Another Message Board
Post comments on any topic. Civil discussion and no coarse language please. Side discussions and idees fixes to the sandpits, please.
I’ve moved my irregular email news from Mailchimp to Substack. You can read it here. You can also follow me on Mastodon here
I’m also trying out Substack as a blogging platform. For the moment, I’ll post both at this blog and on Substack.
11 thoughts on “Monday Message Board”
One thing not talked about over budget week was tax reform. By this, I don’t mean political motivated tax cuts. If you look at forward estimates it become clear that taxation revenue will not support important outlays like Medicare, NDIS and for that matter, renewable energy programs. The Tax White Paper sounded this warning:
“The tax system is holding Australia back.
There is evidence that the economic costs of Australia’s tax system are higher than they need to be. Australia’s tax system was designed in a different era, when the economy was very different. It was not designed to deal with multinational trade, increasing global competition for investment, the internet and the digital economy. The implications of an ageing population require a fresh approach to tax.”
It goes on to elaborate on these warnings:
“Technology is changing the way Australians work and play. The rise of the digital economy and globalisation presents significant challenges for the effectiveness of the tax system. Capital is more mobile and highlights the need for a competitive corporate tax regime to encourage investment. Multinational corporations operate across many jurisdictions and the location where tax should be paid can be difficult to determine.”
You could update that warning with the rise of AI technologies.
The White Paper gives this incentive for tax reform:
“As the world continues to change, our tax system is confronted with new challenges. These challenges invite us to think creatively about the kind of tax system that will enable us to better realise the opportunities before us.”‘
Source: Why tax reform and why now?
Now I don’t agree with all the suggestion from this White Paper, for example, I do not support lowering total taxation. But I do think that certain sections of Australia carry too much of the burden of taxation, particularly income taxation. And no I am not referring to the rich section or even multinationals. I am mainly concerned about middle income earners. If they deserved anything out of last week’s budget, they deserved tax reform that eased their income tax burden.
As Shane Wright stated in his article in The Sydney Morning Herald on May 12th, middle income earners will be worse off even if stage three tax cuts go through as planned.
“Next year’s stage three tax relief will still leave middle-income wage earners up to $172 worse off in 2025 than they were in 2019, with independent analysis revealing bracket creep is eating into the pay packets of ordinary workers.”
Source: Shane Wright “A decade of tax reform leaves middle-income earners out of
What then is the right course for tax reform in Australia?
The one person with an answer that is not based in any political idiom is Dr. Ken Henry. He warns that the adverse intergenerational effects of our present tax system are impacting heavily on our younger generation. Dr Henry’s path for tax reform was simply put in these words from the ABC News business reporter Gareth Hutchens:
” He ( Dr. Henry) said our tax system had to be built on new foundations — fit for the 21st-century — with far more revenue coming from taxes on economic rents, land, other natural resources and environmental externalities, including carbon emissions.
Dr Henry said Australians had to stop relying so heavily on personal income tax, company tax and transaction taxes (such as stamp duties).”
Source: Gareth Hutchens “Tax experts and climate scientists are increasingly saying the
Posted Sun 2 Apr 2023 at 3:35pm
Of course this Henry Path to tax reform is full of political hazards. Taxing economic rents is fraught with potential backlashes at the polls. Land tax is very unpopular in the States it is used already. The taxing of environmental externalities always runs into arguments about destroying jobs. A carbon tax had been tried and discarded. It will take political courage to get even some of these reforms through parliament.
But if there is no real tax reform, future generations will not benefit from programs like Medicare and the NDIS. Simply put, they will eventually become untenable under the present tax system.
Why does the CSIRO not include nuclear storage and remediation in it’s report – “GenCost 2022-2023: the cost of electricity generation”
– “storage and transmission, wind and solar come in at a maximum of $83 per megawatt hour in 2030.
– “SMRs come in at $130-311 per megawatt hour” and this is oreducated on halving the cost of capital?!
I find such an omission bordering on negligent.
The big caveat from the CSIRO report:
“To avoid introducing too many variables and losing that common basis, the levelised costs used in the GenCost report do not take into account any potential externalities, such as bird strikes at a wind farm, site remediation, or nuclear waste storage costs.”
