Sunday, September 28, 2014

China's War on Pollution Could Leave Aussie Coal Out in the Cold

Muja Power Station - Collie, Western Australia.
Muja Power Station - Collie, Western Australia (Wikipedia)
by Shabbir Ahmad, The University of Queensland

China’s recent move to limit imports of the dirtiest coal from 2015 onwards is a scary prospect for Australian miners.

The proposed restrictions will ban the burning of coal with high levels of ash or sulphur in areas around major cities, as the Beijing government battles its pollution crisis.

Analysts say that as much as half of the thermal coal currently shipped from Australia to China could run afoul of the new measures.

The exact effects on Australia’s coal export market are hard to predict, and will doubtless vary between different companies and coalmining regions. But what is clear is that unless it can find some new customers, the sector is likely to find itself in trouble.

Aussie coal

Australia is the world’s fourth-largest coal nation, with a A$16.9 billion industry that produces 401 million tonnes a year - almost 8.9% of the world total.

Industry groups have claimed that coal mining contributes some A$60 billion a year to Australia’s economy - roughly the same as the iron ore and agricultural sectors - while supplying A$3 billion in total yearly royalties to the Queensland, New South Wales and Victorian state governments.

Like other resource exports, Australia’s thermal coal sales - worth A$16 billion worldwide according to the Bureau of Resource and Energy Economics - are at the mercy of the world market.

The Australian coal industry is already reeling after two years dogged by job losses, increased costs and rapidly eroding profitability. Nearly 10,000 coal workers lost their jobs in 2013, and more lay-offs are expected in the future.

Prices tumbling

With coal prices already falling, Australian exporters could also face the extra prospect of having to “wash” their product to bring ash and sulphur within China’s new guidelines - which will add costs and damage profit margins. The potential extra cost has been estimated at anywhere between A$1 and A$27 per tonne.

Since 2004 there has been a continuous slowdown in mining sector productivity (the output relative to capital and/or labour input), mainly because both labour and capital costs have been consistently above the global average.

Yet despite these productivity issues, and the growing worldwide expectation that coal mining and coal-fired power generation should meet higher environmental standards, the Australian coal sector is focusing on increasing its production.

Recently, despite contention about the environmental impacts, federal environment minister Greg Hunt and the Queensland government approved the Carmichael coalmine in the Galilee Basin.

One of the largest coal projects in the world, the new mine will cover 200 square km and add up to 60 million tonnes annually to Australia’s existing coal production. In an increasingly competitive market, Australia will need to find more buyers for its new coal supplies.

New customers needed

Indonesia already competes with Australia to export to China, and it is anticipated that the United States will increase its coal exports from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana over the next few years. Meanwhile, other emerging producers including Mongolia and Mozambique are expected to create significant competitive pressure in the world’s coal export market.

At the same time, many Asian economies are increasing their electricity generation capacity - some of it through renewable energy, but significant amounts through fossil fuels - which may open new avenues for Australian coal exports.

China has recently shown interest in investing in coal-fired power plants in Pakistan, and Pakistani power minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif said earlier this month that one of the sources of coal could be Australia.

What will China’s new rules mean?

It is not yet clear how much Australia’s coal industry stands to lose from China’s new rules. The costs of processing it to the required standard are not clear, particularly because much of Australia’s coal is well above the Chinese requirements anyway.

But the move nevertheless represents another new problem for a sector that is facing many other challenges, including deterioration in terms of trade (the ratio of export prices to import prices), low coal prices, exchange rate appreciation, declining productivity, and the emergence of overseas rivals with lower production costs.

That is why Australia’s coal sector is now focusing on ramping up production, to try and gain a competitive advantage over emerging Asian and African miners and capture a greater market share for sustained export earnings.

The climate challenge

The other major challenge facing Australian coal, highlighted by this week’s UN Climate Summit in New York, is fact that much of the world is aiming to wean itself off it.

China’s thermal coal use is forecast to peak in just two years, and UN climate chief Christiana Figueres has advocated the replacement of fossil fuels with alternative energy sources.

China’s investment in up to 200 gigawatts of wind energy is just one sign that it is aiming to reduce its dependence on coal. There is a growing sense that China is getting serious about cutting its greenhouse emissions.

China’s new coal regulations are a warning to Australian miners that they won’t survive either without exploring other export markets besides their traditional customers, China and Japan.

And if Australia wants to remain an energy exporter far into the future, it should focus on exploiting its admirable technological abilities to develop renewable energy products that could diversify its exports still further.

The author acknowledges comments on this piece from Dr Jo-Anne Everingham and Professor Saleem Ali at the University of Queensland.
The Conversation

Shabbir Ahmad does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Tide Turns on Fossil Fuels

By John Minchilloby , Transition Free Press:

Over the past week, hundreds of thousands of people have taken action for climate justice in 160 countries around the world, joining People’s Climate Marches ahead of the UN Climate Summit in New York on 23rd September.

Just before the Summit started, the heirs to the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, which made much of its fortune in oil and holds investments of almost £550m, announced that they were going to take their money out of fossil fuels.

The fossil fuel divestment movement has been one of the major mobilisers of climate change activists over the past year. 

While for many socially-minded institutions, investing in tobacco or arms companies would be taboo, the funding of fossil fuels now looks more ethically indefensible - and less financially viable, as Amy Hall reported in this article from our Autumn issue:

When the World Council of Churches, representing over half a billion Christians, announced in July that it was removing its investments from fossil fuel companies, it sent a shockwave around the world of business as usual.

“We can’t bankrupt these companies - they’re too rich - but we can start to politically bankrupt them,” says high profile environmentalist Bill McKibben. In 2012, the campaign group he leads,, kickstarted Fossil Free, inspired by movements like the campaign against apartheid in South Africa, which also used the divestment tactic.

The anti-fossil fuels movement has become the fastest growing divestment campaign ever, according to a recent University of Oxford study, one which poses a “far-reaching threat to fossil fuel companies and the vast energy value chain”.

By Paavan Buddhdev

In its 2013 Unburnable Carbon report the Carbon Tracker Initiative calculated that between 60% and 80% of coal, oil and gas reserves of publicly listed companies are unburnable if the world is to have a chance of keeping global warming below 2°C.

This could result in ‘stranded assets’ as regulation forces companies to leave fossil fuels underground. The UK still  gets 86% of its energy from fossil fuels.

Universities have seen some of the most sustained activism against fossil fuels. In May 2014, the UK’s National Union of Students passed a motion committing to divest.

Stanford University has joined 11 other US colleges and announced that its $18.7 bn endowment would no longer make investments in publicly traded companies whose primary business is coal mining.

“When I was first learning about global warming I thought that by the time I was graduating from college the problem would have been taken care of already,” says Stanford student Yari Greaney. She remains optimistic however. “This is the movement that will be remembered as the one that helped put an end to the fossil fuel industry,” she says.

The British Medical Association voted in June to end its investment in fossil fuel companies, making it the first health organisation in the world to do so. “If the health community took their money out of the fossil fuel industry it would send a really important message to both politicians and the public,” says Christopher Venables of health professionals’ organisation MedAct.

Brighthelm Church and Community Centre in Brighton was the first Church in the UK to divest, removing their investments from Shell. “We want to support and invest in a better world; that’s what we’re here for,” explains Brighthelm’s minister Alex Mabbs. “It wasn’t a difficult decision.”

By Steve Eason

Following on from the World Council of Churches’ divestment decision, a Church of England internal committee, set up to look at climate change and investment, is expected to report next year.

Local authorities are also coming under pressure. Al Chisholm of Fossil Free Oxfordshire says the county council has £42m invested directly in fossil fuel companies through its pension fund. “For many years I felt hopeless and scared about climate change,” says Chisholm, “but then I came across the idea of divestment. I think it could really be a game changer.”

From 19th until 21st September, divestment campaigners in the UK will up the pressure in a weekend of action, part of the global People’s Climate mobilisation to coincide with the New York climate summit.

Divest-Invest is a coalition of 17 philanthropic foundations who have agreed to pull out of fossil fuels, but who also work with those who are willing to move their money.

“We have this invest message which is take your money out of the old economy into the new economy - out of the dinosaurs and into the future,” explains Chuck Collins from the campaign. “We’re really promoting innovative investment in local communities. It’s about putting your money where your heart is.”

By Steve Eason

Local renewable energy projects are starting to attract significant investment sums. Bath & West Community Energy (BWCE), which was started by Transition groups from Bath and Corsham, have raised more than £2.5m from community share launches, including from people moving their self-invested pensions into the social enterprise.

Surplus funds from projects like this are often reinvested into the community, according to BWCE Chair, Pete Capener. “We are giving people an opportunity to put their money into projects that they can see, run by people they can contact,” he stresses. “That’s very different from the experience offered by traditional investments, particularly in the energy sector.”

“The choices that we make actually create the kind of economy that we want to see happening around us,” says Rob Hopkins, co-founder of Transition Network. “As communities we can divest every day.”

Amy Hall is News Editor of Transition Free Press.

Images from top to bottom: New York’s People’s Climate March by John Minchillo, under a CC License. Oxford students call for divestment by Paavan Buddhdev. Two images from the London People’s Climate March by Steve Eason, under a CC License.

The Honey Bee Crisis

2 mites Varroa destructor on a drone of the we...
2 Varroa mites on a drone of the western honey bee (Wikipedia)
by Catalyst:

The world is experiencing a global bee crisis, and with bees responsible for almost a third of the food on our plate, this is a crisis that could affect us all.

In the winter of 2013, areas of Europe lost up to 53% of its bee population. Similar declines have been recorded in the US.

Astonishingly, Australia is the only country in the world where the bee population continues to thrive.

As commercial beekeepers are pushed out of business abroad, Australian bees are exported to pollinate foreign farmlands. However, the fate of Australian bees hangs in the balance. It seems that the bee crisis is intricately tied to the way we have changed our planet.

Catalyst investigates how modern agriculture methods, increasing diseases and the impending threat of the deadly varroa mite could destroy the last safe-haven for bees on the planet.

NARRATION: There's one animal on the planet that can make or break our food supply. Even the shape of our food depends on it.

John Evans: Well, there's five sectors in an apple, if they're not pollinated evenly, then you don't get a perfectly round apple.

NARRATION: We rely on bees to pollinate most of our food crops, and one species in particular.

Mark Horstman: Of about 1,500 species of bees that live in Australia, this is the most recognisable and the one we take most for granted - the European honey bee. First introduced nearly 200 years ago, they've been here long enough to be considered practically native.

NARRATION: But elsewhere, the honey bee world is in dire peril. Each year for the last decade, about a third of their colonies have died. It's a mystery known as colony collapse disorder - a perfect storm of pesticides, habitat loss, diseases and a vampire parasite called varroa.

Dr Stephen Quarrell: It's multiple effects - it's not just pesticides and it's not just varroa.

NARRATION: This is a story from the front line - farmers, beekeepers, scientists and honey lovers determined to secure a future for bees and for us. When it comes to honey bees, Australia really is the lucky country. We're the last safe haven because the varroa mite isn't here yet.

Peter Norris: Yeah, the only continent in the world that hasn't got it.

Mark Horstman: Well, that's incredible.

Peter Norris: Yeah.

Mark Horstman: Is that just luck, or good management?

Peter Norris: Luck.

NARRATION: At a cost of only a couple of hundred thousand dollars each year, hives like these stand guard around our major ports to detect invasions of exotic bees and pests. Leatherwood honey producer Peter Norris manages the sentinel hives in Hobart. He dreads an invasion by varroa.

Peter Norris: We don't want it here. We should do everything we can to keep it out.

NARRATION: Varroa is a genus of mites that suck the blood of bees and their larvae, spreading viral diseases. Compared to the size of its host, varroa is one of the largest parasites on the planet. This worker bee in the UK has a mite attached. You can see how agitated the bee is, which prevents it doing the jobs that keep a hive healthy. Peter has seen the varroa invasion before.

Peter Norris: Well, I've had some experience. I was in the UK when they discovered it there. I'd been keeping bees for quite a few years there, got out to about 150 hives, and the year that they discovered varroa, I went down to 25. We lost 80% of the bees in the south-east of England.

Mark Horstman: In a year?

Peter Norris: In that one season, yeah.

Mark Horstman: What would you expect to see if you had varroa in this hive?

Peter Norris: You would see adult bees with very deformed abdomens, deformed wings, not capable of flight. Because of that, the food supplies in the hive diminish very rapidly.

NARRATION: That devastating prospect could be entering a port right now. Department of Agriculture officers board ships to search for foreign insects, particularly Asian honey bees - the natural host of varroa mites.

Ross Rickard: A ship could be docked in an overseas port and the swarm will come and, just by accident, land on a ship or some cargo, and they will usually hide under a container or under beams. Not every ship is inspected, but there's risk profiling that's done on different ships.

Mark Horstman: It just takes one bee in one container in one ship in any port for varroa mite to arrive in Australia, and that's the challenge for Australian biosecurity - to stop that stowaway bee escaping in the first place.

NARRATION: Foreign swarms are found and destroyed up to a dozen times a year. In 2011, a swarm of Asian honey bees brought their own unwelcome passengers.

Ross Rickard: We discovered the swarm had more than 150 varroa mites associated with it.

Mark Horstman: So a good one to spot.

Ross Rickard: It was really important because if it had have absconded, then the varroa mites could have got away.

NARRATION: However, we actually import queen bees from varroa-infected countries in the hope of breeding their genetic defences into our bees.

Ross Rickard: If we ever do get varroa, hopefully some of the queens that are now being imported will have resistance to varroa so we'll be one step ahead in the battle against this dreadful parasite.

