Saving the CEFC

Sophie Vorrath at RenewEconomy reports that both Senators Xenephon and Madigan spoke against the bill to abolish the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC). The Abbott government may not be able to complete their destructive war against renewable energy, even with the new senate next July. My understanding is that they need six votes from the cross benches. These may be hard to find.

However, Vorrath gave prize for best and most impassioned Senate speech in defence of the CEFC to WA Greens Senator Scott Ludlam, who repeatedly pointed out the lack of Coalition Senate representatives to argue their side of the debate. I’ve republished here her selection of highlights in plain text rather than italics. Continue reading Saving the CEFC

Galilee Basin coal: a vision splendid or a kind of madness?

This map gives some idea of the geographic positioning of the vast Galilee Basin, one of the greatest untapped coal reserves in the world.

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This map locates it in relation to some well-known towns.

Last year we were told that nine coal mines are proposed. The Alpha proposal and Kevin’s Corner (GVK and Hancock Coal) could each produce 30 million tonnes per annum for export, Palmer’s China First hopes for 40 million tonnes. The Carmichael deposit (Adani) at 10 billion tonnes is the world’s largest coal deposit. I think the plan there is for another 30 million tonne mine.

Greame Readfearn has calculated that the Alpha and Kevin’s corner projects alone will produce 3.7 billion tonnes of CO2-e when burned. He compares that to the UK which emitted 571.6 Mt of CO2-e last year. He also outlines some of the difficulties being encountered, including contestation in the land Court.

Greenpeace calculated that if the Alpha coal project was a country, its annual emissions would be higher than the likes of Austria, Columbia and Qatar.

Last week Lateline highlighted the problems encountered by Adani, mainly high debt. A report by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis commissioned by Greenpeace found the project “uncommercial” and found that Adani Power was losing money on its other operations. Continue reading Galilee Basin coal: a vision splendid or a kind of madness?

Is the Pope a communist?

Hardly, but he is certainly a severe critic of market capitalism. George Weigel sees his recent apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel) as

a clarion call for a decisive shift in the Catholic Church’s self-understanding, in full continuity with the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

Austen Ivereigh begins his broader treatment this way:

The first teaching document mainly authored by Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, is a bold and thrilling bid to send the Catholic Church worldwide on mission. Energetic, direct, lyrical, its language and style model the evangelization to which the Pope is calling Catholics. In sharp critiques and passionate prose, it polarises the choices faced both by the Church and the world, gently but insistently inviting people to opt for mission – and to a journey of transformation and reform.

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Be sure to read, however, Travis Gettys’ Pope Francis rips capitalism and trickle-down economics to shreds in new policy statement. Continue reading Is the Pope a communist?

Keating the maddie

Politicians come in three types – straight men, fixers and maddies. … I am certainly a maddie!

That or something like it was the grab used on radio to promote the final episode of the Keating interviews with Kerry O’Brien.

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I was left wishing for more. I’d be interested in what he has to say about anything, but his comments on Labor since his time would have been especially interesting – even on Gillard/Rudd!

Laying the groundwork for the annual APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting will be an enduring achievement.

We were left with a haunting glimpse into the personal cost to Keating’s family life.

The earlier post is here.

I can still remember the fateful day on 2 March, 1996. I was mowing a lawn in Milton. There was daylight saving and by 5.20pm our time it was clear that an era had ended. Labor retained only 49 seats though the 2PP ended up 46.37/53.63. This time it was 46.51/53.49. The furniture disappears very quickly when you get into that zone!

Climate clippings 88

Climate clippings_175These posts are intended to share information and ideas about climate change and hence act as a roundtable. Again, I do not want to spend time in comments rehashing whether human activity causes climate change.

This edition is completely about implementation issues and is largely based on a number of links drawn to my attention by John D, for which gratitude and thanks. I’ve restricted the offering to six items to make it more digestible.

1. The battery storage system that could close down coal power

A German company is developing relatively large scale battery storage (up to 10MW-sized battery parks) which could “stabilise the grid faster, cheaper and with greater precision that conventional generation.”

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It says that these systems can substitute 10 times the capacity from conventional generation – coal, nuclear and gas – and at a fraction of the cost. According to Younicos spokesman Philip Hiersemenzel, each battery park can be installed at around € 15 million, which means that for an investment of €3 billion, conventional generation in Germany’s 80GW would no longer be needed – at least for frequency and stability purposes. Continue reading Climate clippings 88

Hockey’s Graincorp decision

grain silos_image_300Terry at Saturday Salon has raised the issue of Treaurer Hockey’s decision to disallow the US company Archer Daniels Midland’s (ADM) A$3.4 billion 100% takeover bid for the Australian company GrainCorp. As Terry said, Judith Sloan went ballistic, Bernard Keane and Glenn Dyer were scathing at Crikey, as was Geoff Kitney at the AFR.