The caveat elides examples:
1. US – just disastrous.
2. Germany says “Costs are expected to be astronomical.”
“The steep costs of nuclear waste in the U.S.”
“It’s very common for people to say there are no technical problems, that it’s just political. They say, “We know how to do it. It’s just a difficult public. Strict regulations. No one will let us solve this problem.”
“I think what people don’t realize is that it is actually a serious technical challenge. The half-lives of some of these elements stretch into tens, if not hundreds of thousands of years. We’re asked to design solutions that will last as long as the risk. That’s not something we usually do. The technical and scientific challenge for nuclear waste is, whatever our solution, that we will never see whether we were correct or not. Designing a system where you don’t have feedback is very difficult.
“I think it’s discouraging that we continue to release radioactivity to the environment because after more than 40 years we still have not developed a successful plan for going forward.”
RODNEY C. EWING
Extreme example, yet;
“The projected total cost of clean-up after the Manhattan Project is well over $300 billion. That’s more than the original cost of the weapons programs and the actual total will be even higher. That’s just the defense waste.”
“Sticker Shock: The Soaring Costs Of Germany’s Nuclear Shutdown
“Any future waste repository will have to contain the radiation from spent uranium fuel for up to a million years.
“Given the time frames involved, it’s not surprising that no country has built a final repository for high-level waste. In Germany, a government commission on highly radioactive nuclear waste spent the last two years working on a 700-page report, released this month, that was supposed to recommend a location. Instead, the report estimated that Germany’s final storage facility would be ready “in the next century.” Costs are expected to be astronomical.
““Nobody can say how much it will cost to store high-level waste. What we know is that it will be very costly — much higher costs can be expected than [what] the German ministry calculates,” said Claudia Kemfert, head of energy, transportation, and environment at the German Institute for Economic Research. The exact number, she said, “cannot be predicted, since experience shows that costs have always been higher than initially expected. ”
Now, with the big caveat (and folly) in mind, back to the proof nuclear power will not be cost effective against renewables in any foreseeable future.
“The question of nuclear in Australia’s energy sector
“In Australia’s transition to net zero emissions, the energy sector has a major role to play. But does nuclear power have a place in our future grid?
11 MAY 2023
6 MIN READ
“GenCost 2022-2023: the cost of electricity generation
“Each year CSIRO works with the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) to produce GenCost – a detailed report that provides current and projected costs for electricity generation and storage technology.
“On 16 December 2022, the fifth GenCost report was released as a draft for public consultation. It remained consistent with findings from previous years, showing that renewables, led by onshore wind and solar PV, remain the lowest cost power generation technologies.
“Using the standard formula for levelised costs plus the additional calculations specific to storage and transmission, wind and solar come in at a maximum of $83 per megawatt hour in 2030. This is a useful point in time for comparison because this is the earliest date at which nuclear SMR could be built in Australia.
“In contrast, SMRs come in at $130-311 per megawatt hour. This range allows for nuclear SMR capital costs to halve from where we think they are at present.”
“Taking all that into account and knowing that the longer it takes to build something the more likely it is that real costs will increase rather than decrease, it’s very clear that nuclear is going to find it very challenging to compete against renewables.”
[Report download link]
“Read the GenCost 2022-23 report
h/t loonpond, sticking it to newscorpse, the oz and Nick Cater – who is stilk funded by you and me to spruik nuclear.
Note on AUKUS submarines.
Australia has agreed to dispose of US supplied AUKUS submarine nuclear power plant. Imagine in about 70 years we will spend another $n billion on disposal. Do we even have a plan?
US supplied AUKUS submarines will have “highly enriched uranium (HEU) at 93% enrichment” … as compared to the “French nuclear submarines which use nuclear reactors fuelled by low-enriched uranium at less than 6%”
HEU, unbelievably, is able to be supplied by other nuclear powers, engendering proliferation of weapons grade material and subsequent ability by rougue actors to get material for nuclear weapons. Extremely concerning. We need to cancel AUKUS and go back to France!
Gregory J. McKenzie you said – “The one person with an answer that is not based in any political idiom is Dr. Ken Henry.”
Ken Henry is scathing re tax.
