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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

some environmental initiatives « Previous | |Next »
January 15, 2008

So our celebrity Environment Minister has made a big move as he is considering banning (or placing a levy) plastic bags. Given this cutting edge green policy by a courageous Minister in a warmed up world, then what is the federal government going to do to address the supply of electricity in the face of increasing demand at peak periods? Leave it to the market to decide?

plasticbags.jpg Andrew Weldon

There is talk about building more coal-fired power stations in Queensland (eg., Kogan Creek) to meet increased energy demand and prevent the blackouts. What isn't being seriously considered in Queensland is meeting the future growth in energy demand via gas and renewable energy sources and greater energy efficiency measures.

Leslie Kemeny, the publicist for the nuclear industry who puts "renewables" in scare quotes and is nostalgic for the atomic age, is back in the AFR spruiking nuclear power as the greenest option. He is talking in terms of greenhouse friendly uranium fuel for energy security and safe and efficient nuclear power for value adding resource industries. The hook for Kemeny this time round is the decision by the Brown Labour government to put nuclear energy at the heart of the UK energy industry.

nuclearpower.jpg Steve Bell

As is usual Kemeny doesn't mention is that nuclear power will not survive on its own in the market place. Public subsidies, deals, sweeteners and rigging the market are needed to make nuclear power cost competitive. His mode of reasoning is to say that he has enlightening reason on his side whilst his critics are irrational. An example:

By far the largest contribution to global energy security ad greenhouse gas abatement made by Australia thus far is the "carbon offset" created by the nations uranium exports to 13 of its trading partners , which operate nuclear power plants. The greatest act of environmental vandalism and economic folly any Australian government could perpetrate is to reject nuclear power and a national involvement in a global nuclear fuel cycle industry. Nuclear power is only "too slow" or "too expensive" if perceived through the eyes of pseudo-science or political prejudice.

I expect Luddite will be used next time in this ""no alternatives" rhetoric pushed through the AFR by the nuclear lobby publicists in the guise of an op-ed.

What Kemeny doesn't say is that nuclear companies in the UK want to cap their liabilities and leave the taxpayer picking up the liabilities for waste disposal and plant decommissioning. But then Kemeny wants Australia to be the global repository for nuclear waste. It's what being a part of the global nuclear fuel cycle means. All that's necessary is for the Rudd government to rig the market and provide lots of sweeteners.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 6:06 AM | | Comments (11)


Great cartoon!

in the Perry Anderson article Jottings on the Conjuncture in New Left Review that you linked to in the comments on an earlier post, Anderson says:

Capital, united against labour, remains divided against nature, as rival businesses and governments attempt to shift the costs of redeeming it onto each other. Eventually, the logic of action in common is likely to prevail, and in that sense the system can no doubt adjust to confront carbon emissions, rising sea levels, deforestation, water shortages, neo-epidemics and the likeā€”in principle. In practice, there is no guarantee it can do so within the necessary time-scales. On this front, complacency is less warranted: looming conflicts over who should foot the bill for cleaning the earth could prove the nearest counterpart to inter-imperialist antagonisms of old, which knocked the system off balance in their time.

Interesting. I guess we can survive rising water shortages. Irrigated agriculture goes.It's boom and bust--just like wool in the nineteenth century before the drought and rabbits devastated the land.

Nuclear remains a controversial energy sector because of its history of weaponisation, safety record and its future legacy of toxic waste. Many had written it off as dead. Climate change has offered it the possibility of a new lease of life, even though current economics make nuclear power an unattractive option for new, carbon-free generating capacity and there are important issues of nuclear waste.

So we have the likes of Leslie Kemeny and the nuclear power lobby spinning madly to sell their dubious wares. What Kemeny's spin doesn't mention is that the Brown Government's energy bill contains measures to encourage electricity generation from a wider range of renewable sources; changes to the rules governing the import and storage of gas; and legislation to provide the framework for the storage of carbon dioxide emitted by fossil fuel-fired power stations. This points the way from the command-and-control national grid to microgeneration and community power plants.