For a straightforward account of what happened, try Michelle Grattan at The Conversation. She does call GrainCorp an agri-giant, although it’s not a large company in Australian terms, may just rate as a ‘mid-cap’. In American terms it’s a tiddler. Nevertheless it would have been ADM’s biggest acquisition to date. ADM is worth about $US27 billion. Graincorp after the post-bid price fall in now worth about $A2 billion.

Must reads, I think are Laura Tingle’s article and Hockey’s statement.

There are at least three reasons why the bid was rejected.

First, there is a lack of competition in the eastern seaboard grain handling market. Graincorp owns 7 out of 10 terminals and handles some 85% of the grain. From Grattan:

“Many industry participants, particularly growers in eastern Australia, have expressed concern that the proposed acquisition could reduce competition and impede growers’ ability to access the grain storage, logistics and distribution network,” he [Hockey] said

Given the transition to a more competitive network was still emerging, “now is not the right time for a 100% foreign acquisition of this key Australian business.”

Secondly,

A “further significant consideration” was that the proposal had attracted a high level of concern from stakeholders and the broader community.

Allowing the bid to proceed “could risk undermining public support for the foreign investment regime and ongoing foreign investment more generally”.

Thirdly, and down-pedalled somewhat, there were issues about ADM’s motivation and longer-term priorities and its record of providing service in its home market, in other words, questions of character. The sweetener of $200 million for additional investment and promised price caps for handling fees was too late to be persuasive. In any case there was no guarantee that farmers would not pay in the long run. Continue reading Hockey’s Graincorp decision

Christopher’s Crisis

Pyne_vd-gonski-gone-pyne-275Christopher Pyne said he was expecting a warm reception from education ministers yesterday. Seems it was heated to the point of being downright explosive. According to The World Today, Tasmanian Education Minister, the Greens Nick McKim, says Mr Pyne had thrown a stick of dynamite into the discussions.

(Image via SMH.)

He also spoke of a “bombshell revelation that will rock the public education system to the core”.

Other ministers were similarly unimpressed. According to the AFR:

“All in all ministers are very disappointed,” Coalition NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli, who chaired the ministerial meeting, said.

McKim again:

“Here’s a unity ticket for you right here – a Labor minister, a Greens minister, National ministers, Liberal Party ministers, sticking up and unified behind Australian schools and behind funding certainty for Australian schools”

Pyne said “no-one should assume they will get less money”. Seems the government school sectors in the states that signed up to Gonski deals with Labor are expecting exactly that. Pyne seems to be strongly implying that if extra funds are needed for the states that didn’t sign up or for other aspects of his new scheme then it will come from the government school sectors of those states that did sign up.

Adrian Piccoli, the NSW minister, points out that this means that everything that is done in schools in 2014 will have to be done on the assumption that it may not flow through to 2015. McKim says we have “Christopher’s Crisis” rather than a “Shorten Shambles”.

Barrie Cassidy says that the Government assumed that it has a store of goodwill. He warns that it doesn’t.

Geoff Kitney in the AFR asks What is going on with the Abbott government? Continue reading Christopher’s Crisis

Simple graphs tell a big story

John D drew my attention to RenewEconomy’s Graph of the Day: Nine simple charts to explain the global carbon budget. The post was originally published at Shrink That Footprint. There’s been next to no discussion at either place, but in my experience site stats show that a lack of comments doesn’t necessarily mean a lack of readers.

The graphs all come from the Global Carbon Project’s Carbon Budget 2013, which you can download here.

Here’s my version of the story in eight slides.

Please note that CO2 emissions are quoted as gigatonnes of carbon. Each GtC = 3.664 GtCO2.

1. Carbon emissions are still rising

In 2012-13 carbon emissions from fossil fuels and cement rose by 2.1% as against 2.2% in 2011-12.

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2. Emissions from coal continue to grow strongly

Emissions from coal grew at 2.8% as against gas and cement at 2.5% and oil at 1.2%.

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Shares of fossil fuel emissions are now coal 43%, oil 33%, gas 18% and cement 5%. Flaring at 1% is not shown. Continue reading Simple graphs tell a big story

Numbers add up to keep Clean Energy Finance

This article from Climate Spectator tells us that shutting down the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) will actually cost the government $200 million each year in lost revenues.

The article refers to an article (by Laura Tingle) in the AFR. Apparently my $3 per day subscription doesn’t entitle me to see the article online – the first time I’ve encountered this problem.

In the dead tree version we are told that the CEFC is making 7% on funds invested, as against their benchmark of 3%, being the five-year bond rate. