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Category Archives: renewable energy

21 Apr, 2012 04:00 AM
Maitland Mercury
After spending almost a year visiting Australia’s coal mining communities Sharyn Munro discovered a warzone. She observed what’s really happening at the coalface: towns and districts dying, people hurting, rebelling and ultimately paying the price for the nation’s mining boom.Munro listened to stories of homeowners being forced out of townships, broken in spirit and in health, or else under threat – their lives in limbo as they battle the might of huge mining companies.

This is what she found.

Sharyn Munro is not anti-mining. She is a writer and grandmother with a social conscience wanting to inform the ordinary Australian of what is happening in rural areas.

And she opposes inappropriate development of any sort, driven by the impact of mining she has watched overwhelm parts of the Hunter Valley.

In her latest book Rich Land, Wasteland, Munro presents an impassioned account of the human price individuals and communities are paying for the coal rush.

“I wrote this book to share with Australians what I experienced and learnt,” Munro said. “Most Australians, I believe, are decent people who would be appalled by what is going on if they knew.”

During her research for the book, Munro discovered that incidences of asthma, cancers and heart attacks show alarming spikes in communities close to coal mines and coal power stations.

Once reliable rivers and aquifers are drying up or becoming polluted. Once fertile agricultural land is becoming

unusable and what was once a rich land is becoming a wasteland.

“I am motivated by concern for the health and futures of my grandchildren who have been living in the coalafflicted

Hunter, and for everyone else’s grandchildren who must breathe such polluted air and who face devastated and dewatered landscapes that will be unusable.”

The large, mostly foreign-owned, mining and gas companies continue to push into new areas and Munro observes that our governments continue to help and protect them at the expense of rural communities.

Huh, a misleading heading. Annoying.

Anyway, looks like this will be a rerun of the GST debate, with two issues being sorted out simultaneously.

(1) Do we have the scheme at all? The Coalition currently says no, along with ACCI, predictably. It will be interesting to see how long the Coalition will be able to continue its Policy-free, Say-No-to-All-Change Policy. The Greens and Labor are now on the same page, arguing for a hybrid scheme: carbon tax now, emissions trading scheme later. The scheme is set for a right/left debate, with the middle ground of Australian politics deciding the issue. The ALP, once it has neutralised the short-run dissapproval of Rudd’s backdown and Gillard’s promise not to do it, will at least be able to count on a greater share of the youth vote, and the dissaffected middle-class urban vote that drifted to the Greens after Rudd’s withdrawl from the debate.

(2) What gets covered? Apparently agriculture may not be included. Dunno how much Co2 argriculure emits, but the sector will be a major player when the debate hots up about tax-funded abatement programs (schemes set up up to capture and absorb carbon dioxide, a task where agriculture will be the major player…). The next two sectors to spit the dummy will be the coal industry and the petrol industry. This is the biggest threat to the carbon tax scheme. These two industries account for at least 50% of CO2 emissions. But they directly impact on household costs and living standards. Will Australians accept the medium term pain of a new household cost structure, if it means that the global community can start reducing the amount of CO2 we are pumping into the atmosphere? Or will the major polluters plead, supported by penny-conscious people out there in community, that they cannot afford precidely the competitive pressure that a carbon tax will bring?

Time will tell…gjmt

Jobs real reason behind carbon tax – Labor MP Janelle Saffin

February 28, 2011 9:08AM

JOBS rather than the environment are the reason the Government wants to tax carbon, one Labor backbencher says.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has proposed a carbon price regime to begin in July 2012 as a means of tackling climate change.

But when asked whether the plan was about jobs or the environment, Janelle Saffin was firm.

“It’s about jobs,” the backbencher said today.

The development of the regime is in its very early stages and already agriculture, a large carbon producer, has been made exempt.

Now a debate has erupted over whether petrol will be taxed.

“It’s really important that we have the debate,” Ms Saffin said.

June 11, 2009 – 3:45PM

More than 17,000 jobs could be created in the geothermal energy industry by 2050, a new report says.

The geothermal industry, which involves extracting heat stored in the earth to generate power, is growing in Australia with almost 400 tenements for projects and around $1.5 billion in projects underway.

WWF and the Australian Geothermal Energy Association (AGEA) on Thursday released a report, Power to Change: Australia’s Geothermal Future.

Paul Toni from WWF says the report is the first in a series looking into the potential of geothermal energy.

“The energy stored in hot rocks near the earth’s surface in Australia is a thousand-fold what we use each and every year,” Mr Toni said.

“We must reshape our economy and our energy sector if we are serious about tackling climate change.

