Australian news, and some related international items

Australia’s right wing in a right mess about policy on wind energy

Abbott-firemanThe debate over climate change has been an intellectual debacle for the political right. Their tribal hatred of environmentalists has driven them into a position of denouncing any technology favoured by their enemies. The only invisible substance with which Abbott and his backers should be concerned about is their disappearing intellectual credibility.

The right’s anti-wind campaign is pure scaremongering by John Quiggan, 25 July13  Climate change is a debacle for the Australian right. Their tribal hatred of environmentalists has driven them to denounce any technology favoured by their enemies Tony Abbott’s quip that emissions trading schemes represent “a so-called market in invisible stuff” has been rightly derided as a dog-whistle to climate denialists, unsuccessful only in that it was not pitched high enough to escape detection by the rest of us. Critics have had plenty of fun pointing out the many examples of “invisible stuff” that is, like carbon dioxide, critically important despite the fact that we can’t see it – electricity, financial risk, and so forth.

wind-farm-evil-1A point that has attracted rather less attention is the extent to which the views of Abbott’s team on climate are being driven by claims about something that is not only invisible and inaudible, but indeed non-existent – namely the supposed health effects of wind farms. The belief that wind farms are dangerous to human health has been widely propagated on the political right, despite the absence of supporting scientific evidence.

The leading Australian promoters of wind paranoia are the Waubra Foundation, the Australian Landscape Guardians and astroturf-windthe Australian Environment Foundation (AEF). These groups are often linked with each other and with rightwing organisations like the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA). The AEF in particular is a straightforward front group – it was set up by former IPA senior fellow Jennifer logo-IPA-wolfMarohasy and originally operated out of the IPA offices in Melbourne.

The supposed health risks of wind turbines have also been pushed byGraham Lloyd in The Australian newspaper, other rightwing columnists like Miranda Devine, and conservative politicians including Craig Kellyand John Madigan.

To get the boring scientific facts out of the way, the National Health and Medical Research Council investigated the issue in 2009 and 2010. The review considered the potential health impacts of infrasound, noise, electromagnetic interference, shadow flicker and blade glint produced by wind turbines and concluded that, “at the time of writing, there was no published scientific evidence to positively link wind turbines with adverse health effects.”  Continue reading

July 25, 2013 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, election 2013, wind | Leave a comment

An Australian nuclear CONference: yes it is a real CON

  Putting the Con back into Conference: No social license for nuclear power. July 25:     Natalie Wasley, Beyond Nuclear Initiative and Uranium Free NSW    On July 25/26 the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE) is holding a conference in Sydney titled ‘Nuclear Energy for Australia?’

 The conference might be framed as a question but the answer is predictable given that the majority of keynote speakers are from organisations in favour of developing a nuclear power industry in Australia, including industry representative bodies and pro-nuclear think tanks.

“The idea of nuclear power in Australia has been tested and rejected many times by the Australian public,” said Beyond Nuclear Initiative coordinator Natalie Wasley. “Former Prime Minister John Howard was forced to back down from ambitious nuclear power plans when people demanded to know which postcodes would be targeted. The broad community challenge to current plans for a low and intermediate-level radioactive waste dump at Muckaty in the Northern Territory would translate to fierce opposition to plans for storage of high-level waste from nuclear power reactors.”


Advocates have tried to rebrand nuclear power as a solution to climate change concerns, but actual energy generation trends have not followed this optimistic rebranding. The World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2013 discerns that the impact of Fukushima on the global nuclear industry has become increasingly visible, noting that Global electricity generation from nuclear plants dropped by a historic 7 percent in 2012, adding to the record drop of 4 percent in 2011.

“Nuclear is costly and contaminating and our energy future is renewable, not radioactive,” said Ms Wasley.

Sakyo Noda from the Uranium Free NSW collective said “Uranium from Australia was present in Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant and the authority is still unable to control the situation – recently TEPCO admitted that contaminated water was leaking into the ocean”

“Uranium mining is the beginning of the catastrophic nuclear chain. We are trying to stop uranium exploration in NSW because we can’t risk another nuclear accident and leave contaminated soil, water and air to the next generations. The radiation health risk and impact on children affected by Fukushima has not yet been fully revealed”, Mr Noda concluded.

In August 2012 a broad coalition of trade unions, health and environment groups, the NSW ALP and NSW Greens launched the NSW Uranium Free Charter in response to the overturning of the 26 year moratorium on uranium exploration in the state.