NARRATION: Ross Rickard runs three months of quarantine checks on each import to ensure that not only are the bees clean, but their packaging as well. It's not without risk, and for safety's sake, the bees that arrive here never leave the lab. The queen spends the rest of her days laying eggs in a secure hive. Varroa mites don't just suck blood - they use the hive to lay their own eggs.

Ross Rickard: When the queen starts laying eggs, we examine that brood and make sure that there's no mites in there.

NARRATION: Beekeepers can dose their hives with chemicals to control varroa, but wild, or feral, bees don't get that help. These bees have left the hive to strike out on their own. Unlike the rest of the world, Australia is still an easy place for honey bees to survive in the wild.

Peter Norris: There's a lot more feral colonies in any environment than most people realise.

NARRATION: That's not the case in countries with varroa, where honey bees can only thrive in managed hives.

Mark Horstman: This is what makes Australia paradise for the honey bees. Wild hives like this one. Our pollination depends on it. But if the varroa mite should ever invade Australia, wild hives like this will be the first to die.

Tiffane Bates: So they would collapse first, and by collapsing, the varroa mite populations will then descend on the commercial populations and the management becomes more difficult.

NARRATION: Queen bee breeder Tiffane Bates manages the research hives at the University of WA.

Tiffane Bates: For bees, the varroa mite is the big scary. And once that arrives here, we'll have about three to five years before the massive collapse of potentially commercial beekeeping. They can feed themselves pretty well, but...

NARRATION: The question is, can we breed a commercial bee population in Australia that's resistant to varroa mite? Today male drones from the uni bee yard end up in the lab as sperm donors.

Professor Boris Baer: So ... here comes the sperm.

NARRATION: Each male has this elaborate apparatus for docking with the queen in flight. Known as a suicidal mater, he blasts a sperm package and his penis into the queen - an ejaculation so violent it kills him. Undaunted, males take flight every afternoon to search for a queen by following her scent. To collect drones in the area, Tiffane baits the net with just a tiny amount of queen pheromone.

Mark Horstman: It's enough to have drones feeding on all the trees around here and probably the bee farm just over there flocking in. It doesn't take them very long at all. It's a remarkable demonstration of not only their ability to sense incredibly well, but to navigate really keenly.

Tiffane Bates: So, in theory, unless it's only our males, there should be a bit of a mixture in there.

NARRATION: In Australia, we're still fortunate to have plenty of healthy wild bees mating with hive bees, so there's constant genetic exchange. Amazingly, after mating with up to 15 males in a flight, the queen somehow selects the sperm she wants to keep. This tiny organ, called the spermatheca, holds the future of the entire colony. With it, the queen fertilises up to 2,000 eggs a day for the rest of her life, choosing from the sperm stored inside.

Professor Boris Baer: One of the questions is, of course, what does she want? And I don't yet know what she wants.

NARRATION: While the male dies after only three weeks, his sperm lives on in the queen for another seven years.

Professor Boris Baer: It's easier in the spring.

NARRATION: Boris Baer is artificially inseminating virgin queens to find out how they do it.

Professor Boris Baer: The secret of long-term sperm storage can be compared to the fountain of youth. The female provides a major liquid and that does it - a single substance that we think is responsible to kind of turn sperm on, like, really, poof!

Mark Horstman: And the sperm itself triggers changes in the queen's brain that enable her to control the hive. Unravelling how the queen manages the genetic diversity of the colony is crucial to understanding how bees can resist varroa. For example, worker bees help clear the hive of parasites and diseases by removing dead or diseased individuals. This hygienic behaviour is inherited, and bees that are good at it have a better chance of standing up to varroa.

Dr Mathew Welch: See, if we can select for these traits, in particular, hygienic behaviour and things like that, then we can try and breed bees that are more resistant. But at the same time, we need to really be careful that we don't breed out the genetic diversity that's present in bees.

NARRATION: Molecular biologist Matt Welch is delving deep into the honey bee genome to explore the interplay between brains, genes and reproduction. He studies the biochemical reactions that switch different genes on and off. This process, called epigenetics, doesn't change the actual DNA code but how genes are expressed. To extract DNA from queen bees, you need fresh brains.

Dr Mathew Welch: So queens have a much smaller brain than workers because the workers have a lot more sensory information to process. This is the part that we're really interested in, this central portion of the brain.

NARRATION: No larger than the head of a pin, it could hold the key to switching on a defence against varroa. To find that key, powerful next-generation sequences can rapidly read billions of genes from honey bee DNA.

Dr Mathew Welch: So this has really unlocked our ability to do whole genome studies and to really explore genetic regulation and gene expression.

NARRATION: Varroa mites were able to jump from their Asian host to European honey bees by recognising their chemical messages as signals to lay eggs in their hives. It just might be a chink in the mite's armour.

Dr Mathew Welch: If we can find a way to mask or block either the receptor that detects that signal or even the genes that encode that signal in honey bees, we could potentially make the European honey bee invisible to varroa mites again, effectively eliminating their reproductive cycle.

Mark Horstman: Like a vaccine.

Dr Mathew Welch: Yeah, that's right.

NARRATION: That prospect, where honey bees escape varroa's life cycle, is an exciting one. But in the meantime, there are some other more fundamental mysteries to solve.

Mark Horstman: Swarms of bees operate in a vast volume of time and space. But nobody really knows where they go. Now, for the first time, miniaturised technology offers the opportunity to monitor their environment from a bee's point of view.

Paulo de Souza: We give each one of those bees a badge and we follow them. We give each one of those bees a number.

NARRATION: Physicist, Paulo de Souza is working with entomologist Steve Quarrell to attach tiny sensors to the backs of middle-aged worker bees.

Dr Stephen Quarrell: We're trying to get bees that are right on the edge of starting to fly but we're trying to get the full flight duration of the bee, so two to three weeks. The hairier they are, the younger they are. So we're after, well, bald bees, almost (chuckles).

NARRATION: The tags on the bees are like PayPass on your credit card - a reader at the entry to the hive clocks them in and out. It's fiddly, painstaking work.

Dr Stephen Quarrell: Next spring, when we do the full experiment, it'll be about 50 bees per hive per day over a four- or five-week period.

Mark Horstman: So in total, at the end of the project?

Dr Stephen Quarrell: About 5,000.

NARRATION: Their first experiment will see if neonicotinoid pesticides have any impact on the bees' activity. These chemicals have been banned in Europe for two years because of concerns they affect bees' navigation, reproduction and immune responses.

Dr Stephen Quarrell: So, normally benign viruses and diseases or mites, so varroa mite, are having a greater impact in the hive than was previously thought basically due to these trace quantities of pesticide.

NARRATION: They plan to put traces of pesticide in feeder stations with tag readers to detect any changes in flight time and feeding behaviour. But the swarm sensing should also be able to tell if pests start turning up.

Paulo de Souza: So we know if a new species arriving would drive any changes in the hive, would drive any changes in the ecosystem, and how that will affect our industry, we can transform the way we do biosecurity, and this is what we want to achieve.

NARRATION: John Evans is hosting the research on his apple orchard. He hopes to use the information to position his hives for the best pollination.

John Evans: There's thing about bees that we don't know. I don't think we probably spend enough time in understanding where bees are and what they do, because they're so beneficial to us - there goes one now.

NARRATION: The same is true for urban environments. Doug Purdie keeps high-rise hives in Sydney.

Doug Purdie: I think having beehives in the city is immensely valuable. Clearly, we don't have a lot of pollinators in the city areas. Because of our fear, we tend to remove them. So putting backyard beehives in has gotta be a good thing.

Mark Horstman: If people are wondering what they can do personally to help the bees, what would you recommend?

Doug Purdie: Look, it's easy for people to help bees. If you look at what we're planting in the gardens, people love grass and things that don't flower. But all they have to do is start planting things that flower 'cause flowers are what bees need. If you've got flowering things, bees will come.

Mark Horstman: If we want to keep taking advantage of all the benefits that bees offer, then it's only fair that we provide good food, shelter and health care in return because, in the end, if it's good for bees, it's good for us.

Tiffane Bates: There's something about the sound of bees on a summer afternoon that's just deep contentment. And I think that that's why I'm here. Apart from all the bees are amazing and pollination and all of those things, I'm in it because when it works, it works with absolute perfection.
  • Reporter: Mark Horstman
  • Producer: Mark Horstman
  • Researcher: Claire Smith
  • Camera: Mike Kleim
    David Hudspeth
    Armin Azad

    Aerial Inspections
  • Sound: Tim Parratt
    David Fraser
    Alex Tscholakoff
  • Editor: Vaughan Smith

Related Info

Centre for Integrative Bee Research, UWA
The Urban Beehive, Sydney
Department of Agriculture – bee pests and diseases
CSIRO – microsensors and swarm-sensing
Entomologist Prof Marla Spivak on why bees are disppearing
National Beekeeping Centre Wales
Senate report - Future of the beekeeping and pollination service industries in Australia, July 2014

Story Contacts

Ross Rickard
Dept of Agriculture, Sydney

Tiffane Bates
Centre for Integrated Bee Research, UWA

Prof Boris Baer
Centre for Integrated Bee Research, UWA

Dr Mathew Welch
Centre for Integrated Bee Research, UWA

Prof Paulo De Souza
Science Leader, CSIRO

Dr Stephen Quarrell
UTAS/Tas Institute of Agriculture

John Evans
Apple orchardist, Geeveston Tas

Doug Purdie
Apiarist, The Urban Beehive

Peter Norris
Apiarist, Southern Tasmanian Beekeepers Assoc

Thursday, September 25, 2014

South Australia Sets 50% Renewable Energy Target for 2025

Australian renewable power plants
Australian renewable power plants (Photo: Wikipedia)
by , ReNew Economy:

The Labor government in South Australia has announced it will increase its renewable energy target to 50% by 2025 - up from the 33% target that it has already met, six years ahead of scheduled date of 2020.

The announcement was made by Premier Jay Weatherill on Tuesday, saying that it was essential to help reach its target of $10 billion investment in “low carbon” generation by 2025.

According to government modelling, around $4.5 billion has already been committed in the state. South Australia already has nearly 1.5GW of wind energy - more than 40% of the nation’s total, and more than 550MW of rooftop solar, or nearly one if four houses.

Together, those installations are likely to account for up to 40% of demand in 2014/15, and wind farms such as the $1.5 billion Ceres projects, and others such as the 270MW Horndale project could take that investment to 50%.

“This new target of half of the States power to be generated by renewable sources will create jobs and drive capital investment and advanced manufacturing industries,” Weatherill said in a statement. But he said South Australia will only meet its target if the Federal Government maintains the current Renewable Energy Target Scheme arrangements.

“The sovereign risk created by the Federal Government’s unnecessary and unexplained review into the national RET has caused a number of projects to be placed on hold, putting many construction projects and ongoing jobs at risk,” Weatherill said.

“There are hundreds, if not thousands of SA jobs in the renewable energy sector - these are the growth areas we should be supporting, not undermining.”

(RenewEconomy asked the Premier’s press people if SA was considering an independent target of 50%, regardless of federal policy - like the 90% target of the ACT - but has not gotten a response as yet).


The Premier’s statement noted that updated numbers from the Australian Energy Market Operator expected this month are likely to show SA has exceeded the target of 33%. The latest project, the 275MW Snowtown wind farm, has only just been commissioned, so will add to that figure in the current year.

“We took action at the local level, passing the nation’s first dedicated climate change legislation and were the first State with a strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Weatherill said.

“We have demonstrated in South Australia is that, with the right policies and incentives, and with strong leadership and clear goals, even highly ambitious targets can be achieved and surpassed".

Solar Citizens Campaigns Director, Claire O’Rourke, said the SA achievement demonstrated the benefits of increasing opportunities for rooftop solar which helps households reduce their power bills.

“The SA Government has shown strong leadership in creating a solar revolution where nearly a quarter (23%) of South Australian homes are now powered by the sun,” O’Rourke said in a statement.

“The Abbott Government should look closely at what’s been achieved in South Australia and follow its lead by maintaining and growing the target".

Meanwhile, the heads of Australia’s major large-scale solar projects converged on Canberra today, to continue their fight to save the Renewable Energy Target.

Business leaders from international companies including First Solar, Fotowatio Renewable Ventures (FRV) and SunPower will meet with key ministers and parliamentarians to remind them how crucial the RET has been, and continues to be, to get large-scale solar projects up and running in Australia.

“We’ll be telling them that if the RET is slashed, the future looks grim for large-scale solar in Australia,” Clean Energy Council acting chief Kane Thornton said.

“Already, investment in renewable energy projects has drastically reduced, thanks to the uncertainty surrounding the RET generated by the Federal Government’s Warburton review”, Thornton said.

“Investors in utility-scale solar projects need to feel the funds they are committing are secure before they will come on board,” said SunPower Australia’s Wilf Johnston.
“Since its introduction in 2001, the RET has provided that security for developers. Without it, it will be much harder for them to decide to support Australian projects,” he said.

Key federal government cabinet ministers are expected to decide in coming days whether they will keep the RET as it is, or not. More than 1,000 renewable energy companies, workers and supporters have also signed up to attend major events in Australia’s capital cities this Friday to protest the axing of the RET.

The event marks the first time Solar Citizens, the Clean Energy Council, Australian Solar Council, the Solar Energy Industries Association and the Australian Wind Alliance have united to protest the unprecedented attacks on renewable jobs, growth and investment.

World Green Building Week Pushes New Ground

Carbon balloons at 50 Bridge Street, Sydney this week for World Green Building Week
Carbon balloons for World Green Building Week
by Tina Perinotto, The Fifth Estate:

While the world takes a deep dive into uncertain territory, especially on climate issues and especially in Australia,  the world of green buildings moves inexorably onwards.

For World Green Building week concluding Friday the focus broadened from buildings and owners to tenants, emerging stars and now the concept of positive development through social outcomes.

