Australian news, and some related international items

Australia’s urgent need for long-term planning on energy, especially on energy efficiency

Gas crisis? Energy crisis? The real problem is lack of long-term planning, The Conversation,  Senior Industry Fellow, RMIT University, March 20, 2017 “……The long view

When we consider the long term, we must recognise that we need to slash our carbon emissions. So coal is out, as is any overall expansion of natural gas production.

Luckily, we have other affordable long-term solutions. The International Energy Agency, as well as Australian analysts such as ClimateWorks and Beyond Zero Emissions, see energy efficiency improvement as the number-one strategy – and in many cases, it actually saves us money and helps to offset the impact of higher energy prices. Decades of cheap gas and electricity mean that Australian industry, business and households have enormous potential to improve energy efficiency, which would save on cost.

We can also switch from fossil gas to biogas, solar thermal and high-efficiency renewable electricity technologies such as heat pumps, micro-filtration, electrolysis and other options.

Renewable energy (not just electricity) can supply the rest of our needs. Much to the surprise of many policymakers, it is now cheaper than traditional options and involves much less investment risk. Costs are continuing to fall.

But we need to supplement renewable energy with energy storage and smart demand management to ensure reliable supply. That’s where options such as pumped hydro storage, batteries and heat-storage options such as molten salt come in.

This is why the crisis is more political than practical. The solutions are on offer. It will become much more straightforward if politicians free themselves from being trapped in the past and wanting to prop up powerful incumbent industries.

March 23, 2017 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Historic time for Australia’s solar energy movement

25 years on, solar industry finds itself in midst of historic moment, REneweconomy
By Nigel Morris on 20 March 2017 
Every now and again if you are really lucky, you get to observe what’s going on around you and bear witness to history in the making, a unique event or occurrence that is unlikely to ever happen again or something representative of a small milestone in mankind’s history.

I’ve been called “The Big Kev of Solar” for my gushing enthusiasm and excitement around solar energy, but bear with me for a minute.

A few months ago, the idea of holding a small party for twenty or thirty solar pioneers came to life. With a precedent at a similar US event, a small group of Australians figured it was time we celebrated too and on Friday night that came to life in Sydney.

We figured we had something a bit special on our hands when the numbers passed fifty, and by the time the doors opened almost eighty guests who had passed our 25 year minimum service requirement for entry steadily streamed in…..

Our event was designed to celebrate not only what happened, but more importantly, where are today and where we are headed. The fact that every single person in that room (and many more who couldn’t make it) had contributed in their own small way made it a joyful, exciting and genuinely uplifting experience.

We heard countless fascinating stories about key events in the formative years of the industry but also bore witness to the continuation of this work through common threads, right up to today……

This event was also a great reminder that the solar industry is a wonderfully diverse and eclectic mix of people and disciplines.

We have the world’s best solar scientists. We have leading, highly innovative manufacturers. We have forward thinking and genuinely visionary leaders. And of course we have steadfast, reliable and hard working people who pull it all together and get it sold and installed.

There were also some thought provoking observations about our group and the trials, tribulations and success that have occurred.

Almost without exception everyone in the room has managed to make a living, bring up their families and survive off the proceeds of solar energy for more than two decades; no small feat on its own.

However, only a very tiny proportion have made substantial money from our industry and even less have managed to hang on to any wealth, typically re-investing it and doubling down if they were so lucky to have made it in the first place.

One observer of the event highlighted to me that there is also a bit of a consistent theme when you look at the people who qualified as solar pioneers.

“In the majority of cases, solar pioneers are not the owners of mass market highly successful solar companies in Australia. They seem to have a habit of bouncing between companies or business opportunities that are typically just ahead of the curve which sadly prevents them from reaping huge financial rewards and stranding them in the perpetually volatile world of high risk start-ups. That’s not necessarily a bad thing or a problem, but it is a shame.”……

March 23, 2017 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Australian cricketing great Ian Chappell wants Adani solar, but NOT Adani coal mine

“We reiterated that we welcome Adani’s investment in solar in Australia but are steadfast in our opposition to their coalmine.”

Ian Chappell stands by Adani mine letter despite being called ‘elitist’ by Coalition MP
Adani ‘categorically’ rejects letter signed by 91 prominent Australians as protesters confront Queensland premier during tour of Adani’s Indian HQ,
Guardian, , 17 Mar 17Cricket great Ian Chappell has stood by his opposition to the Adani mine proposal as part of a group of prominent Australians branded “elitist wankers” by a federal government MP and “a very small group of misled people” by the Indian miner. Continue reading

March 19, 2017 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Annabel Crabbe’s version of The Man From Snowy River

The Man From Snowy River then clapped on his Driza-Bone
His hat and his elastic sided boots.
He summoned his advisers via WhatsApp, text and phone.
“We need a press announcement, friends! When suits?”

Malcolm, the man from Snowy Hydro, powers on Annabel Crabb

There was fear across the nation, for the word had passed around
That the gas reserves were ebbing fast away.
With power stations closing… Hell! The problem was profound.
Soon lovely Adelaide would fade to grey. Continue reading

March 19, 2017 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Bill Shorten in climate talks with Arnold Schwarzenegger

Shorten to talk climate with Terminator Lisa Martin, Australian Associated Press March 18, 2017 

Bill Shorten hopes Arnold Schwarzenegger can add some muscle to Labor’s push for action on climate change. The former California governor and Hollywood star is in Melbourne this weekend for the Arnold Classic, an annual mutli-sport festival which features body builders.

Schwarzenegger and the opposition leader will meet on the sidelines of the kids expo on Saturday.

Mr Shorten praised Schwarzenegger’s track record in the fight against carbon pollution.”Anyone who’s seen his work knows he’s a straight-shooter determined to save the planet,” Mr Shorten said.”He sticks to his principles, even when the going gets tough.”

California’s economy is the sixth largest in the world – a feat achieved in part because it is an attractive and stable environment for renewable energy investment, Mr Shorten said.

The Turnbull government has repeatedly attacked Labor over its policy to establish a target of 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030.

March 19, 2017 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

An emissions intensity scheme? But Turnbull is in the grip of the climate denialists

We need them to fix the unconscionable mess they made. We need the government to get this right. They really do owe us that much….

Right now we have the deeply odd spectre of every major business group in the country (minus the Minerals Council, which can’t seem to find its constructive gene) telling the government that the market signal required to drive future investment in the energy market, and reduce emissions at least cost to households and businesses, is a form of carbon trading known as an emissions intensity scheme.

Delicate feelings can, in contemporary politics, triumph over facts.

We have the strange sense right at the moment that a Liberal government could emerge from this process arguing that regulation, or more boondoggles, like Direct Action, are preferable to a simple market mechanism. A curious posture for the party of free markets.

The government must fix this unconscionable energy mess – it owes us that much Guardian, Katharine Murphy, 17 Mar 17 “……. what might the prime minister be up to?

It is possible all this blather is about subduing his own internal critics – a small prime ministerial fan dance of distraction while you get on with the business of trying to set up what needs to happen. Continue reading

March 18, 2017 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Critics of Australia’s Carmichael coal mine project ramp up fight 

Karen Graham | Digital Journal’s Editor-at-Large for environmental news  13 March 2017:

” … The BBC is reporting the big complaint making the rounds today is the Australian government’s plan to give Adani a $1.0 billion loan to build its rail line to the coast.  Many critics claim this infrastructure will become an obsolete asset in short order. …

Frank Jotzo, director of the Australian National University’s Centre for Climate Economics and Policy, told the BBC:
“It’s questionable whether this mine will still be a viable proposition in two decades’ time, whereas infrastructure such as a rail line or port expansion [also planned by Adani]  would have a lifetime of 50 to 100 years.” … “

March 15, 2017 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Department of Industry, Innovation and Science makes fanciful claims on their ability to manage nuclear waste dump for South Australia

Paul Waldon Fight To Stop Nuclear Waste Dump In Flinders Ranges SA March 11 

Today is the sixth anniversary of the Daiichi incident where nobody thought there would ever be a triple meltdown.  After 14 of the fifteen reactors at 4 sites on the east coast of Japan were compromised, calling it a accident is hard when there was little foresight to a tsunami when choosing a site that previously had suffered a larger recorded impact from the sea.
This has raised red flags with other countries and their nuclear programs, where now they want to phase out their dependence on nuclear. There are people from other countries who are prepared to embrace the menace of atomic energy, and we have some here in Australia. However I don’t believe all are stupid and ignorant, but I do share some of their opinions, they are vociferous to the facts of the inherent dangers, great risks, costs, and contamination at the front end of the cycle.
I do strongly disagree with the fact that nuclear is carbon free and their ideals to achieve the safe management of deadly radioactive waste from the back end of these waste producing machines we call reactors.
However The Department of Industry, Innovation and Science has made claim they can build a facility to handle deadly radioactive waste and manage it in a area with culturally sensitive issues, fragile top soil, large aquifers the environment is dependent on, teaming with wildlife, prone to flooding, and reported to be the most seismically active area in Australia while the majority of the local population is not in favour. The DIIS has their ability mixed up with their capability.

March 13, 2017 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Ignorance of Australia’s pro nuclear politicians and lobbyists

Paul Waldon Fight To Stop Nuclear Waste Dump In Flinders Ranges SA, 12 Mar 17 

Peter Faukner: Nuclear Services Corporation, Carl J Hocevor: Aerojet Nuclear Corporation, Arnie Gundersen: Nuclear Technician, Robert D Pollard: Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Ronald Fluege: Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Gregory C Minor, Richard B Hubbard and Dale G Bridenhaugh: General Electric engineers
These are but a few people who have been unsatisfied ex-workers of the nuclear industry, and decried nuclear with their vociferous concerns of safety. It is important to recognize  there is growing opposition to nuclear power generation and abandonment of waste within the technical community.
August the 6th 1975 more than 2300 scientists were acknowledged as sending a message to American congress and the president warning of the dangers of the governments expanding nuclear program.
Today in Australia we have people in politics and in the nuclear work sector ignorantly embracing the production and abandonment of atomic waste for our future generations to bare the costs for the next 244,000 years so they can feel happy with a misguided thought they are better off with job security for a meagre few years.

March 13, 2017 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Nuclear fuel and waste has the “Midas touch” when it comes to radioactive contamination

Thought for the day:  Nuclear Fuel Cycle Watch South Australia, Derek Abbott, 13 Mar 17  Nuclear advocates love to wax lyrical about how dense nuclear fuel (and hence waste) is. They say the darnedest simplistic things such as “all the world’s fuel rods would barely fill a football pitch.”

But they are forgetting that nuclear fuel & waste has the “Midas touch”….everything it touches also becomes non-recyclable waste: the dry casks, the nuclear vessels, all containment materials, rod assemblies, cladding, reaction moderators, the metals within processing and enrichment plants, centrifuges, robotic equipment that touches fuel, clothing of workers that comes into contact with fuel/waste dust etc etc. The list is endless and the waste mountain is huge.

A case in point is Fukushima. Whilst it is indeed a more extreme example, it nevertheless highlights the ‘magic’ of the Midas touch that nuclear has. For example, to date, in addition to the fuel itself Fukushima has accumulated:

a) 870,000 tons of stored contaminated water with nowhere to go
b) 3,519 containers of radioactive sludge
c) 64,700 cubic metres of discarded compressed safety clothing
d) 80,000 cubic meters of contaminated trees
e) 200,400 cubic meters of radioactive rubble
f) 3.5 billion gallons of contaminated soil

That’s a heck of a waste management problem that will run into hundreds of billions of dollars by the time they are done.

March 13, 2017 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

WikiLeaks posts huge CIA hacking trove

WikiLeaks posts huge CIA hacking trove | 08 March 2017 | The CIA has suffered what appears to be a massive security breach with WikiLeaks dumping thousands of confidential documents detailing the spy agency’s global hacking abilities. The CIA documents published by WikiLeaks show how the CIA has managed to read popular encrypted apps, signal and telegram by breaking into phones to intercept messages before the encryption is applied. WikiLeaks, headed by Australian Julian Assange, claimed that its leaked data includes hundreds of millions of line of code that includes the CIA’s “entire hacking capability.”

March 11, 2017 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Reserve supply could avert gas crisis

VICTORIA’S gas supplies could be reserved for domestic use under a plan being put to the State Government to deal with the energy crisis.

March 11, 2017 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Social housing to get solar lease trial

THE sun is set to shine on some of the Far North’s most vulnerable thanks to a State Government social housing solar energy trial. (subscribers only)

March 11, 2017 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Journalism lecturer urges journalistic courage – democracy is in danger

There is a war on media, and it’s time for journalism teachers to suit up, Crikey, 8 Mar 17,  The biggest change for journalism lecturers this semester will be a darkly positive one, writes journalism lecturer at Curtin University Glynn Greensmith. “…….Trust in both politicians and the media is not high. This on-the-nosedness is apparently contributing to the rise of parties like One Nation (their unofficial slogan for the upcoming WA election, “Think Polio & Putin, think Pauline”, needs a little work, to be honest), other minor parties, and a polarising and divisive national discourse. Or, as former chief justice of the Australian High Court Robert French said last month:
“The spaces left by lack of awareness and misunderstanding are all too readily filled by snake oil salesmen coming in from the hinterland of our civil and political discourses.”……..

The one word we may be adding or emphasising in our teaching repertoire in 2017 is courage. The challenge against the means and modus of journalism is now more direct and deliberate than at any time in recent history. Fake news is simply the generation and distribution of knowingly untrue stories in order to garner a sense of misunderstanding and/or money. The co-opted Trump version means ‘If your truth conflicts with my politics, you’re a liar’.

Truth, and how to tell it, are the elements of journalism that media educators have long taken for granted, and taught. The real positive now is that audiences may once again be joining us at this base point for our relationship between journalism and democracy.

To start there is to expect — not hope — that better politicians and politics must follow. To start there is to expect — not hope — that journalism teachers across Australia can talk truth once again this semester, without having to duck to avoid flying lumps of coal.

March 8, 2017 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Why millionaire donors like to promote the nuclear industry in South Australia

Paul Richards , Nuclear Fuel Cycle Watch South Australia, 7 Mar 17 ‘…whacky millionaire donors who think that they own the party, and that making SA nuclear will make them richer.’ (Steve Dale)

Whacky, I like the word Dale

Still, deviously clever is closer to the mark, as there is no thinking it will make them richer; they know it it will make them richer

As they intend to tap into the Australian Sovereign wealth and this is the ‘biggest game in town’ metaphorically speaking

Because there would be a guaranteed supply of Government funding for the nuclear industry for their lives

What many fail to grasp about the desperate and greedy grab for this nuclear industry is that because it’s economically unsustainable; once this nuclear cycle even starts and the truth comes out the decommissioning is measured in half centuries, and it literally takes thousands of years of management

This fact is regardless of the sales narrative that creates a sustainable meme, a constructed positive outcome for the ears of the naive and hopeful.

The whole story is nothing more than yet another sales brochure online, pumping out in the media that this is the solution to our species carbon emissions problem, or conversely for the denier of global warming, able to solve the fear of invasion from the North in supporting nuclear weapons.

Furthermore, it is so desirable an enterprise, even when contracted into national or multinational corporations senior executives have no such guarantee of capital flow. Simply because corporations live on quarterly, six monthly, yearly guaranteed rates of return

Our sovereign wealth commitment needed to start this whole nuclear cycle in Australia means taxpayers paying indefinitely for the infrastructure

Ergo; these ‘whacky millionaires’, if they crack this nuclear industry they will have guaranteed their elitist ‘life conditions’ and any progeny following Infinitum.   Clever business

Steve Dale Yes, nuclear is a guaranteed way of tapping into an artery of taxpayer funds. Lucas Heights has proven that.

March 6, 2017 Posted by | General News | 4 Comments