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Australia ignoring solar power, says pioneer

Matt Peacock, ABC (Au) Transcript
KERRY O’BRIEN: Australia’s main energy suppliers have released a study today supporting the Federal Government’s expressed view that clean coal, if and when it is economically feasible, backed by nuclear power is the nation’s best hope for reducing future greenhouse gas emissions. The study puts solar power and other renewables down the list.

Coincidentally, Australia’s leading solar power innovator leaves the country tomorrow because big American investors want to put his technology to far greater use in California. Professor David Mills, a Canadian expatriate who has made Australia home and carved out a reputation here as a world pioneer in solar research, has developed solar technology that, he believes, could power Australia. The frustrated scientist believes this country can’t see past its rich coal and uranium reserves and recognise that the sun is Australia’s richest energy resource of all. Matt Peacock reports.

MATT PEACOCK: Solar power in NSW coal country, where Macquarie Generation’s Liddell power station is topping up its dirty coal power with this clean, green solar plant.

DAVID MILLS, CHAIRMAN, SOLAR HEAT AND POWER (2004): Eventually this field will be 135,000 square metres. At the moment it is 1 per cent of that size and what will happen is that sunlight on a clear day like this strikes those mirrors and is gathered up onto the tower, and there is an absorber underneath that tower. In that absorber there are steam pipes and water and water is simply boiled there and that steam is drawn off and taken to the application. In this case, the application will be spliced into the power station that already exists.

MATT PEACOCK: Professor David Mills is a world leader in solar research and his company, Solar Heat and Power, has no doubt about the potential of this plant.

DAVID MILLS: Our solar technology can probably run the biggest size turbines today of any solar technology. ..

MATT PEACOCK: For David Mills, the best opportunity to improve the viability of solar power is to go offshore, as many have done before him.

DAVID MILLS: I’ve seen very talented people leave. I’ve seen technologies leave. Our own technology for evacuated tubes, to the point that, to give you the example, three quarters of the world’s solar collectors are actually produced in China and 80 per cent of those use University of Sydney technology. There has been a failure of business on several counts.

MATT PEACOCK: In 1988 the buried contact solar cell technology left for Spain. Soon after, evacuated tube technology went to China and evacuated glazing was snapped up by Japan. In 2001, Australia’s Dr Zhi took his solar cells to China and, by 2004, crystalline silicone-on-glass technology went to Germany. The Opposition’s shadow environment minister, Peter Garrett, thinks enough is enough. ..
(31 Jan 2007)

How the net turns code into politics

Bill Thompson, BBC columnist
The freedoms built in to the net are under attack like never before
The launch of Windows Vista last week was accompanied by widespread criticism from advocates of open systems, open networks and the free flow of information.

Particular attention was lavished on the digital rights management (DRM) features of the new operating system, the tools that determine whether you can play or copy video or audio on your computer.

Vista’s DRM even aroused the wrath of the Green Party, which condemned it for requiring “more expensive and energy-hungry hardware”.

It claimed that “there will be thousands of tonnes of dumped monitors, video cards and whole computers that are perfectly capable of running Vista – except for the fact they lack the paranoid lock down mechanisms Vista forces you to use”.

Perhaps, though I can’t really see home users dumping their existing hardware earlier than planned just so they can download high-definition TV shows and pump them through to their new HD television – they will just get a dedicated HD player instead.

But the emergence of Vista and the protection measures it affords to certain forms of content gives us a glimpse of a new world, one we are entering almost without noticing. It is the world of protected content and the secured network.
(5 Feb 2007)

Rwanda: After So Many Deaths, Too Many Births

Stephen Kinzer, NY Times
CONVINCING women in the deeply impoverished Rwandan countryside that they should have fewer children is a daunting task. “They say we’re not Christian,” said Jeannette Mukabalisa, a local health advocate, of the predominantly Catholic population. “They say, ‘You’re town people, we’re traditional.’ Children bring these families prestige. For them, children come from God. So it’s difficult, very difficult.”

After the 1994 genocide, in which more than 800,000 Rwandans were slaughtered, it seemed difficult to believe that overpopulation would ever be a problem. Yet Rwanda has long had more people than its meager resources and small area can support.

In a recent interview, President Paul Kagame said he was preparing a sweeping population control program, to be unveiled in the coming months, that would aim to cut Rwanda’s birth rate by at least half.

…But nearly half of Rwanda’s legislators are female, and Ms. Nyiramilimo is among several who have spent years pushing for a serious population control effort.

The country’s population has quadrupled over the last half-century. Today Rwanda has 8.8 million people; most are subsistence farmers. If current fertility rates are not curbed – Rwandan women bear an average of 6.1 children – the population will double by 2030. That would almost certainly doom Mr. Kagame’s ambitious plan to raise Rwanda from poverty over that same period.
(11 Feb 2007)

SAUDI ARABIA: Foreign Workers Trapped in a Gilded Cage

Emad Mekay, IPS
…The Saudi Labour Ministry estimates that foreigners account for 67 percent of the workforce and hold 90 to 95 percent of private-sector jobs. There are 8.2 foreign workers in a country of 25.6 million people, according to the “Saudi Employment Strategy”, a report by the Labour Ministry.

The largest expatriate communities in Saudi Arabia include around one million to 1.5 million people each from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, and another 900,000 each from Egypt, Sudan and the Philippines.

Many of the workers interviewed by IPS acknowledged that the country has good labour laws, but also confirm what many human rights groups have long said, namely that these laws remain just “ink on paper”.
(25 Jan 2007)