At 50 Bridge Street in Sydney, AMP Capital did some “gamification” with tenants to drive home some key messages on carbon consumption and savings using balloons, lollies in giant jars and guessing competitions.

According to national sustainability manager for AMP Capital, Dominic Ambriano, the exercise played into the company’s Building Connections program designed to engage tenants in “nodes” of focus such as sustainability, health and well-being.
The balloons were to demonstrate, in anyone’s visual language, just how much carbon could be saved from a single office building. In the case of 50 Bridge Street, which has shaved around 45 per cent of carbon emissions from the base building in recent times, that’s about 3000 tonnes of carbon – the equivalent of taking 1000 cars off the road each year.

Put that way, tenants can see for themselves that the common refrain that buildings are a powerful way to save greenhouse emissions (and money) just might have the ring of truth to it. The guessing game was for how many balloons exactly were displayed (here’s a hint, it’s somewhere in the 300 mark) and winners will be announced next week.

The exercise was repeated with about 10 other major buildings owned by AMP throughout the country including the huge Collins Place in Melbourne, while smaller buildings had signs displayed in the foyer and large jars with lollies to symbolise the carbon count

With the “gamification” the idea is simple - to “get people’s attention”, Mr Ambriano said. “Tenants are invited to try to count the balloons [or lollies] and we present information on energy to try to make it more meaningful.”

There’s also an implied message that while owners have been slashing the carbon production of their buildings, tenants have been lagging.

With building energy use split roughly 50:50 between base building and tenancies the savings by owners means the scales are tipping - negatively - towards tenants in terms of carbon produced.

Mr Ambriano said that the environmental node in the tenant engagement program is probably the easiest to get across because people are hearing the message on environment from so many sources and because there is money to be saved from energy efficiency.

“It’s been difficult in the past but we’re making breakthroughs and that’s because of the building connections program.”

As revealed in the “Happiness” book, the tough part is encouraging tenants to share their electricity billing data, which, as owners know, is the start of reform, exemplified in the old adage, “you can’t manage what you don’t measure”.

Having fun helps, so the gamification of the program has extended to the company’s “floor wars”, which pits one floor of tenants against another to save the most energy.

Green leases are emerging, he said, but there are still “a good percentage” of properties not subject to green leases where more information and collaboration can yield the right results.

Cundall's David Collins Introducing the evening
Cundall’s David Collins Introducing the evening

Impact development

Cundall chose impact development as the theme for 10 events it held world wide as its contribution to World Green Building Week this year.

“Traditional sustainability and environmentally sustainable development is not enough”, the company said in a promotional statement. “The property industry is looking to the next wave of innovation.” Instead of limiting negative outcomes the push is on for regenerative development, positive impacts and an urban environment that “gives something back”.

Right on cue the company has launched a consulting service to do just that, called Impact Development.

About 30 people attended the event this week which was likewise designed to have a positive social impact. The venue was Y Hotel, the former YWCA hostel next to Hyde Park in the city.

Profits from the event were directed to the YWCA, music was provided by a social charity called Music Makes a Difference which aims to help children with confidence issues,and art on the wall was provided by Alan Streets who has used art as a pathway to recover from drug and alcohol abused which initiated from struggling with paranoid schizophrenia.

Host for the night was principal Alistair Coulstock, who took over from Simon Wild who is soon to join Lend Lease.

Rory Martin

Future Green Leader

On the personal front Rory Martin, national sustainability leader with dwp|suters, was named the inaugural Future Green Leader.

The judging panel for this inaugural award from the Green Building Council of Australia was impressed with “the depth of Rory’s experience and commitment to buildings that respond to their climate, are economic anchors, aesthetically appealing and healthy places for people” a statement from the panel said.

Mr Martin who handles strategic planning, environmental modelling, design reviews, policy development and marketing says his passion for sustainability started when he was a student and has driven his professional development in the 10 years since.

Chief executive of dwp|suters Leone Lorrimer said Mr Martin had helped embed sustainability into the company and “further woven sustainable thinking into the fabric of our design thinking”.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Will Seattle Be the First U.S. City to Recycle Everything?

Truck dumps compost materials at process facility (E Thompson)
It’s dawn on waste-collection day in the hilly Magnolia neighborhood of Seattle.

Along the curvy streets of this residential peninsula northwest of downtown, three large bins wait outside each house.

The green ones hold compost - leftover food and yard clippings. The blue ones overflow with everything recyclable: glass, plastic containers, cans and aluminum foil. The round black ones, for the trash, often aren’t full these days.

Three years ago, Seattle’s City Council passed Resolution 31312, calling for zero net emissions by 2050, one of few cities crusading for this goal; along with it came a concentrated effort to push residents to conserve water, drive less and recycle way more.

Half of Seattle’s greenhouse gas emissions are created through ordinary everyday life - getting around, eating and buying stuff. The city’s campaign used a gradual approach, phasing in rules like mandatory composting over three years, for example.

Seattle is one of a short list of American cities pushing for this level of effort by residents at home. Yes, early last century, some municipalities sent pigs around to eat garbage, but today, collecting food waste as a commodity is rare.

There’s Portland, Oregon, and San Francisco (the first American city to require compost collections, but most cities are still working on basic recycling of paper and containers.

Seattleites I talked to said they feel proud to save resources and that doing so feels like part of the city culture - despite what might be happening or not happening in other cities - dating back to the 1980s, when Seattleites were recycling brown and green glass ahead of most of the country.

“We’re a family of five, and our garbage is rarely full,” said Kelly Hufty, who lives with her husband, David Self, and their children in Magnolia. “But our recycling is stuffed and oftentimes the yard waste and composting is full.”

Resolution 31312 called for cutting greenhouse gas emissions to 58 percent below the 2008 levels by 2030 in three areas: transportation, commercial buildings and waste.

The latest report on greenhouse gas emissions from the city’s Department of Sustainability shows that those three key areas, in total, have remained the same - declined 0 percent - between 2008 and 2012, the most recent year evaluated.

However, the building and waste sectors have improved. The report shows that emissions generated by the collection of citizens’ refuse dropped 17 percent between 2008 and 2012. Building emissions are down 10 percent since 2008. Transportation emissions have increased by 6 percent since 2008 and by just 1 percent since 1990.

Sustainability officials admit that the progress looks slow, but they point out that the population has increased (by 23 percent since 1990). They say that if one considers emissions reductions on a per-person basis, the progress reflects the effort citizens have been making over the past few years. Per person, emissions have decreased by 6 percent since 2008 and 22 percent since 1990.

Although the city’s stated emissions goals, though, are total emissions, it’s hard to ignore the cooperation of the individuals as they deal with their own waste.

Back in 1980, the city reports, a family of three produced four 32-gallon cans of trash each week. Now that’s down to one or less than one. When the composting of food waste started three years ago, meat and dairy products were banned. Now the city takes those leftovers, too. All of the waste goes to a large composting operation run by a contractor.

The city’s statistics show that recycling is worth the trouble. One Seattle report notes that recycling had removed a net of 537,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in 2012 (in 1990, 439,000 metric tons were removed).

“It’s really great to be able to just roll that out to the curb, and away it goes - one bin - paper, plastic, metal,” says Herb Bergamini, a teacher who lives in Wallingford. He notes that the city will take labeled waste car oil too. Hufty, who used to live in the Washington, D.C. area, says, “It’s part of living out here.”

After all, this is the city where composting toilets were installed in a famous office building, the Bullitt Center, which was designed to be carbon neutral when fully occupied. The Bullitt Center collects rainwater and makes solar power.

When I visited, a staff member of Sustainable Seattle pointed me to the ladies’ room, where I could not trip the motion-sensor lights. But partly because of her attitude, I did not run back to ask for help. I fumbled for my headlamp.

Of course, even waste-savvy Seattle will not recycle many things that are part of modern American life: prescription pill bottles (the plastic is too brittle), wet or dirty produce bags, kitty litter, corks (the city does refer people to Whole Foods’ “cork reharvest” project), painted wood, treated wood, fats, cooking oils, grease.

But officials are working on changing these gaps in its program. Home cooking oil could join the other curb waste in the next five years, said Timothy Croll, the city’s solid waste director. He said a separate collection of kitty litter, pet waste and diapers could start “perhaps eight years from now.”

The city now faces the challenge of motivating residents to work even harder. Mayor Ed Murray announced this year in the city’s biennial environmental report, “Moving the Needle,” that he wanted to thank Seattle residents “for all that you will do” (emphasis mine) to reduce emissions.

The report soberly says that half of Seattle’s landfill-bound trash still is either food waste or recyclable. “We can do better!” the report noted.

One of the strategies of the sustainability department, which opened officially in 2000, is a poster crammed with other ideas: Don’t wash your blue jeans too often, eat less meat (sustainability officials say that meat-sellers have not complained about this), and, in this land of Microsoft, hold onto old laptop computer instead of buying new ones.

The department’s newsletter full of energy-saving tips motivates people, Hufty said. Her family doesn’t water their lawn at all now. And school programs on the new waste practices mean parents can’t get lazy. “If you try to put something in the garbage or down the disposal, you will get called on it,” Hufty said.

Still, the city’s ambitious goal will depend on the transportation piece, which accounts for 40 percent of the emissions, and while public transit funding has been in crisis, emissions from vehicles continues to rise. Building emissions have fallen, but population growth is expected to continue rising.

Can Seattle’s attitude make the difference? Geography that attracts nature lovers and the length of time Seattle has pushed for energy savings contribute to “our overall environmental savvy,” said Tracy Morgenstern, the lead advisor for climate change policy.

And as the city’s sustainability department communications advisor, Sara Wysocki, observes, “We have … a savvy population.”

Christine Woodside is a Connecticut-based writer and editor of the journal Appalachia. For more about her work, see

The Massive Scale of California's Ongoing Drought, in One Disturbing GIF

by Sophie Kleeman

The news: The stunning images above shows the effects of California's drought on Lake Oroville State Recreation Area, a state park north of Sacramento.

The photographs were taken three years apart: the green and hydrated version in 2011 and its parched sister in 2014. The lake has frequently been cited as a prime example of the drought's destruction: "Currently at 32% of its total 3,537,577 acre feet," the caption reads. 

Yes, things are that dire. The sky-is-falling headlines about the drought - "Cemeteries Eradicate Grass to Curb Water Crisis," "California Drought Threatens Nation's Most Productive Farming Valley" and "Californians Stealing From Hydrants Amid Drought" - are no joke. The drought really is that bad.

A study recently published in the journal Science reported that the western United States has lost over 63 trillion gallons of water, or roughly four inches of water spread across the region. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, about half of California is mired in an "exceptional drought," and the rest of the state is almost as bad. 

Source: Getty Images

The water supply is also at risk. Because the drought has depleted lakes, rivers and snowpacks, authorities have begun to tap into groundwater - which, like fossil fuel, is largely irreplaceable - to provide water to people. As National Geographic argues, "We're pumping irreplaceable groundwater to counter the drought. When it's gone, the real crisis begins."

So what's being done? California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a $687 million relief package into law in March, which will provide money for "storm water recapturing, expanded use of recycled water, better management of groundwater storage and stronger water conservation measures," Reuters reported.

Source: U.S. Drought Monitor

On  national level, there are currently two dueling bills, one from the Senate and another from the House of Representatives, to aid in drought relief. They're currently stalled, however, and the two sides have yet to come to an agreement or a joint bill. 

This hand-wringing may sound like a broken record, but there's a reason for that: It's still an enormous problem. And until something real gets done, you'll keep hearing the same points. 

Sophie Kleeman
Sophie Kleeman is a staff writer at Mic. She covers national politics, inequality and social justice issues. A recent graduate of New York University, she's also written for Gothamist, and The 6th Floor Blog.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Germany Has a Radioactive Wild Boar Problem and It's Chernobyl's Fault: The Effects of the Disaster are Still Cropping Up and Won't Go Away Anytime Soon

(Photo: Petra Malukas/AFP/Getty Images)

Willy Blackmore is TakePart’s Food editor. full bio
There’s precipitation on more than 100 days a year in Saxony, the most eastern state in Germany, so there’s nothing odd about the rain that fell there in spring 1986.

The nuclear isotope cesium 137 that was carried in the droplets, which drifted more than 700 miles from the exploded nuclear reactor at Chernobyl, gave that year’s rainfall a lasting radioactive legacy.

The latest sign of the disaster’s staying power in Saxon soil might have otherwise ended up being ground and stuffed into sausage casings - wild boar carcasses. But thanks to a 2012 law requiring hunters to have boars they kill tested for radioactive material, a lot of the feral pork that’s hunted in the region is being destroyed rather than consumed.

In the first year of testing, more than one in three boars were found to have levels of cesium 137 exceeding the legal limit of 600 becquerels per kilogram. The government has spent more than $650,000 over the course of a year to compensate hunters for contaminated animals.

Boars are prone to harboring higher levels of the radioactive compound owing to their predilection for rooting in the dirt to find food, including mushrooms, which are especially able to store radiation.

Germany's legal limit is strict, though it's still beaten by post-Fukushima disaster Japan, where food is tossed if it tests as having more than 100 becquerels of radiation per kilogram. Even at six times the Japanese limit, German wild hogs are testing off the charts. In at least one instance, a boar was found to have 9,800 becquerels per kilogram of cesium 137.
Like news of tuna turned radioactive by contaminated water leaking into the Pacific from the reactor at Fukushima, the not-quite-glowing boars are garnering plenty of headlines today. But while fears of cancer-causing tuna steaks have been wildly overblown, it appears that even 28 years later, Chernobyl is proving to be a far more disastrous nuclear meltdown.
Bluefin caught off the West Coast in 2011 and 2012 were found to have just one to three becquerels per kilogram, according to a study funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 
However, unless Saxons are dining on meat from that one fantastically radioactive boar, eating stew made from an animal that contained 650 or 700 becquerels per kilogram won’t make you or your future children grow an extra head or anything. 
According to NBC, you would have to eat "13 kilograms of contaminated meat to get the same low-level radioactive effects of being on a transatlantic flight."
Shocking as the thought of radioactive boar may be, it’s the data, not the problem, that’s new. With a half-life of 30 years, cesium 137 has been and will continue to be present in Saxony and across Europe - the fallout from Chernobyl reached as far as Scotland - for decades to come.
"The problem will certainly still be around for the next 100 years, and Chernobyl will still be an issue for our children and grandchildren,” Joachim Reddemann, managing director of Bavaria’s hunting association, told The Associated Press in 2011.

Similar levels of the isotope are expected to be found in German boars until 2025, he said, with the remnants of what will then be a nearly 40-year-old disaster continuing to slowly dissipate.

The Annual Slaughter Begins in Taiji, but the Japanese Are Shunning Dolphin Meat: The Marine Mammals are Severely Contaminated With Toxic Mercury Harmful to Humans

(Photo: Adrian Mylne/Reuters)
b, Take Part:

David Kirby has been a professional journalist for 25 years. His third book, Death at Seaworld, was published in 2012. full bio
The annual dolphin hunt at the cove in Taiji, Japan, began on Monday. 
For the next eight months, hundreds of dolphins will be rounded up and killed, their meat sold in stores and restaurants in Japan and other countries. 
But butchered dolphins are becoming scarcer on the Japanese market, which is good not only for the dolphins but for public health. Why? Taiji dolphin products are riddled with mercury.

Seven published studies have found dangerously high concentrations of mercury, a neurotoxin that damages human brain development and the nervous system, in all nine dolphin species. The main source of marine mercury pollution: coal-burning power plants and other heavy industries.

The Environmental Investigative Agency, a London-based nonprofit, purchased nine dolphin products and found that eight of them exceeded Japanese health standards, with average mercury concentrations more than 10 times the limit. One dolphin liver contained mercury concentrations nearly 5,000 times greater than the Japanese government’s limit for daily exposures.

“The consumption of cetacean products contaminated with high levels of persistent organic pollutants and mercury poses a grave health risk to humans,” warned the 2013 EIA report, Toxic Catch. “Ingestion of these toxins have been linked to a range of immunological, cardiovascular and reproductive effects.”

Hair samples taken from residents of Taiji showed that, on average, mercury concentrations among whale eaters were nearly 10 times higher than among non-whale eaters. Opponents to the hunt are driving that message into Japanese homes.

“When [we] do interviews in Japan we try to use the word 'mercury' in every sentence,” said Louie Psihoyos, director of The Cove, the 2009 Oscar-winning documentary about the Taiji hunt. “That strategy of staying on point about mercury has been working.”

Whether or not it’s due to mercury, one thing is sure: Consumption of dolphin meat is on the decline as the supply out of Taiji dwindles.

Ric O’Barry, the star of The Cove and the director of Earth Island Institute’s Dolphin Project, said that when his group began their campaign against the Taiji slaughter in 2004, about 1,600 dolphins were killed annually. In 2012, that number fell to about 900. Fewer dead dolphins means less mercury contamination among the public.

“My personal feeling is that consumption is slowly reducing, particularly of dolphin and toothed-whale products,” said Clare Perry, a senior campaigner with EIA. “Young people, and in fact many older people, recognize dolphins as wild animals that should be left alone in the oceans. This is my experience from talking to many people over many years in Japan.”

A main factor behind the decline is believed to be growing awareness of high mercury levels in dolphin meat. Mercury “has been the dolphin hunter's Achilles’ heel,” said Psihoyos. “All dolphin meat, every bit of it, is poison.”

The neurotoxin is also harmful to the dolphins. Mercury and other toxins “have been linked to increased rates of cancer, increased first calf mortality, immune suppression and a higher susceptibility to infectious disease, [and] are postulated to be a primary factor causing population declines,” according to Toxic Catch.

Mercury is not the only worry. Following the 2011 tsunami and Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, “it is possible that cetaceans are bio accumulating very high levels of radioactive elements, presenting a severe risk to consumers, as well as a novel threat to cetaceans,” the report said.

With rising awareness of mercury and fewer animals killed, dolphin products in Japan are more difficult to find.

“It’s now much harder to get dolphin meat if you don’t live in the dolphin-hunting area,” said Perry. “We have stopped most of the major supermarkets, plus Amazon, Google, and more recently Rakuten, Japan’s largest Internet retailer, selling whale and dolphin products in Japan.”

As the annual killing begins at Taiji, O’Barry will be there along with Izumi Ishii, a former dolphin hunter who now opposes the hunt.

They plan to visit the town council office to try to persuade local officials that dolphin-watching cruises and other eco-tourism opportunities would be more profitable than the dolphin slaughter.
O’Barry’s team buys and tests dolphin meat so consumers can “make an informed decision as to whether or not they want to buy the tainted product,” he said.

He believes that education about mercury will further reduce demand - and stop the killing. “There’s no better way to educate the Japanese consumer than to make The Cove available on the Internet in Japan for free,” he said. “There are 27 million people in Japan who have never seen it. They don’t have the information that we take for granted.”

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

RET Review: Let the Planet be Damned, This is Politics

Machiavelli: This is politics
Machiavelli: This is Politics
by Tina Perinotto, The Fifth Estate:

COMMENT: The Warburton Review of Australia’s Renewable Energy Target, released late Thursday, is not a mistake.

It is not naive, nor a miscalculation of the cost benefit analysis of renewable energy. It is deliberate savagery designed to bankrupt the industry.

Labor is wrong to say it is written by sceptics. The people who insisted on this outcome could be the most fervent believers in climate change; and they know the glory days of the fossil fuel industry are numbered. Their clear and certain aim is to squeeze as much profit as possible from the proceeds of dangerous fossil fuels before they become unburnable.

Warburton’s sham report - with conclusions mandated before even the terms of reference were cobbled together - recommends two options: that the  government dismantle the RET quickly or slightly less quickly.

The RET scheme is to be scrapped for new entrants or modified to increase by only 50 per cent of new growth in electricity demand. As for small scale renewable schemes for households and small business, the answer is no and no.

The cost to the economy could be up to $10 billion of investment and thousands of jobs, horrified clean energy and green groups said.

But a handful of coal fired power generators would benefit, and Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said Australia needs to exploit its abundant coal and gas, so no amount of reasoning or cost benefit analysis is relevant in that scenario.

This is closed shop thinking. One goal, one outcome; money for the mates and the rest can go to hell, and probably will.

Report leader, Dick Warburton is 72 years of age. Age isn’t relevant to whether he cares for the planet or not; there are plenty of old men who care passionately for what they leave behind and are deeply motivated to put aside their needs for the future of others. So it’s unfair to say his age is relevant.

