Australian news, and some related international items

Australia’s clean transition to renewable energy – theme for January 2017


The whole point of renewable energy is that it is clean. And, for sure, the major fuels – sun and wind – are undoubtedly clean. However, renewable energy does require some components – rare earths – that certainly have a dirty radioactive  history, and may still have a dirty radioactive present.

rare-earths-pollution-ChinaTwo notorious historic examples of pollution from the production of rare earths are the Bukit Merah  project in Malaysia , and China’s project in Inner Mongolia

China is now controlling   rare earths’ production in a cleaner way.  but it would be naïve and simplistic to assume that its pollution problems have completely gone away.

Meanwhile Australian companies, too, are mining and processing rare earths. Lynas, in Malaysia, has had a history pf inadequate management of radioactive wastes, but now has improved its practices.  Greenland Minerals and Energy, about to mine rare earths in Greenland, is criticised for unsatisfactory planning for its radioactive waste tailings.

3 main approaches are being taken to this problem:

rare-earth-recyclingDesign for recycling. This is particularly appropriate for wind turbines.

Reduction in consumption of rare earths . This is not applicable to renewable energy, but rather to the rampant and wasteful  consumption of modern electronic gadgets –  often unnecessary, all too often a part of our throwaway culture.

clean-technologyDesign for green technologies that don’t require rare earths

Of course, like all modern industrial technologies, mining and manufacture and transport  of renewables do mean environmental disturbance.  But this is a balancing act, considering the environmental benefits of renewable energy.

The nuclear lobby pretends that renewable energy is environmentally dirty. In the 21st Century, it is vital that we acknowledge environmental problems, including that fact of radioactive waste from rare earths, and make sure that the production processes are clean, even if this adds to their cost.


January 14, 2017 - Posted by | Christina themes, energy, rare earths


  1. The Editor
    The Advertiser

    Dire warnings from the Federal Government about the dangers of outsourcing essential services, especially to foreign countries, is welcome news (The Advertiser, 30/1/17).

    Unfortunately, like most such announcements from career politicians and Governments, who work to a 3-4 year election cycle, the warnings come 10-20 years too late. Independent observers have been issuing the same warnings since electricity privatisation in the 1990’s but have been ridiculed by the pro-privatisation, free-market Labor-Liberal duopoly.

    Politicians are elected to lead from the front but they seem more intent on holding on to their dodgy privileges and entitlements.

    Dennis Matthews

    Comment by Dennis Matthews | January 30, 2017 | Reply

  2. The Editor
    The Advertiser

    Correspondents to The Advertiser make some useful points about electricity supply (The Advertiser, 30/1/17).

    On the issue of the state government being responsible for providing reliable power. A role of privatisation, and outsourcing in general, is to distance governments from such responsibilities. Since electricity privatisation the state government has taken a back seat, being content to blame private providers and the opposition.

    However, if the companies that the government put in charge of providing electricity don’t do their job then the government has the responsibility to find someone who can.

    It is also important to understand the role of the Essential Services Commission (ESCoSA).

    ESCoSA is the successor to the Olsen government’s SAIIR (SA Independent Industry Regulator), whose role was to make privatisation work, which it clearly hasn’t.

    Dennis Matthews

    Comment by Dennis Matthews | January 30, 2017 | Reply

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