Australian news, and some related international items

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

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