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Australia hesitates « Previous | |Next »
July 12, 2010

The energy challenge facing Australia and the rest of the world is ultimately one of environmental, geopolitical, and resource sustainability. Copenhagen failed, even though the risks of climate change become more visible, increasing numbers of people have come to recognize that the longer we hesitate, the more expensive the problem becomes.

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Dealing with climate change is dismissed by those opposed to shifting from a fossil fuel economy to a low carbon one as anti-growth, when it is the only viable growth strategy. Australia hesitates to make the shift. So does the Gillard Government, as it keeps lurching to the right in order to keep itself competitive with the Liberals, making mere gestures to the Left in the process.

The political reality here is that the ALP is losing its social base as its policy agenda fades to blue grey, and the policy differences between Liberal and Labor become minimal under pressure from its NSW factional bosses. Sustainability is one of the casualties.

Given that the market fails to deal appropriately with environmental issues and that growth for growth's sake is no longer an option what is missing is a focus on the interface between ecology and economics instead of the neo-liberal over-focus on markets. There needs to be a recognition of the need for the economy to face the reality of biophysical limits--the limits to resource use, limits to input substitutability, and the uniqueness of energy as a productive input.

The ALP does not have the courage to take a critical look at the notion of growth. They are unable to both stimulate recovery in the wake of the global financial crisis and and at the same time improve the sustainability of the economy. They cannot, or are unwilling, to connect policies that enhance social and economic well‐being to environmental sustainability.

Germany is one country that plans to rid itself of both coal and nuclear energy source-dependence with some smart thinking about integrating renewable energy to ensure base load power:


It is smart thinking as it is connecting the dots and then runnign a pilot project to see whether renewables can deliver baseload power:

Connecting the dots is something the Gillard Government is unwilling to do. They are wrapped up in their dream about clean coal. The Coalition, in contrast, reckons that emissions free base load power can only delivered by nuclear power. Business want to be paid for energy efficiency and says no to a carbon tax or an emissions trading scheme.

This unwillingness to cross the dots is all the more remarkable in that CSIRO's UltraBattery technology has the capability of overcoming the issue of intermittent power generation associated with wind and solar, which remains a fundamental road block for the widespread uptake of renewable energy resources such as these. The UltraBattery can be integrated into wind power systems to smooth intermittency and potentially 'time-shift' energy production to better match demand.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 11:18 AM | | Comments (8)


One of niftiest ways to create capacitance is to put the renewable generator next to hydro, and pump water back up into the dam after it has dropped through the turbines.

Another dot that needs to be connected.

What can I say?
Attempts at setting up rational use cultures are always being kicked in by vested interests, some times out of a sense of legitimate concern, some times arrogance, denialism, laziness and greed, as the unmended as yet (?)Carribean oil spill continues to demonstrate.
Media Watch had a good take on the flogging of mobile phones using pseudo scientific bunkum as a tool to market creation, btw.
The use of public airwaves etc to peddle junk is a contributing factor to the public not waking up to neoliberalism until too late; its a wolf dressed in sheep's clothing and people couldn't see through the cognitive clutter the system throws up.

All we do in Australia is to plug a few wind turbines into the central or national grid that is power by coal-fired power stations. It's introducing renewables at the margins. We don't have any solar power farms for regional cities --eg., Alice Springs. Surely that city could be powered by renewable energy within a decade.

The towns in the Riverland in South Australia could be powered by renewable energy. My understanding is that various local proposals to develop community solar farms have meet with opposition from the Rann Government.

Solar panels are at present quite expensive. It is my understanding from the research I have done that I would need 12 panels on my roof to generate 1/2 my power consumption. I recently watched a youtube video of the instructions of how one could make the panels themselves for $150 each which a very reduced cost. This tells me that market will get very competitive soon and the price will come down. So probably in 3 years time the take up of solar power here in Australia will be far greater especially if the rebate system is on offer.

The Coalition loves nuclear power and a nuclear power industry but it requires a great big new carbon tax to get it off the ground. So they won't be upfront about it.

Ross Gittens in an op-ed in the National Times says that he is not impressed by what we've seen of the Gillard government so far. He says:

We've seen the triumph of political expediency over good government. From her first day she's left little doubt three running political sores - the mining tax, resentment of boat people and the vacuum left by Labor's abandonment of its emissions trading scheme - needed to be staunched quick smart if the government's re-election were to be secured.

But what hasty, amateurish patch-up jobs we've seen. Wayne Swan has fudged up figures purporting to show the revenue cost of the deal done with the three biggest mining companies was minor, whereas sharemarket analysts are saying the extra tax to be paid by the companies will be minor. Then we had the fearful muddle over the Timor solution the Timorese hadn't agreed to, and now we're getting the climate change policy you have when you don't have a climate change policy.

What has been offered by Gillard is chatting about whether to get serious about combating climate change, and not debating our unquestioned commitment to unlimited economic growth.