“Here is the speech he [Ken Henry] delivered on the need for ambitious tax reform to the Tax Institute last month. In essence:
KH: “The interests of the most disadvantaged are not being served by a tax system that is punishing innovation, denying people opportunity, undermining economic growth, and denying the sustainability of government service provision,” Dr Henry told a Tax Institute event in Melbourne. “Moreover, there can be no ignoring the extraordinary intergenerational inequity inherent in our present tax system.”
“THE NEED FOR AMBITIOUS TAX REFORM – Ken Henry, 16 March 2023
“Since mid-2005, mining has increased its share of total corporate profits from one-fifth to about a half. Manufacturing profits have fallen from about 20 per cent to less than 10 per cent, and the share of total corporate profits going to the financial services sector, including insurance, has fallen from 20 per cent to less than 5 per cent.”
JQ once upon a time suggested a dedicated tax thread. Might be timely.
Ken Henry 9 years ago. I wonder how long ‘imminent crisis’ can last.
“Ken Henry warns of ‘imminent crisis’ over costs of health and welfare
“Former Treasury chief says federal government must face up to urgent need for taxation reform
It is becoming highly concerning that many people, especially children, are now on to multiple COVID-19 infections. They are on the multiple infections roundabout. In many cases, most cases, this is not their own fault. It has been inflicted upon them. Many people have tried their best to avoid getting infected and to avoid spreading infection. However, the behavior of the authorities has been such that our nation and our globe are running forced population infection policies.
Schools, hospitals, medical clinics, dental practices, pharmacies, places of work and mass transit systems are all sites where the forced infection policies are in operation. The level of forcing varies and the forcing is subtle in some cases, although blatant in others. These sites and systems I have mentioned are all sites most people are essentially forced to attend, either directly by authority or by personal imperatives and requirements.
Being retired, I can live without attending or being in or near a school, a place of work or the mass transit systems. However, I cannot live a long, healthy life without some attendance from time to time to a medical clinic, doctors, specialists, a dental practice and pharmacy. Also, my chances of *never* attending a hospital or day hospital for the rest of my life (for treatments or tests) are very low. I face this sword of Damocles also as does my wife and everyone else trying to shelter from COVID-19 by reason of age and/or medical preconditions. Sooner or later our luck will run out, everyone’s luck will run out. Under the present conditions of near ubiquitous viral presence of COVID-19, the waning of vaccines/boosters and the obvious impossibility of living like Thoreau in the woods, sooner or later we, like everyone, will catch COVID-19. First once, and then likely more times, until our health is destroyed.
People should make no mistake. To catch COVID-19 multiple times, over any span, will be to have your health rapidly, or slowly but surely, destroyed. There will be no living with COVID-19 for the majority of people in the long run. There may well be a resistant minority, even a large minority. Yet even most of the naturally resistant will have their lives shortened, though likely (not certainly) a proportion of them will be able to reproduce.
We are in for a disaster now, an ongoing catastrophe, not just from COVID-19 but also much more so from climate change. False optimism, false techno-optimism, false hope and human pride have all led us here and failed us. Failed us utterly. Humans telling humans how wonderful they and we are, how we are the center, apotheosis or goal of creation, evolution or economics… this unctuous self-congratulatory mode of attitude and behavior, going forward always with great hubris, in religious or scientific humanist terms, has failed us utterly.
What we have to tell ourselves is how bad we are. How flawed we are are. How error-prone we are. How potentially terrible and horrible we are at our worst. A clear-eyed, fearless view of our own gross and grotesque failings is necessary. This is not to flail or excoriate ourselves perversely but to warn ourselves back on to a straight and narrow which involves taking self-created existential crisis seriously: crises almost entirely of our own making out of our own greed and cruelty; which did not have to be, which did not have to eventuate had we been wiser and more ethical.
The true perversity would be to persist in refusing to learn our lessons. We are adults. We have to look clearly at how fallible we are and utterly we have failed this test. We have to feel it deeply. It has to hurt us to the core, causing us great pain and sorrow. Then we have to change, really change. Change or go extinct. It’s that simple.
Maybe this fire and brimstone (of a secular variety) won’t work either. But unjustified optimism, self-congratulation and hubris certainly have not worked. Indeed, those stratagems have failed utterly and here we are in humanity’s final existential crisis.
KT, as a general comment, the ignoring of externalities is an obvious issue that (at least) some group should follow up. After all the stark differences between a bird strike or a cyclone are of a different quality and scale as something that damages nuclear hot waste storage. There are so many factors to consider, but not placing a nuclear power plant within the tidal danger zone has to be one of them. I doubt human societies can live without nuclear power for at least some medical uses, but you would hope that was the most important use. Even that nuclear waste (in Australia at least) is hardly handled in a risk factored manner. We do, then our kids worry. That’s the human condition, so it seems.
Ps I am not totally against nuclear power for uses such as medical, but the use as a major source of electricity is a very poor economic activity that only works if externalities are ignored. Even then, i don’t think the economics stack up. I agree with you on that.
From the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), headlined Global temperatures set to reach new records in next five years:
Our neoliberal capitalist system’s reaction to COVID-19 has shown how our society will respond to real, present climate change. Lies, denial, obfuscation, delay, selfishness and the sacrifice of the poor for the rich will be the path continually taken. Any actions will be so poorly planned, coordinated and targeted and so lacking in any real ethical, scientific or economic basis, that they will make matters much, much worse. I have zero faith or hope in this system. If we stick with this system we are certainly doomed.
At “$1,186 per person5” subsidy to fossil fuels, I at least want a thank you!
IMF report below says “”Accompanying spreadsheets provide detailed results for 191 countries.”, so JQ can scrutinize Australia I assume.
“Three climate policies that the G7 must adopt — for itself and the wider world
“But the true cost is much greater. Adding in the environmental and health costs of fossil-fuel use, including climate impacts, pollution, traffic congestion and road accidents, as well as forgone tax revenues, underpricing fossil fuels is costing the G7 nations almost $1.2 trillion each year — 2.8% of the G7’s GDP and $1,186 per person5. For the rest of the world, the cost is $4.7 trillion (see ‘The true price of fossil fuels’). ”
“Still Not Getting Energy Prices Right: A Global and Country Update of Fossil Fuel Subsidies
Ian W.H. Parry ; Simon Black ;Nate Vernon
September 24, 2021
“This paper provides a comprehensive global, regional, and country-level update of:
(i) efficient fossil fuel prices to reflect their full private and social costs; and
(ii) subsidies implied by mispricing fuels.
“The methodology improves over previous IMF analyses through more sophisticated estimation of costs and impacts of reform.
“Globally, fossil fuel subsidies were $5.9 trillion in 2020 or about 6.8 percent of GDP, and are expected to rise to 7.4 percent of GDP in 2025.
“Just 8 percent of the 2020 subsidy reflects undercharging for supply costs (explicit subsidies) and 92 percent for undercharging for environmental costs and foregone consumption taxes (implicit subsidies).
“Efficient fuel pricing in 2025 would reduce global carbon dioxide emissions 36 percent below baseline levels, which is in line with keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees, while raising revenues worth 3.8 percent of global GDP and preventing 0.9 million local air pollution deaths.
“Accompanying spreadsheets provide detailed results for 191 countries.”
Ikonoclast: – “Our neoliberal capitalist system’s reaction to COVID-19 has shown how our society will respond to real, present climate change. Lies, denial, obfuscation, delay, selfishness and the sacrifice of the poor for the rich will be the path continually taken.”
ICYMI/FYI, there’s an analysis by Colin Kinner updated on 3 May 2023 titled Lethal Incompetence: An analysis of the Queensland government’s failed COVID response. It begins with:
Meanwhile, NSW hospitalisations are in their 5th wave since late-2021, per Matt’s graph tweeted @crudeoilpeak today (May 19):
We (both rich and poor) are going to be left with a legacy of chronic disease.
The air pollution holocaust
The burning of fossil fuels is making the planet unliveable, right. That’s not all of it. It has other interesting effects on humans. The European Environment Agency lists some of them : https://www.eea.europa.eu/en/topics/in-depth/air-pollution/eow-it-affects-our-health
“Both short- and long-term exposure to air pollution can lead to a wide range of diseases, including stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, trachea, bronchus and lung cancers, aggravated asthma and lower respiratory infections. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides evidence of links between exposure to air pollution and type 2 diabetes, obesity, systemic inflammation, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified air pollution, in particular PM2.5, as a leading cause of cancer. A recent global review found that chronic exposure can affect every organ in the body, complicating and exacerbating existing health conditions. Children and adolescents are particularly vulnerable because their bodies, organs and immune systems are still developing. Air pollution damages health during childhood and increases the risk of diseases later in life..”