“Capable of running 24 hours a day, seven days a week, geothermal energy is one of the vital clean energy resources needed to make this transformation.”

He said the Cooper Basin, which overlaps the borders of Queensland, NSW and South Australia, holds enormous potential for geothermal electricity.

AGEA chief executive Susan Jeanes says Australia has the chance to be a world leader in geothermal technology.

“This industry provides opportunities for workers to move from industries like coal, oil and gas, into clean energy jobs as much of the technology and expertise is transferable,” Ms Jeanes said.

AAP | June 10, 2009 – 10:35AM

Climate Change Minister Penny Wong has defended the federal government’s decision to axe its generous solar panel installation rebate.

Environment Minister Peter Garrett on Tuesday announced applications for the $8,000 rebate were set to close that day, three weeks ahead of schedule.

The move ensured a smooth transition to Labor’s Renewable Energy Target (RET) scheme, which allows households installing solar panels on their roofs to apply for a new rebate, Senator Wong said.

The value of the rebate will vary over time and according to where a residence is located, but no one can apply for it until laws to set up the RET pass parliament.

The laws will be introduced to parliament next week.

”It’s a smooth transition because we are ensuring that there will always be support for solar panels,” Senator Wong said.

”We are changing the nature of the support as we said we would.”

The government had provided ”unprecedented” support to the solar industry and there were still 60,000 rebate applications in the pipeline which the government would honour.

”That’s almost a year’s more work for the solar installation industry,” she said.

But Opposition environment minister Greg Hunt says the Rudd government has axed the generous rebate for solar panels because its budget is in chaos.

The government indicated in the May budget that the $8,000 rebate would last until June 30, opposition environment spokesman Greg Hunt said.

”You don’t make a promise which you can’t hold for four weeks,” Mr Hunt told ABC Radio.

The rebate was hugely popular and it’s understood it was axed because it was costing the government too much, he said.

”The reason this has been cancelled is because the overall budget is in chaos.”

Households will be able to access a new, smaller rebate once laws to set up a Renewable Energy Target (RET) pass parliament.

The laws are to be introduced next week.

Mr Hunt said the new rebate would deliver about $4,000 to $4,500 less for households installing an average solar panel system in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth, he said.

”So it makes affordable energy much less affordable for the vast majority of people.

”Having said that, it’s the only scheme on the table now that the budget’s been blown.”

Al Gore: Oil “Junkie” America Needs Third World Help
BY Chris Dannen
Fri Jun 5, 2009 at 9:54 AM

The former Vice President, clean-shaven in a dark suit and black cowboy boots, pauses. “Junkies find veins in their toes, when the veins in their arms and legs collapse,” he says to Charlie Rose. The audience suffers an uncomfortable pause, and then laughs. Gore keeps a straight face. He isn’t joking.

This is the closing panel of the Cornell Global Forum on Sustainable Enterprise, held on New York’s Upper East Side on June 3. The panel includes Gore, Ratan Tata, Chairman of Indian conglomerate Tata Group, Fisk Johnson, Chairman of SC Johnson, and Stuart Hart of Cornell’s Johnson School of Management. Rose is moderating the talk; he’s just asked whether clean energy tech will be made moot by the oil companies’ efforts to wring oil from deep sea drilling, shist, and shale.

No, Gore says–oil is still there to be found, but it’s increasingly inaccessible and expensive. In most discussions about climate change, this is usually the point everyone veers off into fatuous discussions of tomorrow-land: fancy clean cars, smart grids, carbon capture, solar, and so on. But tonight is different; none of the venture capital projects come up. (Below, Gore at Cornell’s Global Forum)

Instead, the participants discuss how the U.S. can’t build a market for sustainable enterprises without developing countries–or as the panelists call them, the countries at “the base of the pyramid.”

What? Since when do we need Kenya and Vietnam? We have Tesla and the Governator and the stimulus! Don’t we?

Not if you believe Tata (seen below). He describes how mobile phones took root quickly in his native India because when they were introduced there was a seven-year wait for landline phones. “The application of these [clean] technologies at the base of the pyramid means broader markets,” he said, describing how cultures with entrenched infrastructure (like the U.S. and Europe) adopt some new technologies more slowly because they don’t see the need for substitute goods and services. Those broad markets in poorer countries, Tata says, “gives you scale to commercialize” in a way that’s impossible in developed countries.

When you consider some of the breakthrough technologies we’re talking about–solar panels, wind mills, point-of-use irrigation systems–it’s obvious; in America, we don’t need these things. We simply want them. In south Asia, for example, where stoves are burning animal dung or plant matter, energy is both more expensive (by up to a factor of 10, according to panelist Hart) and harder to come by.

Fisk Johnson said that his company, SC Johnson, sees a similar phenomenon. Instead of the usual “trickle-down” of technology from first world to third, he said, his labs have discovered that in many instances, the trickle flows in the opposite direction. One example: cheap, natural plant-based pesticides that SC Johnson is harvesting in Vietnam. “We have technologies from the developing world that we’re bringing down to the developed world,” he said. SC Johnson also has a special lab in China that deconstructs the company’s household products and strips them to their bare essentials, keeping only the qualities customers want most. That takes out unnecessary chemicals and ingredients which, he says, usually makes the end product cheaper.

So the first world may not own the solutions to the crisis, but we also don’t own all the blame, Gore says. Those dung-burning stoves in south Asia (pictured below, courtesy of GPHE)? They produce a whole lot of dense soot, the likes of which ends up covering the Himalayan glaciers and increasing the amount of sunlight they absorb. In 10 years, Gore says, those glaciers will be completely gone during the summer months, meaning that their runoff won’t be there to fill Asia’s seven great rivers. Those rivers constitute much of Asia’s water supply; it’s a water crisis in the making.

Gore concedes that the U.S. can indeed (and must) provide leadership, but it’s not necessarily in the way you’d think. He says that it’s vital that the U.S. abandons the “tyranny of the quarterly earnings reports” that has made our public companies short-sighted pump-and-dump entities. Executives and consultants, he says, are incentivized to juice earnings before each report, which encourages them to eschew long-term strategizing. “If you pay people to do something,” he says, “don’t be surprised if that’s what they do.”

Help will come in the form of cap-and-trade legislation like the bill before Congress right now. This kind of legislation, Gore says, will assign a real monetary cost to carbon emissions–something that doesn’t exist right now. Once a cost is in place, companies can react to the new economics of climate change. If the U.S. and China can agree on a common cap-and-trade policy, Gore says,”then we’re really off to the races.”

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

The National Party is voting against the creation of thousands of new jobs for regional Australia in its decision to vote down the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme.

“It reveals a complete lack of understanding about the investment, industries and jobs that will flow from putting this vital piece of legislation in place,” said ACTU President Sharan Burrow.

Regional Australia will be the major beneficiary of a raft of new public and private initiatives.

Two hundred renewable energy projects generating at least 26,000 jobs are already in the pipeline, according to the latest research by energy sector consultants McLennan Magasanik Associates.

This includes solar projects in Mildura, Broken Hill and remote Queensland, geo-thermal trials in South Australia and wind turbine installations across a number of states.

“The CPRS is a critical piece of machinery that will ensure business confidence, drive research and direct millions of dollars of new investment into these projects and jobs, as Australia makes the transition to a low carbon economy,” said Ms Burrow.

“The figures show a potential national investment worth $32 billion. The Nationals’ unsubstantiated claim that the CPRS will destroy jobs flies in the face of reality.

“In Queensland alone, the report released last week by the Minerals Council of Australia shows that jobs will grow in the resources sector by 120% over the next 20 years. Gas will be a big jobs base for Queensland.

“The CPRS will also provide the means to retain and grow jobs in traditional industries, such as steel and aluminum, that are providing products for clean technologies.”

Ms Burrow said the Nationals’ obstinate and ill-informed opposition to the CPRS not only holds up job creation and Australian investment in renewable energy but fails to take responsibility for international leadership for a strong agreement in our own interest at Copenhagen later this year.

“The devastating impact of climate change is illustrated by the increasingly erratic weather patterns affecting large parts of rural and regional Australia in recent times.

“If Australia is prevented by the Coalition parties by acting quickly and constructively to combat climate change, the cost of their inaction and delay will come down hard on Australia’s farming community, as the environment deteriorates further.

“Seventy-seven per cent of Australians say the Coalition should pass the CPRS. It is time for the Nationals to listen.”

May 26, 2009 – 7:49AM

Business leaders vowed to help world governments set a price on carbon, establishing a market that governments can use to cut greenhouse gases.

“I think we can craft some pretty clear direction,” said Tony Hayward, the chief executive officer of BP PLC.

That approach requires governments to join a new UN-administered treaty for regulating greenhouse gases that proponents hope to hammer out by December.

It would set limits on carbon dioxide and then issue permits to companies that divvy up how much of the overall pollution each of them can emit. Any unused portions can be traded to other companies.

Hayward said most executives he had spoken with agree the world “is going to establish a carbon price” – making carbon emissions a global commodity, with a universally accepted price, probably through so-called “cap-and-trade” by governments and the marketplace.

