Australian news, and some related international items

For renewable energy workers, keeping the Renewable Energy Target would mean keeping their jobs

Xmas-renewablesAll I want for Christmas is renewable energy Kane Thornton, CEO, Clean Energy CounciThe thing most of the 21,000 people working in the renewable energy industry want in their Christmas stocking this year is hope that they will still have a job in 2015.

The federal government’s proposal to slash Australia’s Renewable Energy Target (RET) is bad news not only for the tradies that install solar panels, the wind power technicians and engineers but for construction workers, backhoe operators, truck drivers and the thousands of people who provide valuable services to the renewable energy sector in Australia.

The RET is the policy that supports all these jobs, and it has been supported by all major political parties since it was introduced in 2001. While the government committed to the current policy in the lead-up to the last election, it has provided no credible reason why it needs to be cut – particularly when more than 80 per cent of the country wants more renewable energy rather than less. And cutting the policy will also increase our reliance on high cost gas energy and lead to higher power prices.

So while you are busily decking your halls or decorating your tree, spare a thought for these people in regional and rural parts of the country who will be doing their best to forget their troubles over the festive season.

They want a job supporting renewable energy, but if PM Tony Abbott gets his way they might end up with a lump of coal instead.


December 20, 2014 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Australian National University congratulated on divesting from fossil fuels

The mayor of Seattle congratulates the ANU on divesting from fossil fuels MIKE MCGINN ABC Environment 18 DEC 2014 The advertisement supporting the ANU’s decision was backed by prominent leaders and business people.

The mayor of the first city in the world to divest from fossil fuels has applauded the Australian National University for showing the same foresight. SOMETIMES THE BEST measure of a movement’s momentum is the reaction of its critics. When, in early October, the Australian National University announced that it would sell its shares in seven fossil-fuel and mining companies, it triggered a chorus of criticism from conservative politicians.

These nominal champions of the free market were quick to tell the university what it should do with its money. The Treasurer, Joe Hockey, disparaged the ANU’s decision as being “removed from reality”. Others chimed in, calling it “a disgrace”, “very strange”, and “narrow-minded and irresponsible”. Never mind that the sums involved were relatively small — making up less than two per cent of the university’s estimated $1 billion portfolio.

As the drive to divest from fossil fuels picks up speed, such panicky responses are becoming increasingly common. ………….

The ANU’s decision looks like a sage one to anyone not in thrall to oil and gas companies, and it will only look wiser with the passing of time. Good on them. When I put Seattle on the path to divestment in 2013, my decision was well received by the young people who will have to live with the consequences of global warming, as well as the general public. As the political pressure mounts, the university’s administrators need only listen to the students.

We need more courage like that shown by the ANU. Its leaders bucked the power of coal and oil interests, which wield enormous power in Australia. If they can do it to popular acclaim, others can, too.

Mike McGinn is a former mayor of Seattle, the first city to commit to divestment from fossil fuels.

December 19, 2014 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Inadequate safeguards in Australia’s deal to sell uranium to India

It would be a pity now if the Coalition’s committee members simply used their numbers to rubber stamp this treaty without addressing Mr Carlson’s concerns


Rethink needed on India uranium deal, The Age December 10, 2014 An abundance of caution is required when dealing with radioactive substances. The consequences of a mistake, even a small error, can be nothing short of catastrophic, with the effects measured over decades, if not far longer. Yet it appears the Abbott government has been regrettably lax in negotiating a safeguards treaty to enable sales of Australian uranium to India. Continue reading

December 13, 2014 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Recognition in our region that Australia’s uranium deal with India is not safe

India-uranium1Indo-Oz N-deal under cloud: Ex-Aussie chief N-watchdog “warns” pact lacks safeguards, South Asia Times 12 Dec 14  The International Business Times (IBT), Australia, has reported that Australia’s uranium deal with India has come under severe scrutiny following warning of a former Aussie chief atomic watchdog that the treaty “did not have all the safeguards necessary to prevent India from fuelling its nuclear bombs.” The top business paper said, while the treaties committee of the Australian Parliament was “urged” to endorse the deal signed by Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in September, enabling exports of uranium to begin, things seem to be changing now.

