than filthy rich people like me. Those without solar benefit from the lower electricity prices that result from others installing solar. And any time this country wants it can give relief on grid electricity prices to the poor, the elderly or whoever. It’s not hard and there are plenty of ways to do it that have been tried in other countries. And Australia actually does currently have some limited forms of relief, but not much. One very simple method is to slightly raise electricity prices and use the increased revenue to give a ration of free electricity to low income earners. I like this idea very much, not for practical purposes, but because when suggested to people who are carrying on about solar energy hurting poor people it can make their heads explode like in the movie Scanners.

    [Note very well: This is not a recomendation to see the movie Scanners. Do not see the movie Scanners! If you watch it you’ll be throwing up things you ate when you were a five year old.]

  30. @zoot
    I’m surprised that wave energy has not been more vigorously pursued – it’s available 24/7 and it’s sort of all around us. A couple of years ago I heard of a trial project off the coast of Sydney.
    In a previous life I did a bit of ocean racing. Our yacht weighed 10 tons (22,240 lbs in the old system), so in a 3 feet swell, each wave generated 66,700 ft.lbs of potential energy every, say, 5 seconds between waves. Thus each 10 ton buoy could generate power of 22,200 ft.lbs/sec or 40 horsepower. This would drive a 10 ton truck up a 10% grade at walking speed.
    Mind you, it is nearly 60 years since I did these sorts of calculations, so corrections are welcome.

  31. The ACT’s 1.2 m Christmas lights seem a bit indulgent give the general mood for energy frugality
    If the LED bulbs draw 2 watts each combined that’s over 2 megawatts. The electricity is supposed to be green but it won’t be solar at night. Good thing because electricity from their new solar farm costs nearly five times the NEM average wholesale price. What happens to assurances of green electricity during wind lulls and hydro droughts?

  32. @Hermit
    If they’re your typical fairy light substitute type LEDs, then they won’t be drawing anything close to 2W per globe. More like <0.04W

  33. Can someone explain this medical services “GP” copayment to me? I heard from one minister a long and strenuous argument that the copayment was essential because medicare is unsustainable; the PM and others have stated that the copayment is to fund the new $20 billion dollar medical research centre(s)—so which reason is it? If it funds the new medical research centre(s), then it certainly isn’t “repairing” the existing budget; and if it is to fund a blowing out of our medicare system, then it isn’t funding the $20 billion smackers for the new medical research centre.

    I suppose it could be argued that the purpose of the copayment is not the use of it, but the price signal that it sends—to sick people! Well, the only people for whom a price signal of $7 is likely to affect are precisely those for whom $7 is a significant percentage of their weekly income, i.e. poor people. We already know that poor people put off seeing a dentist because of cost, and the impact of that is to eventually lose their teeth, often after years of pain. Both the logic of the copayment, and its use, are dubious at best.

    Finally, it is worth reminding ourselves of how the human weathervane was responding to reporters’ questions about the “ALP scare campaign” of the prospect of a GP tax being sought by the government. PM Abbott, at the time of this interview in Feb 2014, nixxed the very notion of a GP tax. Not three weeks later, we have the Health minister Peter Dutton pre-flogging the dead horse of—you guessed it—a GP copayment, a GP TAX. Despicable.

  34. Geoff, wave energy seems to make a lot of sense due to the much higher energy density of water than air, so it should be possible to capture the same amount of energy from water as air with much less capital. In practice wave power hasn’t done well so far because, as I’m sure you know, the sea is an unforgiving mistress. Or if you prefer, master. Or it, if you are so inclined. There are problems with machinery breaking as a result of storms or simply normal conditions and corrosion is huge problem. I am cautiously optimistic about its costs coming down and in time in good locations it may be a valuable addition to other generating capacity, but I doubt it will ever be “big”. But I could be wrong.

  35. With regard to christmas lights, I see it is now possible to get solar powered ones. While people might complain about the resources that went into the PV cells and batteries, it does save on material for a power cord and they are safer. They are vastly less of an electrical hazard, but removing the trip hazard is probably their greatest safety advantage.

    But I have to admit I don’t like Christmas lights. Around Christmas time I find myself constantly getting confused and thinking we’re under alien invasion.

  36. Hermit, who has been assuring you of green electricity? All I seem to see from people who are supposed to be running things is promises to destroy it. If you have some spare assurance, throw some my way, would you? I could certainly use some. I’ve had to buy my own lately.

  37. A test for the greenness of electricity supply would be to add up all the kwh for which customers paid a green premium and see if it exceeds (which I doubt) the official figure. According to BREE in 2013 that would be 249,000 Gwh X 13.1% = 32, 619 Gwh. The unamended 2020 RET is 41,000 Gwh though I believe that includes biofuels and some other quirks. I suspect customers are getting more green electricity at times than they realise and not at other times eg the ACT on a frosty morning when Snowy Hydro is low next year.

    Bête noir Tony Abbott rides a pushbike but emissions averse Bill Shorten doesn’t. Muslims don’t waste energy on Christmas lights or cremations. I’m not sure who the good guys are any more.

  38. @Hermit

    If your traction battery is good for just 2000 deep discharge cycles I think you’d be a mug to let others shorten its life. There is also a huge cost in providing charging points for vehicles parked away from home plus the software issues in co-ordinating the individual and aggregate power flows. Maybe it’s just simpler to take the bus to work and meetings.

    Providing you cost each cycle aptly, you can work out for yourself whether the game is worth the candle. If the replacement cost of the battery pack is $8000 and you get 2000 cycles out of it then you need to make $4 per trade, plus the cost of the replacement power to break even. If you sell during the peak and recharge during the off-peak that’s certainly possible.

    I suspect that if V2G became a significant thing then battery design would prioritise higher numbers of cycles in their design.

    On a mass scale the cost of providing charge points ought to be manageable.

  39. My gut feelings is EVs will be the playthings of the rich and not battlers. A month ago I read you could still buy an as new 2011 Nissan Leaf due to slow sales. Nissan is apparently waiting for a compact battery that will do 300 km. Toyota have gone back to hydrogen fuel cells to solve the range and quick refill problem thereby perhaps creating a bigger problem with cost and hydrogen distribution. There may never be a critical mass of EVs or FCVs to do V2G plus there are the time-of-use problems others have mentioned.

    I think we should look to Cuba to see how our middle classes might cope with the genteel energy poverty which I think is coming about 2020. Perhaps we’ll take gas powered jitneys everywhere using an Uber kind of system. In my case I live on a steep gravel road (sometimes snow covered) 35 km from a supermarket so I could be in trouble. Maybe we’ll all have to accept less mobility.

  40. @Hermit

    Bête noir Tony Abbott rides a pushbike but emissions averse Bill Shorten doesn’t.

    Funny … I’m sure I’ve seen vision of Dear Leader arriving in a car for many of his photo ops. Does he ride there on his bike and then enter the car around the corner, just so he won’t look like a bloody greenie in front of the cameras?

  41. Like a great many folk, and certainly amongst cricket tragics, I was very saddened by the untimely death if Phillip Hughes. He was clearly a cricketer of some ability — the youngest since George Hedley (‘the black Bradman’ at Lords in 1939) to hit a century in each innings of a test match. He was just 20 when he managed it at Kingsmead, Durban in 2009.

    Of course, all premature deaths from preventable causes are tragic, if one regards all humans as equal. If one were merely to read out in public the names and causes of death of all those across the world whose deaths met these criteria the reading would never stop, and indeed, the reader(s) would fall behind.

    Although most pay at least lip service to the idea of human equality, in practice, people are more exercised by those who seem like them in some way (language, culture, narrative, geography) and of course Hughes, as a minor celebrity was able to become a vehicle for those so engaged to share these sentiments, to iterate narratives of authentic Australian community, the fragility of life and so forth.

    This is not to diminish Hughes’s death — I’m certainly amongst those who were greatly distressed at what happened, but as an egalitarian, I can’t but reflect on the bigger picture of human misery barely spoken and ill-addressed by those with the power to do so. It’s all very well for abbott snd Howard and Baird, for example, to speak their distress — which for all I know may be quite genuine — but where are they on the less media-ready victims of lethal happenstance? They get neither state funerals nor even a passing mention by the elite that their lives and their ends were significant. There are memorials to ‘the unknown soldier’ but none to unspoken lives. Perhaps Stalin was right when he said that whereas one death was a tragedy, a million was merely a statistic. In his famous Meditation, John Donne asserted:

    No man is an island entire of itself; every man
    is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
    if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
    is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
    well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
    own were; any man’s death diminishes me,
    because I am involved in mankind.
    And therefore never send to know for whom
    the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

    Donne uses the singular, and if Stalin was right, then it was right that he do so. Hughes was someone each of ‘us’ knew of and fit a narrative with which many of us identify easily. Accordingly, his death urged itself to the front of our minds as especially salient, but for those of us who are keen on a better world, the challenge is not to forget that untimely death is frequent and ubiquitous, human possibility snuffed out by the banal much more often than the bizarre and that this systematic reality, in so far as humans, collectively, can abate it, ought to be always at the front of our minds. One doesn’t need to de-authenticate the regret of Abbott or Howard or Baird to recognise that.

  42. @Fran Barlow

    The personal grief of the Hughes family must be respected as for any untimely death of a young person. The life foregone is tragic. The wider picture is that public excesses of grief for a few celebrated individuals and complete disregard for many other unecessary deaths is symptomatic of the pathology of our culture. We would be better served avoiding unecessary wars, showing some sympathy and help for refugees and finding ways to reduce road accidents to name just a few examples. It’s also the case that most money spent on elite sport should be spent elsewhere where it would help more people and more needy people.

  43. @Ikonoclast

    Indeed that’s so. In a world marked by inclusive governance and evidence-based policy, misery and premature deaths would still occur, but these would be the objects of policy and occasions for refinement of programs, or the development of new ones.

    Rather than public grief, there would be private grief and public determination to act, precisely because there could be confidence that no misery and no harm would be beyond the purview of humanity to abate.

  44. @Fran Barlow
    Re batteries: what has been considered with electric vehicle batteries that have been cycled beyond a certain point is to swap them out with a fresh set and to utilise the old set for less demanding (in terms of energy capacity to weight ratio) application like household energy storage.

  45. @Troy Prideaux

    Yes I have heard that. That a battery set may be less useful in a moving vehicle doesn’t exclude it from being useful in a stationary setting, at the right cost.

    As I understand it, most of the material — certainly the lithium — can be be recycled into new batteries, reducing sharply the call on new resources for batteries.

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