The Charter states in part: The nuclear industry promotes nuclear power as a solution to climate change. It is not. We cannot solve one environmental and social problem by embracing another. Investment in renewable energy would create thousands of jobs, especially in regional Australia, without the health risks associated with uranium mining and nuclear energy.


July 25, 2013 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, spinbuster | 1 Comment

Sloppy science writing in Australia’s media

media-slackThe death of science journalism in Australia Independent Australia by   24 July, 2013  As the mainstream media struggles – particularly newspapers – the loss of journalists is a worrying trend; Noel Wauchope explains why she is most concerned about the loss of qualified science journalists.   INVESTIGATIVE journalists would do well to investigate what is happening to science news writing in Australia…..

 I knew that quality science journalism in Australia was dwindling. It took the most recent pro-nuclear advertorial in the Fairfax media to really wake me up to this. John Watson, ‘Senior writer’ at Fairfax Media, wrote an article entitled, Want to kill fewer people? Go nuclear…..

Why have The Age,  Sydney Morning Herald and others sunk to this level of sloppy journalism?

Apart from the obvious fact they don’t want to offend their corporate backers, this kind of writing is symptomatic of what happens when you get rid of your qualified dedicated science journalists. Amongst the plethora of Fairfax journalists encouraged to depart their jobs were science editor Deborah Smith, health editor Julie Robotham, health correspondent Mark Metherell and environment reporter Rossyln Beeby. 

That’s Fairfax. But what about the Murdoch media? The Murdoch media never had much of  a problem in its coverage of science. The Australian blithely publishes science articles written by journalists who are clearly far from expert in the field of science.

This has been documented by Tim Lambert with his article, The Australian’s War on Science. In it he goes about scrutinising, in depth, writers such as Maurice Newman and Graham Lloyd.

The Australian did have one qualified science writer,  Leigh Dayton. When she was sacked, the reason given by her editors was they: Continue reading

July 25, 2013 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, media | 1 Comment

Bikes Not Bombs – Nuclear Abolition Week in Melbourne

BIKES NOT BOMBS! Nuclear Abolition Week 2013 – Melbourne,   24 Jul 2013 During ICAN’s global Nuclear Abolition Week we hit the streets rolling in Melbourne. We collected signed Parliamentary Appeals from several politician’s offices, imagined the hypothetical effects of a modern-day nuclear weapon on the city of Melbourne and visited Serco and the Australian Government’s Future Fund. This video features the very awkward interaction we had with a Future Fund employee in their office when we delivered a petition of 13,675 signatures calling on them to divest public money from nuclear weapons companies. They were keen to show us where the door was…

Bikes Not Bombs Tour- 12th July 2013 
Footage: Nancy Atkin
Production: Gem Romuld
Music: The Formidable Vegetable Sound System

July 25, 2013 Posted by | Audiovisual | Leave a comment

100% Renewable Energy Supply From Off-grid achieved by King Island

renewable-energy-pictureAustralia’s King Island Achieves 100% Renewable Energy Supply From Off-grid System July 24, 2013 

Hydro Tasmania’s off-grid power system in King Island has achieved a remarkable achievement that could have significant ramifications for off-grid power systems across the world. King Island achieved 100% renewable energy supply for ‘sustained periods’ last month thanks to a power supply backup system that uses renewable energy to ensure an uninterrupted supply.

The island, which otherwise would be dependent on imported electricity and fuel, now seems well equipped to generate its usual as well as back up electricity through renewable energy sources.

Hydro Tasmania used its own automated power control systems and flywheel technology to supply uninterrupted power last month. For the first time, the company did not use diesel backup systems to keep the power supply going. Of course, the ample availability of wind and solar energy resources on the small island to the north of Australia’s island state helped the company achieve this milestone.

Currently, according to the company, the backup system could be diesel free when there is sufficient wind and solar energy available or during the off-peak demand hours (night and dawn). But Hydro Tasmania is working to make this system foolproof.

Demand side management and energy storage solutions are being planned to make the backup system completely diesel free at all times.

The automated diesel-free system, accompanied with demand side management and energy storage, could prove to be a blessing for small island nations and remote regions across the world. Island nations in the South Pacific cannot afford to be dependent on imported diesel nor can they have extensive transmission systems spanning hundreds of kilometres across open seas.

Hydro Tasmania is implementing these systems under the King Island Renewable Energy Integration Project (KIREIP).

Among the many renewable energy, energy efficiency, and energy storage solutions implemented under this project is a 100 kW solar PV project. This project was installed in 2008 and uses dual-axis tracking, making it more efficient than conventional solar PV projects. The project will soon see increased use of biodiesel produced from recycled cooking oil and tallow and installation of Australia’s largest energy storage battery system.