These impacts re not minor. The view of the epidemiological establishment, including the WHO, can be found in Fuller et al, “Pollution and health: a progress update”, Lancet Planet Health 2022; 6: e535–47
Published online May 17, 2022 (no paywall)
They say deaths from particulates and ozone – mostly from fossil fuels – plus let’s say half of occupational exposure to particulates came to 4.77 million in 2019. A bit more than half the total 9m deaths from all forms of pollution, including lead (0.9m) and indoor air pollution from cooking fires (2.31m). The 9m has not gone down since 2015: a decline from traditional sources like wood fires has been balanced by growth in modern sources like diesel exhausts.
Revisionists put the butcher’s bill much higher. In a paper from a project led by Harvard, Vohra et al focussed specifically on deaths from fossil fuels: “Global mortality from outdoor fine particle pollution generated by fossil fuel combustion: Results from GEOS-Chem”, Environmental Research Volume 195, April 2021, 110754, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0013935121000487
Money quote: “We estimate a global total of 10.2 (95% CI: −47.1 to 17.0) million premature deaths annually attributable to the fossil-fuel component of PM2.5”.The Vohra team used a fancier model to estimate exposures, and tweaked the health impact model. It’s a big disagreement, though the Vohra finding adds confidence to the Fuller estimate as a lower bound.
Set aside for a moment whether it’s 5 or 10m deaths a year. The number is of the same order as the greatest crimes against humanity in history: Hitler’s Final Solution, Stalin’s Holodomor, Mao’s Great Leap Forward, and so on. And unlike these the great fossil fuel massacre goes on quietly for year after year, decade after decade. We know how to stop it. The men and women responsible for it know what is happening and carry on, like the humdrum bureaucrats who enabled the great monsters to carry out their plans.
The human mind resists full engagement with such horrors. Their contemplation numbs our natural empathy with the victims and reduces us to helpless bystanders. This we can resist. Yad Vashem’s garden of the Righteous Gentiles rebukes our inaction: these men and women did something, and saved thousands of lives. So let’s get angry, and channel our anger into purpose.
A couple of thoughts here. One is to use accurate inflammatory language. The coinage of “blood diamonds” struck a nerve. Don’t run away from climate crime, cancer diesels, emphysema coal. Don’t shy away from the truthful boast that your rooftop solar panel, heat pump boiler, and electric car are saving lives. Conversely, those who are able but refuse to take any such modest personal action are putting the lives of others at risk. They deserve to be shamed, along with the self-indulgent owners of private jets and giant yachts.
Let me end with a petty snark. The Fuller paper has no paywall, but the Vohra one does. It’s hard to think of a topic that more deserves large-scale public engagement with the science, and where the crazy vampire-squid model of science publishing for profit moves from farce to obscenity. So let me ask John Quiggin: do you refuse to publish behind paywalls? I apologise to our host if he has already answered this question.
On second thoughts, is this really petty? The Vohra paper was published two years ago. I have only just come across it by accident, and I am about as primed to learn from it as a member of the general public gets. I won’t let Elsevier fob me off with the excuse that the abstract should be good enough for the hoi polloi like me. Consider a good science teacher in a secondary school, trying to inform her students about the contribution of science to the issues of the day. She needs full access to check if the methods are convincing. She doesn’t have institutional access to paywalled journals, and little or no budget for buying single articles. But the main case is one of principle. We as taxpayers have paid for most academic research, including the functions of drafting, composing, and peer review, and it’s an insult to ask us to pay again to see the results.
James Wimberley: – “The burning of fossil fuels is making the planet unliveable, right. That’s not all of it.”
Indeed! The aerosols from the burning of fossil fuels have provided some cooling effect to the Earth System – what climate scientist James Hansen has called humanity’s ‘Faustian Bargain’.
Climate researcher Leon Simons posted a twitter thread on Mar 9:
Professor Eliot Jacobson tweeted earlier today (May 20):
And this also:
It seems payment for our “Faustian Bargain’ is coming due!