Likewise that of the 76 year old Maurice Newman, another old man put in charge of our future by the PM. But you can’t help think that these men have far less skin in the game than a 30 year old.

It’s time to stop twanging on the climate sceptic strings; no sane person doubts climate change is on the way; of course they all “get” it - the tundra is spewing methane and the oceans are warming, which is the equivalent of tossing out the last fridge on the planet.

And now we learn that a secret but horrible hope we might have harboured - that maybe a big volcanic eruption will cloak the planet with dust and cool it - won’t save us. Get geo-engineering out of your mind too.

At the big scientific pow-wows where yes, they’re seriously looking at retrofitting the planet’s mechanics, none of the options come without dreadful side effects and unintended consequences.

The only viable option anyone can see is to stop burning fossil fuels. No dangerous tampering with the weather, iron filings in the sea, particles scattered in space. Simply good riddance to a matter that we’ve only been using for couple of hundred years.

Wait, that’s the two hundred years that gave us wealth, untold luxury and power in the West and during which the developing world started to feed its hungry. The developing world needs absolute special consideration, but to survive without fossil fuels is not impossible. To survive without a habitable weather system is.

The barrier to living without coal is not the science, we are so so clever and innovative. It is not the economics, we can make big business out of this. It is the politics of power and wealth that are the true barriers.

And that means the answer is with the people who have a vote in a democracy and those who can influence governments in societies that don’t.

Increasingly the West is moving away from democracy in practice. There’s a vote but whoever wins ends up doing the bidding of the most powerful conglomerates in the land; witness how the behaviour of both sides of politics  changes from the pre-election rhetoric the moment they get sworn in.

Watch out for the people from the fossil fuel industry. First, thanks to their heartland, the Heartland Institute and the Tea Party in the US and the Institute of Public Affairs in Australia, they warned against climate change because it was ‘a plot for world government by the left’.

Now their benefactors in the fossil fuel industry are advocating for global government as a way to stop the decommissioning of their coal fired (and increasingly, uranium fired) wealth generators.

Seeded in consumer/community-sounding organisations they are pushing for a global government to manage the orderly transition of the energy industry out of fossil fuels. People such as John Hofmeister, former president of Shell Oil told us this time last year before he came to address the All Energy conference (on again soon) that you can’t trust democracy to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

This, he said, is because people will vote to turn the coal fired power stations off, but the moment there is a blackout they will vote to turn them back on. So you need to create an energy equivalent of the Reserve Bank to manage this “transition”. Of course it will be orderly, he says.

The sub-text, not so well buried, is that the economics (read ‘those who control the fossil wealth’) won’t be too badly disrupted either.

There’s that old balancing act again. Between economic and social needs; economic and environmental needs; economics and survival needs. Why not a balance between survival and not survival?
The sad thing is that there’s a pattern seeded in history here. What the fossil fuellers want is what every regime on the brink of collapse wants: more money for the getaway. Or in this case to pay for the private security dome with clean air, what’s left of the food supply, and cool drinks for as long as possible. Can they be so cynical?

Well put it this way, if you popped your head over that tundra, or lived through Super Storm Sandy or saw the devastation of Cyclone Katrina or the floods in Queensland or the fires in Victoria, you’d probably be thinking of the best place for a getaway too, just in case.

Where Labor is right is in shadow climate change minister Mark Butler’s call that the report was a “political document - not an independent review.”

There is no longer any point in arguing logic or reason or cost. It’s just not about that. It’s not even about ideology. It’s about money, short term and abundant.

Let the planet be damned.

See our early report, with reactions, RET review recommends major scale-back, and dropping support for rooftop solar

Read the full report.

Report: Victorian Government’s Clean Energy Attack

Victoria's Hazelwood Power Station, one of the world's dirtiest.
Victoria's Hazelwood Power Station, one of the world's dirtiest
by Cameron Jewell, The Fifth Estate:

Environment Victoria has released a report detailing what they say has been a “systematic campaign against renewable energy” costing Victoria investment, employment and revenue opportunities.

The report, Sun Block and Wind Breaks, highlights 25 measures the Baillieu and Napthine governments have undertaken since the 2010 election to stymie the progress of clean energy and energy efficiency.

“Most of Victoria’s policy agenda for a cleaner and more efficient energy mix has been deliberately dismantled over the past four years,” Environment Victoria chief executive Mark Wakeham said.

“This report details how these ideological attacks have seen Victoria fall behind states like South Australia in the race to embrace clean energy. Victoria continues to have the dirtiest power supply in the country.”

The new report highlights 25 attacks made on clean and efficient energy by the Baillieu/Napthine Governments since the 2010 election, which comprise:
  • Implementing restrictive regulations on new wind farms
  • Abandoning negotiations to phase out the polluting Hazelwood coal power station
  • Reneging on clean energy commitments in the Climate Change White Paper
  • Removing the 20 per cent emissions reduction target from the Climate Change Act
  • Slashing the premium solar feed-in-tariff from 60c to 25c in 2011
  • Restricting household access to the standard solar feed-in-tariff
  • Slashing the solar feed-in tariff from 25c to 8c in September 2012
  • Opposing the carbon price and overstating its impact on Victoria
  • Renewing Alcoa’s coal mining lease at Anglesea for 50 years, with no further measures to reduce its pollution
  • Removing climate change and renewable energy from the remit of Sustainability Victoria
  • Working to create a brown coal export industry
  • Spending taxpayer money on a PR campaign to promote coal mining
  • Dropping an election commitment to introduce pollution standards for new coal power stations
  • Failure to deliver any progress towards election commitment on improving residential energy efficiency
  • Scrapping an $20 million election commitment to replace street lights with energy efficient bulbs
  • Failure to deliver an election commitment to review subsidies to fossil fuels
  • Cancelling the household solar hot water rebate
  • Repealing the cost-effective Environment and Resource Efficiency Plan program, which was helping businesses reduce energy consumption
  • Drastically cutting back loans to government departments to improve energy efficiency through the Greener Government Buildings program
  • Extending the operating licence of the Anglesea Power Station, despite the closure of the Alcoa smelter that consumed all its electricity
  • Providing $75m in grants to three proposed new coal projects in the Latrobe Valley
  • Moving to scrap the Victorian Energy Efficiency Target
  • Pushing for reduction of the Federal Renewable Energy Target, and to include gas as a “renewable” source of energy
  • Supporting electricity retailer Simply Energy’s decision to charge customers an extra $51 a year for having solar panels
  • Cancelling requirements for Government agencies to purchase green electricity

“The decisions by the current Government stand in stark contrast to the actions needed to reduce emissions and move to renewable energy production and mean Victoria has missed out on billions of dollars of investment, thousands of jobs and the chance to clean up our power supply,” Mr Wakeham said.

“Renewable energy is one of the world’s fastest growing industries but while it is moving forward the Coalition is taking Victoria backwards. Few of these attacks were announced to the public before the 2010 election, and it is difficult to see how they have benefited the people of Victoria.”

See the full report here.