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The Only Way To Change Australia Is To Change The USA

Big Gav, Peak Energy
Paul Sheehan at the SMH is continuing the Australian water and power theme of last week in “Powerless against Mother Nature”.

…On January 29, this column described the departure of David Mills, this country’s leading authority on solar thermal energy (as distinct from solar voltaic cells, the kind we are being encouraged to put on top of our homes for domestic heating). Mills told me at the time: “Australian business does not offer the risk equity we need, especially under the current climate in which the government clearly favours existing coal and nuclear options based around mineral resources. The Federal Government refuses to put in place strict emissions targets … and reliable long-term market valuations for carbon emissions are avoided.”

Last week, I contacted Mills to see how he was progressing. His company is busy building a solar thermal power plant in California. It has plenty of heavyweight investors.

He doesn’t know if he is facing boom or bust, but he does know leaving Australia was the only option: “The real issue in Australia is a lack of environmental ethics in governments and their electors. I have heard no encouraging noises from the main parties.” (Note his inclusion of the term “electors”.)

Mills believes there will have to be a dramatic rerating of the real costs of energy production, which will make existing coal and nuclear technologies much more expensive relative to some alternative fuels being developed: “By 2010, the fossil-nuclear crash will begin in earnest in the Western nations, and a few years later in China. Who will want to build conventional power plants when you can build solar plants as cheaply?

“We used to joke that the only way to change Australia is to change the USA. It is now no joke.”

That last line is true unfortunately, which is why I spend so much time on US politics here, berating the immorality and stupidity of Bush and Cheney’s energy and environmental policies. While criticising the Rodent and his minions can be therapeutic, as the old saying goes, you need to talk to the organ grinder, not the monkey – so expecting things to change here as the result of some sort of local dialog is just wishful thinking – we need to sort out the problem at its root.
(21 May 2007)
Big Gav’s news roundup today starts with Australian coverage.

Tough decisions to ensure a low-carbon world

Ian Dunlop, Sydney Morning Herald
There is a sense of total unreality in our public rhetoric. We are continually reminded we have never had it so good – the economy is doing splendidly, the stockmarket is booming and employment is at full stretch after 15 years of growth.

At the same time we are looking at the most serious issue to confront humanity in centuries – human-induced climate change – largely caused by the unsustainable energy consumption and exports on which our prosperity is based. After years of denial, we are beginning to accept this reality and seek solutions.

The biggest problem is the Australian coal industry. It has belatedly acknowledged that clean-coal technology and carbon sequestration are essential if coal combustion is to continue. So it is good to see more research funds being committed with the expansion of its Coal21 Fund.

However, the industry has been on notice for more than 20 years that these technologies would be needed if coal was to retain its “licence to operate”, but it ignored this need until recently. Even now the research and development spending is minuscule compared with the challenge ahead.

Ian Dunlop was formerly a senior international oil, gas and coal industry executive. He chaired the Australian Coal Association in 1987 and 1988, the Australian Greenhouse Office Experts Group on Emissions Trading from 1998 to 2000 and was chief executive of the Australian Institute of Company Directors from 1997 to 2001.
(22 May 2007)

Arnie terminates BHP project

Sydney Morning Herald & AAP
California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has terminated one of Australia’s most lucrative export projects.

BHP Billiton planned to build an $US800 million ($973.06 million) liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal off the coast of the Los Angeles celebrity enclave of Malibu, but Schwarzenegger announced he would veto the project after a ferocious campaign led by Hollywood celebrities. The decision came despite Prime Minister John Howard flying to Los Angeles in 2004 to lobby Schwarzenegger personally on behalf of BHP Billiton.

Schwarzenegger, however, ruled today the BHP Billiton proposal was not environmentally sound.
(18 May 2007)