So much for Kemeny's 'no alterative rhetoric' that says only nuclear and dismisses any consideration of renewable energy. According to his either /or logic the Brown government must be caught up in pseudo-science (some malcontent scientist) or political prejudice (green pressure group).

the reason why Kemeny's spin fills the energy vacuum,is the huge failure of the Howard Government: a failure to get a grip on the imminent shortfall in domestic energy supply; a failure to ramp up renewables early enough; and a failure to think creatively about how Australia gets and uses its energy.

I caught a bit of To men In a Tinnie on the ABC last night. They were coming down the Darling ditch to Wentworth in this episode and it showed how the 19th century pastoral dreams turned to nightmares and dust.

Irrigated agriculture which promised regional communities so much---especially with King Cotton---has gone bust. Another cycle of dream, nightmare and dust, this time one overlaid with global warming.

I for one will be glad to see the plastic bags go. Try living any where near a rural tip. I am sure Garrett can sing, talk, walk and instigate some policy action all at the same time.Who are the nay-sayers? Those with undisclosed vested interests?
People are worried about the possibility of a new coal fired power plant in Queensland! In NSW the government wants to lease the Gov. owned plants to private industry and use the cash for other infrastructure development.Our future power needs would be then provided by private industry with either new coal plants or gas.Wisdom says [the consultant]renew-ables and efficiency drives will not cover the growth. And as you point out we have the likes of Hugh Morgan waiting in the wings. Me thinks his access at PM level will not be quite the same as it was. I hope!Meanwhile something like 68% of the population is against privatisation and the Unions have mounted a vigorous anti campaign. Last time the issue arose, under Carr, the government backed off. We wait to see the outcome.
One solution to all of this, if we really wanted to reduce climate change would be for some countries to fore-go their mad rush for economic growth.

one naysayer is Alan Tudge, a former senior adviser in the Howard government, who has an op-ed in The Australian on the issue. He says:

Even if there was a clear case for a sharp reduction in the consumption of plastic bags (on top of the 34per cent reduction achieved between 2002 and 2005), a blanket ban is the least desirable method of achieving it. A market mechanism, such as putting a small price on plastic bags rather than giving them out freely, is far preferable. It would significantly reduce the aggregate consumption of bags (Bunnings experienced a 73 per cent reduction after it introduced a 10c charge), yet allow individuals the choice and convenience of purchasing bags when they wanted them.

He adds that the hallmark of a liberal democracy is freedom of choice. Reducing any individual freedom (including the choice to make or use a plastic bag) should be done only in exceptional circumstances and after all the evidence has been weighed.

The Bunnings I go to has no plastic bags. It has a pile of boxes near the registers.
People are trained to come with a bag and they do.
Aldi seems to have trained its customers too and it is not affecting their operation either.
Some of the figures I have seen point to an initial large drop off when the shops introduce the surcharge but after a few weeks the use starts to rise again.

The simple solution is just to set a date to ban them completely.

I take cloth bags (eg., those of Coles) to the supermarket and the fruit + veg shop. They are very popular in Adelaide and given out by many shops to their customers.

I most use plastic bags as bin liners. They could be made biodegradable.

Yes thats a good idea the cloth bags. The supermarkets are introducing policy for the staff to fill up the bags better so as to use less. They are quite flimsy now I think and wont handle having more stuff in them too well.

Yes a lot of people use the shopping bags for kitchen rubbish. I stopped doing this a few months back and have a good system going now. Once you have separated what is recyclable and what will compost everything else can be wrapped in newspaper. It is just as easy to get 2 sheets of the paper and push it inside the kitchen bin as it is to put in a shopping bag. I use the local free paper. If you criss cross a couple of sheets and push it inside the bin by the middle is the best method. It works best if you bin is a foot or less deep with the lid that pops down.
Perhaps I will make a video of this and put it on youtube :)

I read today that the Rudd Government will not be selling uranium to India because it is not signatory of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

Another break in Australia becoming part of part of the global nuclear fuel cycle.