Reporting the development, the paper said, John Carlson, former head of Australia’s nuclear safeguards organisation, told the Parliament committee recently that “the nuclear weapons programme of India is expanding with complex links to non-government reactors”. Basing on what Carlson told the Parliament committee, the paper quotes unidentified analysts to say that there is “fear” that the warning may become a reason for the Australian Labour Party to “scale back its support” to the nuclear deal………..

December 13, 2014 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Australians wimped out, lost our chance to be a global solar energy leader

The renewable energy boom is coming, but Australians are too gutless to lead the way, WA Today, December 10, 2014 Julian Cribb

Government after government of technological illiterates is holding us back from being true champions of renewable energy. Problem is, we elected them to do just that.

In the Olympics of energy, Australia just won two gold medals. Martin Green at the University of NSW announced his team had cracked a world-beating 40.4 per cent efficiency in solar cells, and a solar racing car designed by the university’s engineering students set a new world record of 107km/h over 500 kilometres.

Yet here we are, undisputed world front-runners in solar efficiency, poised to abandon or water down our own target for renewable energy. And, as builders of the world’s finest solar-racing machine, dismantling our car industry.

There is a global boom in renewable energy coming down, and sun-drenched, wind-rich, tide-girt, hot-rocking, algae-pulsing Australia is doing all it can to miss it.

If this was sport, there’d be a national outcry. Coaches’ heads would roll like Jaffas. Governments would topple. Huge new taxpayer subsidies would pour into training, facilities, equipment, staff, junior development, research. The media would be engulfed in a tsunami of soul-searching, breast-beating and unsubstantiated opinion.

But it isn’t sport. It’s science and technology. You know, the stuff that generates prosperity, defines human progress and keeps our economy efficient and competitive.

The media of late has been thick with opinion polls and opinions to the effect that the problem is the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott. But what if this isn’t true? What if the problem is actually us?

Abbott is a convenient scapegoat, but it is no good trying to pretend that we didn’t elect him, or his predecessors. We are the ones who are choosing the governments, and the political types, that we deserve. We are the mugs who willingly suspended disbelief when told things that, with hindsight, were simply incredible.

The disillusion of Australians with politics, exemplified in the current comic-opera Senate house, is in fact a symptom of a deeper malaise. A nation that has lost its way. A people who, basking in wealth for which few of them had to work, have simply lost the knack of making it or of sharing it even relatively equitably…………

Years ago, not long before he died, I interviewed one of our great physicists, Sir Mark Oliphant. Mark was known to most Aussies for his role in the Manhattan project, but his major scientific contribution was the discovery of the element tritium, which led to our current understanding of the potentiality of nuclear fusion. Mark recounted to me that in his boyhood in the 1910s he roamed far and free in South Australia’s Flinders Ranges – and anyone who has ever done that will be forcibly impressed by how many photons drop on you out of a clear blue sky, the energy emitted by the fusion reaction in the sun. From his early career, Mark was convinced that solar fusion, in one form or another, was the answer to Australia’s future energy needs, and their entirety could be met from a rather small area of collectors…………..

in Australia we have compounded that by electing government after government of technological illiterates, who believe the first thing that some rich lobby group tells them, rather than the impartial scientists who can show them the objectivelyvalidated facts.

Worldwide, use of solar power has been doubling every two years for the past 30, as costs fall and efficiency rises. If that rate of growth is sustained, solar alone can supply the Earth’s entire energy needs in less than 20 years, US analyst Ray Kurzweil suggests. In Germany, Spain, Portugal and the southwest US, solar electricity is already market-competitive with other sources. According to Australia’s Climate Council, 144 countries worldwide now have solar energy targets – while our chosen government is doing its best to scrap or disable ours……….

Put bluntly, there is a global boom in renewable energy coming down, and sun-drenched, wind-rich, tide-girt, hot-rocking, algae-pulsing Australia is doing all it can to miss it.

December 13, 2014 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

UV radiation a hazard on cloudy days, too

Canberrans not as skin savvy as they should be  December 7, 2014   Canberra Times reporter Only one in three Canberrans perform monthly skin checks and just 20 per cent are worried about unhealthy skin, a new report card on skin health has found.

New research reveals many Australians still believe the misconception that sunburn happens mostly on hot, sunny days and more than a third did not think sun protection was necessary on cloudy days.

The Skin Health Australia Report Card, released by not-for-profit organisation the Skin and Cancer Foundation, also found nearly one-third of adults did not check their skin for signs of skin disease.

In the ACT, nearly nine out of 10 respondents with skin issues regarded them as a cosmetic problem. The report card said one of the biggest misconceptions was that skin health was a cosmetic problem and one that did not require medical attention………..

Many people still did not understand the effects of UV and there was still a belief that the risk of sunburn or skin cancer was confined to hot, sunny days only, he said.

“You can get sunburnt on a sunny day if the temperature is cool.”

Sunburn is caused by UV radiation, not temperature, and the SunSmart program recommends avoiding the sun or using sun protection when UV levels are at three or higher, even if in the sun for only a short time.

December 8, 2014 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Australia wants nuclear power on the agenda at Lima climate talks. USA not so keen

Nuclear on agenda in Australia but not in America ABC Radio The World Today Michael Vincent reported this story on Wednesday, December 3, 2014 NICK GRIMM: This week the Prime Minister spoke about nuclear power plants as an option for Australia to reduce its carbon emissions so long as the private sector, not the Government, foots the bill for them.

It’s an issue Foreign Minister Julie Bishop wants to discuss at international climate talks in Lima, Peru.

But in the United States, the leader of the world’s biggest nuclear energy producing nation has been decidedly quieter about his plans for the industry which he’s supported since he was a candidate.

North America correspondent Michael Vincent reports.

MICHAEL VINCENT: President Obama has barely mentioned nuclear power at all in his six years in office………..

MICHAEL VINCENT: Gas is the cheaper alternative at the moment even with its carbon emissions.
Dr Edwin Lyman is from the Union of Concerned Scientists.

EDWIN LYMAN: That makes nuclear power plants uneconomical to operate, even the ones that have paid off their capital costs. So the industry is struggling…………..

MICHAEL VINCENT: In an article last year the Wall Street Journal wrote that the Energy Information Administration predicts nuclear power will provide only 3 per cent of new capacity for electricity generation through 2040 – the same as for much-maligned coal.

The US government is also yet to build a national repository for all the waste which is currently stored on site at every power plant.

Some estimate the cost of solving that problem at anywhere between US$38 and US$50 billion – more than half of which is the cost to the American tax payers for not collecting the waste when the government said it would back in 1998.

President Obama has made no mention on that topic recently.

December 6, 2014 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Origin Energy’s Grant King jumps on the pro nuclear bandwagon

Yesterday I noted that all at once, a number of ‘worthy’ business types have jumped on the pro nuclear  bandwagon, that Julie bishop and Tony Abbott set in motion.

I also noted that a forceful push for the nuclear industry can always be counted on, from South Australia. I repeat my graphic illustration of the South Australian push, here.


The South Australian push provide arguments with varying levels of sophistication.

King,-Grant,-Origin-EnergyHowever, today, I found particularly fetching the argument put forward by Origin Energy’s Grant King – reassuring us of nuclear power safety,  – just another risk that we all have to take, like driving  car.

I recently switched from AGL to Powershop – all renewable AND cheaper.  I recommend that Origin Energy electricity customers do that same switch.

Energy boss backs nuclear power STEPHEN JOHNSON AAP DECEMBER 05, 2014 THE head of gas producer and energy retailer Origin Energy says Australia should consider nuclear power.MANAGING director Grant King acknowledges the safety worries raised by the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan, but says the controversial  industry needs to be considered as an energy source……

“even driving a car’s dangerous.”……….

December 6, 2014 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Gotta watch Labor – now they “will negotiate” om Renewable Energy Target

Labor ‘prepared to negotiate’ with Government to save Renewable Energy Target, ABC News,By political reporter Melissa Clarke 4 Dec 2014,

The Federal Opposition wants to reopen negotiations with the Government on the Renewable Energy Target (RET), despitewalking away from talks last month.

“We’re willing to sit down and work it out with you,” Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said, addressing the Prime Minister.

The RET is being reviewed by the Government, as some in the Coalition are concerned it is too high and driving up electricity prices.

But Labor wants to keep the aim of having 20 per cent of energy produced from renewable resources by 2020………

December 6, 2014 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Australia singled out by China’s representative at Lima, for poor response

China says climate aid inadequate, especially Australia

Date: 05-Dec-14
Country: PERU
Author: Alister Doyle Rich nations’ pledges of almost $10 billion to a green fund to help poor nations cope with global warming are “far from adequate”, particularly Australia’s lack of a donation, the head of China’s delegation at U.N. climate talks said on Thursday.

Su Wei also urged all rich nations to deepen their planned cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, signaling that a joint Chinese-U.S. announcement of greenhouse gas curbs last month does not mean an end to deep differences on climate policy.

Speaking during Dec. 1-12 talks in Lima, Su said donor pledges last month totaling $9.7 billion to a new U.N. Green Climate Fund (GCF), to help developing nations cut emissions and adapt to climate change, were only a small part of needed cash.

“It is far from adequate,” he told a news conference, noting that developed nations in 2009 agreed to mobilize $100 billion a year from both public and private sources by 2020 to help poor nations suffering droughts, heat waves, floods and rising seas.

“There is still a large gap toward the 2020 targets of $100 billion a year,” he said. Australia is the main developed nation that has not contributed to the GCF, saying it prefers for now to focus on domestic aid programs.

“It is not good news (about) Australia, if it is true that they refuse to provide any money to the GCF,” Su said. The biggest donors to the GCF are the United States with up to $3 billion and Japan with $1.5 billion.

Delegates from about 190 nations are meeting in Lima to work on a U.N. climate deal due to be agreed in Paris next year. Developing nations had wanted $15 billion for the GCF by the start of the Lima talks to help spur progress.

Su also said that greenhouse gas cuts planned by rich nations before 2020 were far too small and urged a toughening.

In a joint announcement last month, Beijing said it would aim to peak its fast-rising emissions around 2030, the first time it has set a maximum year, and the United States said it would seek to cut emissions by 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.

Su said the joint announcement was intended to give momentum to the talks. “A joint announcement does not necessarily blur the distinction between developed and developing countries,” he said.

(Editing by James Dalgleish)

December 6, 2014 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

National Australia Bank’s climate bond (hope it doesn’t include nuclear industry )

text-cat-questionAlways look out for that wobbly phrase “low carbon’ – often code for including nuclear. Is NAB going to count nuclear industry projects in its climate bond?

NAB launches first Australian climate bond, ABC News, By business reporter Stephen Letts 4 Dec 2014,  Australian renewable energy investment has received a $150 million boost with the release of the first local “climate bond” to finance local projects.

National Australia Bank says proceeds from bond issue have been ring fenced to finance both wind and solar projects in Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania, Western Australia, New South Wales and the ACT.

The bulk of the 17 projects are already operational, while three are still under construction.

The NAB says the climate – or green – bond is the first bank-issued bond to be certified in compliance with international Climate Bonds Standards, a benchmark to assist investors prioritise investments that finance climate change solutions.

The World Bank – backed by Westpac and local institutional investors and super funds – released a $300 million issuance last year, although those funds were more focused on building renewable energy projects in developing nations.

The global green bond market has been experiencing strong growth in the past couple years.

In the first six months of 2014, green bond issuance totalled $US18.4 billion – a 67 per cent increase on 2013.

All up green bonds raised more than $US40 billion worldwide this year.

Investor Group on Climate Change chief executive Nathan Fabian said it shows the banks are getting strong signals from institutional investors wanting “low carbon” and green products………

December 6, 2014 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Australia’s Trade Minister Abdrew Robb takes his climate ideas from climate change denialist Bjorn Lomborg

Is Bjørn Lomborg writing Australia’s climate and energy policies? REneweconomy, By  on 5 December 2014  LIMA: Just what is Andrew Robb going to be doing in Peru at the climate negotiations in Lima – apart from “chaperoning” Julie Bishop, as Tony Abbott charmingly phrases it, and making sure the Coalition’s most popular politician does not become “too green”.

Well, that is probably exactly what he will do. Negotiators and observers hear in Lima are scratching their heads as to what role Robb could possibly play in the climate talks – he has no counterparts to talk to because no other country thinks of sending their trade minister. Most of them send their environment or climate change ministers.