July 25, 2013 Posted by | energy, Tasmania | Leave a comment

Trans Pacific Partnership talks focus on media control

censorshipBig Media’s push for extreme new Internet censorship rules stalls secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership talks By David Christopher Big Media lobbyists and unelected bureaucrats are holding closed-door meetings in Malaysia this week, as they continue secret talks on the Trans-Pacific antnuke-relevantPartnership (TPP).

The TPP is a highly secretive and extreme trade deal being negotiated by Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Peru, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, the United States, Singapore, and Vietnam.

Reports from Malaysia indicate that the TPP talks are stalled over five key issues—including a key chapter on copyright and intellectual property rights that would censor and criminalize Internet use. Continue reading

July 25, 2013 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, media | Leave a comment

Australia could replace coal energy by solar energy by 2040 – Energy expert

Aust-sunSolar energy growth could drive out coal by 2040, expert says SMH, July 24, 2013  Peter Hannam Carbon economy editor  Australia could phase out almost all its fossil-fuel sourced electricity by 2040 if it doubled the current rate of take-up of solar energy and wind energy maintained its current growth pace, said Professor Ken Baldwin, director of ANU’s Energy Change Institute….. to shift the energy sector away from carbon-intensive coal and gas sources to avoid dangerous climate change, renewable energy could provide all but a couple of per cent of Australia’s electricity in under three decades, he said, citing data from ANU’s Centre for Sustainable Energy Systems. Continue reading

July 25, 2013 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, solar | Leave a comment

Steam enveloping nuclear reactor that is supposed to be in “cold shutdown”

water-tanks-FukushimaBBC: It’s boiling somewhere inside Fukushima Unit No. 3 — Reactor supposed to be in cold shutdown — Situation ‘worrying’
Title: Fukushima nuclear plant: Japan takes steps over sea leak
Source: BBC News
Date: July 23, 2013
h/t Anonymous tip
[…]  (Tepco) said steam was seen around the fifth floor of the building housing Reactor No 3 […]
It is not clear what is causing the steam […]
The sight of steam rising is worrying because it means somewhere inside the reactor building water is boiling, says the BBC’s Rupert Wingfield-Hayes in Tokyo.
Th badly damaged reactors are supposed to be in what is called “cold shutdown”; the temperature of the cooling water inside the reactor should be well below boiling point.
It is another sign that Tepco still does not fully know what is going on inside the damaged reactors […]
See also: AFP: ‘Fukushima reactor site engulfed by steam’ — Kyodo: ‘Something like steam’ coming from unknown source at Unit No. 3 — Tepco: ‘Continuously wafting through the air’ — Work to remove rubble suspended

July 25, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Opportunity now for the world to turn away from nuclear weapons

A so-called “inalienable right” of nations to the “use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes” articulated in Article IV of the NPT in reality means exposing people and other living things worldwide to a risk of indiscriminate, catastrophic radioactive contamination at any time. Nuclear power erodes the health and rights of future generations. Through its inevitable generation of plutonium, and the intrinsic potential of uranium enrichment plants to enrich uranium beyond reactor grade to weapons grade, it exacerbates the danger of nuclear war and its catastrophic human consequences. Nuclear power thus undermines fundamental human and biosphere rights, responsible custodianship and human security.

To quote Albert Einstein again: “There is no secret and there is no defense; there is no possibility of control except through the aroused
understanding and insistence of the peoples of the world.”
peace globe AustSTUMBLING IN THE DARK, REACHING FOR THE LIGHT, Right Now  By Tilman Ruff, 25 July 13, “………While the extraordinary responsibility we bear is a difficult burden, it is also a precious gift. Few people in all of human history have had as great an opportunity as we now have to avert harm and do good for humanity

The fundamental realities of nuclear weapons are as profound as they are clear. Nuclear weapons are by far the most destructive, indiscriminate, persistently toxic weapons ever invented. Single nuclear weapons have been built with more destructive power than all explosives used in all wars throughout human history. In its landmark Resolution 1 of 2011, the Council of Delegates of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, its highest governing body, “finds it difficult to envisage how any use of nuclear weapons could be compatible with the rules of international humanitarian law, in particular the rules of distinction, precaution and proportionality”. They cannot be used in any way compliant with international law.

While they exist, there is a danger they will be used. The only way to eliminate this danger is to eradicate nuclear weapons. While some nations possess them, others will inevitably seek to acquire them, or the means to produce them in short order. These means are now readily accessible around the world, even to isolated and impoverished countries like North Korea.
The lifetimes of uranium and plutonium isotopes, which can fuel bombs, are measured over tens of thousands to millions of years. Human
intent, nation-states and politics can change on a dime. Hence stocks of fissile materials, the capacity to create more, and nuclear weapons themselves are the problems, irrespective of the intentions of their custodians at any point in time. Continue reading

July 25, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

US bombs on the Great Barrier Reef are PROBABLY safe

Bombs dropped on Reef ‘virtually impossible’ to explode  SMH, Kim Stephens, July 24, 201  US naval authorities say it is ‘‘virtually impossible’’ two undetonated bombs lying on the Great Barrier Reef will explode.

United States 7th fleet spokesman Lieutenant David Levy has revealed four bombs – two inert and two explosive – dropped in the ocean off Rockhampton by US warplanes during a recent bungled training exercise may not be recovered.

‘‘The Australian and US governments are currently reviewing this possibility’’, Lieutenant Levy said, when asked if they would be retrieved……:

July 25, 2013 Posted by | Queensland, safety | Leave a comment

Western Australian Goldfields ready to lead on solar thermal energy

map-WA-solarSolar Thermal Touted For Western Australia’s Goldfields  25 July 13,  Greens Senator Scott Ludlam was in the gold mining city of Kalgoorlie in Western Australia on Tuesday; convening a meeting to plan the Goldfields’ renewable energy future.

Senator Ludlam says the Australian Greens’Connecting Clean Energy plan (PDF) was a perfect fit for the Goldfields. The plan focuses on the identification and creation of new Renewable Energy Zones to help remove investment and infrastructure barriers.
“The community and business sector in the Goldfields are showing they are ready to take the leadership on solar energy,” said Senator LudlamContinue reading

July 25, 2013 Posted by | solar, Western Australia | Leave a comment

Australian politicians not keeping up with the renewable energy trend

Parkinson-Report-Australia’s large-scale renewables ambition dashed by policy vacuum  REneweconomy, By  on 24 July 2013   If the Australian renewables industry was looking for affirmation from Australia’s two mainstream parties at the industry’s major annual conference this week, then it might have been disappointed. Instead, it appears destined for yet more uncertainty and a less ambitious conclusion.

An industry that is craving some level of “policy certainty” may have to wait another year or 18 months, depending on the result of the upcoming election, and there is growing concern that the ability of Australia to meet its minimum 20 per cent renewable energy target is becoming increasingly difficult. So much so that some in the industry appear ready to accept a delay in the target’s deadline.

Over the next seven years, more than $20 billion is expected to be spent on new wind farms, solar farms and other large-scale renewable energy projects – not counting the billions of dollars that are expected to be invested by households in rooftop solar.

All this was to be built to meet the fixed renewable energy target of 41,000GWh, which is supposedly a bi-partisan goal. Right now, however, while households continue to invest heavily in rooftop solar because it saves them money from their electricity bills, a lot of the large-scale investment is at a standstill.

This is due to the uncertainty created by the upcoming election, the insistence of the Coalition in having yet another review of the renewable energy target in 2014, and the failure of Labor to legislate for that review to be held in 2016 – as was recommended by the Climate Change Authority’s review of the RET, which was completed just seven months ago.

Further adding to the problems for renewables is the decision to move more quickly to an emissions trading scheme, which will result in a higher price for renewable energy certificates, and a complication of the politics around renewables, if the carbon price stays low…….

David Green, the CEO of the Clean Energy Council, said earlier that the two-year review was a recipe for instability for the market. One wonders if the industry regrets not pushing Labor to take on the Opposition and put the four-year review to a parliamentary test, given the uncertainty that is now created, and the growing possibility that a target will be diluted or deferred.

But Green, and Fraser, noted how the energy industry is changing – mostly as a result of the rooftop solar and the growth of “distributed generation”.

“The structure of the energy industry is changing,” Green said.  It was moving from large-scale investment in pipes and poles to more active engagement with consumers, and more smaller-scale investments, embedded in the system. “We are beginning to shift the way we use electricity and the other fuels in the industry,” he said..

July 25, 2013 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, election 2013, energy | Leave a comment

Solar clad buildings making the solar market take off

Switched on: solar cladding takes off  SMH July 24, 2013  From stadiums in Brazil to a bank headquarters in Britain, architects led by Norman Foster are integrating solar cells into the skin of buildings, helping the market for the technology triple within two years.

Sun-powered systems will top the stadia hosting 2014 FIFA World Cup football in Brazil. In Manchester, northern England, the Co-operative Group office has cells from Solar Century clad into its vertical surfaces. Continue reading

July 25, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment