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Howard's energy vision « Previous | |Next »
July 18, 2006

I see that Quarry Australia is being reworked by John Howard into Australia as an "energy superpower" in a speech in Sydney to the Committee for the Economic Development of Australia. Aware that energy will profoundly shape geopolitics of the region, the PM says that Australia is positioned as a supplier to an increasingly energy-hungry world:

As an efficient reliable supplier, Australia has a massive opportunity to increase its share of the global energy trade. With the right policies, we have the makings of an energy superpower.

This involves fresh incentives to expand deep-sea quests for new petroleum deposits, nuclear energy and Australia using its vast coal reserves to continue to supply world power and fostering technological advances in producing clean coal. Renewable energy was mentioned as part of energy mix but there was little indication that the continual squeezing of federal funds and lessening support for renewable energy would stop. Realism is needed on this etc etc.

That means the states have to support renewable energy--- as Victoria is doing with its 10% mandatory renewable energy target and its support for a national emissions trading scheme. Howard appeared to dismiss with his line that the 'Australian government is not in the business of economic hairshirts, wishful thinking or empty gestures.'

On the issue of water John Howard said there was no reason for Australian cities to be experiencing a water crisis or tolerating restrictions.What needed to change was the belief that water should be used just once and stormwater should be allowed to drain into the sea or rivers:

The real issue is better management and adequate investment in water infrastructure...In many cases water restrictions, which are held out as designed to protect and preserve a scarce resource, have got more to do with protecting the cashflows and dividends of government-owned water utilities.

These observations about city water supplies are quite accurate. As the Canberra Times observes:
Sydney is a prime example. Far more water falls on Sydney as rain, and finds its way straight into the sea as storm water, than is ever captured in the catchments above Sydney. Nor has it made much in the way of effort to recycle waste even as grey water, though it should go much further than that. The water utility, with its host of mixed interests, has promoted fresh dams and new catchments, as well as desalination plants, to meet developing water shortages, and has resisted ideas of opening its system to competition.

Sydney is not the only coastal city with long-term water supply problems. So has Brisbane - which is also contemplating fresh dams - and Perth, with a sizeable number of citizens susceptible to strange ideas that water might flow thousands of kilometres from its north west by gravity. As the Prime Minister says, that water should be judged by its quality rather than its history.

Suprisingly, there is little about the rural use of water in Howard's speech--eg., the over-allocation of irrigation licences in much of the Murray-Darling Basin system, the fact that these licences probably amount to property and that a truly efficient restructuring of them might involve enormous compensation,

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 8:14 AM | | Comments (0)