Will Robb involve himself in the detail of climate finance, loss and damage, or ratification of the second period of the Kyoto Protocol? Likely not. And why is Australia suddenly sending an “economics” minister to a “climate” event, when it has refused to talk about climate at “economics” events such as the G20 and the FTA with China, arguing – to the astonishment of most – that the two don’t intersect.

Perhaps, then, Robb has been sent to convey a simple message – namely that Australia does not understand what all the fuss is about, that addressing climate change is not that urgent, that we need more research before we start deploying new technologies such as solar, and anyway, it’s a bigger priority to sell coal to poor countries to alleviate “energy poverty.”

To do that, all the government has to do is to channel the thoughts of their favourite thinker, Bjorn Lomborg, who as others have pointed out has made quite a nice career casting doubt on the seriousness of climate change,  Continue reading

December 6, 2014 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Prime Minister Tony Abbott “fine” with the idea of nuclear power for Australia

Abbott-dancing-3Prime Minister Tony Abbott says has no objection to nuclear energy and would be ‘fine’ with a proposal, ABC News 2 Nov 14 By political reporter Nick Pedley Prime Minister Tony Abbott says he would be “fine” with someone putting forward a nuclear energy proposal and described the Fukushima meltdown as a “problem”.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop earlier told Fairfax Media nuclear energy was an “obvious” way to reduce carbon emissions…….Senior Labor frontbencher Jenny Macklin said it was unnecessary for more nuclear energy in Australia.

“It’s both not necessary in Australia and I’d like Julie Bishop to tell those Australians where she thinks she’s going to put those power stations,” she said…..

December 3, 2014 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Tasmania’s anti renewable energy Senator Lambie snubs Granville Harbour Wind Farm project

Lambie,-JacquiIndependent Senator Jacqui Lambie snubs Granville Harbour Wind Farm project meeting, The Advocate By SEAN FORD Dec. 2, 2014,

RENEWABLE energy target critic Senator Jacqui Lambie has been accused of refusing to meet proponents of a West Coast wind farm, with 200 construction jobs hanging in the balance.

 Uncertainty about the RET’s future is holding back the Granville Harbour Wind Farm, according to proponent Westcoast Wind.

Investors were “lined up” for the $150 million project, director Alex Simpson said yesterday.

However, they needed bipartisan certainty at federal level……..

PUP-turned-independent Senator Lambie has been scathing about the RET, describing it as the “mainland RET” and saying it pushes up Tasmanian power prices and threatens jobs despite Tasmanian energy generation being renewable.

Mr Simpson said Westcoast Wind had been seeking a meeting with Senator Lambie since August, but had been told she was “too busy”.

He questioned whether there would be a bigger project she could influence.

The project has the necessary federal, state and council approvals.

Mr Simpson said it could proceed if the target was left alone, but a decision was needed.

“The federal government needs to say ‘This is what we’re going to do,’ then Labor goes tick so there’s bipartisan support.”

Some in the Coalition argue the RET should be scaled back, due to declining power use.

Mr Simpson said an excess of generation would be a good thing, as it would tend to put downward pressure on prices.

He also argued the economic case for wind, saying: “Any power station that has no fuel cost has to be cheaper in the long run.” If a lower RET was introduced, he said, the Granville project would be “very challenging for the industry”.

Comment was being sought from Senator Lambie.

December 3, 2014 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Faith in nuclear power – a religious belief for corporate-backed Abbott government

Archbishop-Greenfield-1Nuclear power keeps the corporates in charge. No wonder it’s conservatives’ preferred solution to climate change, Guardian Tim Hollo, 2 Dec 14 

Tony Abbott says he has ‘no theological objection’ to nuclear power. That’s fair – only blind faith could justify his belief in a power source that’s so costly and risky   “I have no theological objection” to nuclear power, Tony Abbott said on 1 December, responding to Julie Bishop’s relaunch of the right’s preferred “solution” to global warming this week.

Abbott’s choice of words is fascinating. On the face of it he’s suggesting that opposing nuclear power is a faith-based, rather than rational, view. But it is the right’s consistent promotion of a technology that has been shown repeatedly to be too slow, too costly and too risky (see, for instance, here and here) that is underpinned by several right wing articles of faith. It’s worth unpacking this credo, because it reveals what’s really going on when nuclear power is raised………. Continue reading

December 3, 2014 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment


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