The other option is a direct carbon tax, favoured by some at the meeting.

The predictions came at a global business summit where corporate leaders are focusing on how to help politicians negotiate a new global climate treaty to succeed the Kyoto treaty that expires in 2012.

Hoping to create a global carbon market, the organisers of a world business summit on climate change said 2 million new jobs would be created in the US alone if it increased its reliance on cleaner sources of energy.

The Copenhagen Climate Council study said the US would gain that many jobs, if its electricity use grew by just half of 1 per cent a year and a quarter of its electricity came from wind energy and other renewable sources.

EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told the CEOs of major international corporations that similar investments could produce a million new jobs in European Union countries.

“Change also brings big economic opportunities,” he said.

In 2007, EU leaders pledged that by 2020 the European Union would cut emissions of carbon dioxide and other major warming gases by at least 20 per cent from 1990 levels, and increase its reliance on renewable energy sources to one-fifth of all its energy used.

“Achieving a 20 per cent share for renewables, for example, could mean more than a million jobs in this industry by 2020,” Barroso said. Such a plan must be joined, he said, by “a satisfactory international climate agreement in which other developed and developing countries contribute their fair share to the limiting global emissions.”

Barroso said the EU intends to limit the cost of its package to about half of 1 per cent of its GDP.

“Some people, however, have questioned whether this is the right direction for Europe during the economic crisis,” he said, but the answer is that “the costs of climate change will be much higher if we don’t make adjustments now.”

He said the hoped for December agreement in Copenhagen on a UN-administered treaty will be “a major milestone on the path to a global carbon market which would increase business opportunities, particularly for European industry, and help to bring average carbon costs further down.”

Oscar-winning actress Cate Blanchett, the artistic director of the Sydney Theatre Company, appealed to CEOs not to let politicians fail at Copenhagen in December because of questions about who will pay the costs.

She urged them to think like her 7-year-old son Dash, who wanted to know why a dragon in a J.R.R. Tolkien story would risk setting himself on fire by jealously sitting atop a hoard of coins.

“Copenhagen must stop our butts from burning,” said Blanchett, who starred in the film version of Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.

Also Monday, at a climate meeting in Paris, German environment minister Sigmar Gabriel said the talks got off to a bad start.

“The industrialised nations don’t have a common position, and the developing countries are not ready for their own reduction commitments,” he told reporters. “If we don’t agree, India and China will not respond.”

He said the United States isn’t going far enough, fast enough, since Germany wants medium-term US commitments for emissions cuts by 2025-2030, instead of 2050.

Just how far governments are willing to go is the key question at talks in Paris this week among top environment officials from the United States, China and 15 other high-polluting nations.

But at least one thing can be agreed on.

“No one contests the urgency of the problem,” French Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo said. “No one contests the probably irreversible character of the problem.”

The environment chiefs from nations representing 80 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions also are discussing how to raise $100 billion ($A127.8 billion) a year to help poor countries adapt to climate change.

© 2009 AP

Posted 9 hours 3 minutes ago

The Climate Institute has released a report showing the Federal Government’s emissions trading scheme and other environmental policies will create tens of thousands of jobs.

Both sides of the debate are intensifying their lobbying effort ahead of this fortnight’s parliamentary debate.

The Minerals Council released a report last week showing the emissions trading scheme would cost 23,500 mining jobs.

But the Climate Institute’s John Connor says the scheme will create other opportunities.

“This report looks particularly just at the renewable energy jobs that are there with real jobs, real plans, real projects,” he said.

“That’s up to 30,000 jobs and over $30 billion worth of investment – much of that in regional Australia.”

Mr Connor says the debate is intensifying now that the legislation has been tabled in Parliament.

“We’re keen to put forward the good news the polluters don’t want you to hear,” he said.

“There are jobs that are growing already in these sectors and they’ll grow a lot more as we take the policies that will clean up economy.”

Josh Gordon and Michelle Grattan
May 23, 2009

The Rudd Government’s emissions trading scheme could trigger an investment surge worth more than $6 billion a year, according to secret economic modelling revealed as Parliament gears up to determine the fate of controversial climate change laws.

An internal report by the National Australia Bank obtained by The Sunday Age suggests the emissions trading debate has focused on short-term costs and ignored new investment opportunities.

“The average year-on-year investment created by the (Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme) could be up to 60 per cent greater than that committed for infrastructure in this year’s budget,” the report says.

It says there has been “little consideration of the investment stimulus” that would be created as the economy becomes less greenhouse intensive.

The report comes as a national poll conducted on behalf of the Climate Institute has found more than three out of four Australians believe the Liberal Party should support the Government’s emissions trading scheme legislation.

The sharply divided Coalition will go the party room within the next week to consider the legislation before the House of Representatives debates it next week. The legislation will go to the Senate next month.

The Coalition, which is considering a bipartisan position on targets for the world climate conference in Copenhagen in December, wants the legislation delayed until after that conference.

But an Auspoll survey of 1120 people has found 77 per cent believe the Liberals should back the legislation now. Only 23 per cent think they should oppose it.

The online poll taken from May 15 to 19 found women were more likely than men to say the Liberals should support it (83-71 per cent), and younger people more likely than those older (82 per cent of 18-29 year olds compared with 71 per cent of those 50 and over).

Greens sources said yesterday that while they were opposed to the legislation they were “not inclined” to vote for delay. So the Opposition would probably need the votes of Family First senator Steve Fielding and independent Nick Xenophon if it wanted to defer the legislation until after the December conference.

But Senator Xenophon told The Sunday Age yesterday: “My strong inclination is that we need to deal with this legislation, in terms of the architecture and design of the scheme, before Copenhagen.”

Certainly the NAB report will give the Government added traction to argue for the legislation to be passed. The modelling work traces the impact of the three possible emissions reduction targets announced by Government. It assumes that the price of emissions will rise from $20 a tonne of carbon dioxide to $100 a tonne as the Government cuts the number of permits. It also assumes that 30 per cent of Australia’s investment efforts to cut emissions will leak to foreign countries.

Under the least onerous scenario — a cut of 5 per cent below 2000 levels by 2020 — investment would soar by $5.8 billion a year by 2020 and by $10.8 billion by 2050, or an average of $6.2 billion a year.

A 25 per cent cut will become Government policy if there is a strong agreement at Copenhagen.

The Age

May 22, 2009 – 6:34AM
The government’s emissions trading scheme will cost more than 23,000 jobs across the mining sector by 2010 and almost triple that number by 2030, the Minerals Council says.

Half of those jobs would be in Queensland alone, the Minerals Council of Australia says in a study released on Friday.

Council chief executive Mitchell Hooke says this showed the government’s proposed carbon pollution reduction scheme (CPRS) was out of step with global efforts to reduce emissions, with other international trading schemes and with the development of the low emissions technologies needed to reduce emissions.

“It will impose the highest carbon costs in the world on Australia’s mineral exporters,” he said in a statement.

“We share the government’s commitment to reducing emissions but this modelling shows the CPRS is fundamentally flawed. By imposing the highest carbon costs in the world on Australia’s mineral exporters, it will eliminate jobs while failing to materially reduce global greenhouse gas levels.”

Mr Hooke said recent changes to the CPRS including a year’s delay in introduction would not fix its fundamental flaws.

“The simple message of this report is that the CPRS as it is currently designed will result in a transfer of exports from Australia to our international competitors,” he said.

The study was produced by economic consultant group Concept Economics and conducted by Dr Brian Fisher, former executive director of the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics.

It doesn’t cover the natural gas and oil industries.

The study points to 23,510 job losses by 2020 with 11,440 in Queensland, 4,260 in NSW, 3,410 in Western Australia, 1,990 in South Australia, 1,050 in Tasmania, 1,210 in Victoria and 150 in the Northern Territory.

By 2030 job losses will have risen to a total of 66,480 – 34,090 in Queensland, 14,600 in NSW, 5,750 in WA, 3,150 in SA, 2,520 in Tasmania, 5,830 in Victoria and 540 in NT.

In the long term most jobs would go from the smelting and refining sector with 8,570 jobs lost by 2020 and 33,670 by 2030, followed by the coal industry with 9,040 by 2020 and 15,610 by 2030.

Mr Hooke said a simple change to the CPRS would deliver a cap and trade emissions reduction scheme without the job destroying impact of the current design.

He said it should include a phased approach to emissions trading with the number of carbon permits auctioned increasing over time.

“Such a simple change would deliver a scheme with good outcomes for the environment and save thousands of jobs,” he said.

“Other schemes around the world have adopted a phased approach. It is hard to understand why it has been ruled out in Australia.”

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard has defended the government’s emissions trading scheme, amid reports it will cost more than 23,000 jobs across the mining sector by 2020.

Ms Gillard says the government has worked with the business community to get the best design for the scheme.

“I know that there are going to be a variety of views on this and as we close out for vote on the legislation in the Senate, I think we’re going to see some very big ambit claims made in the newspaper,” she told Macquarie Radio on Friday.

“But we believe the scheme gets the balance right, we believe this scheme will work with our economy but will also work to tackle the challenge of climate change.”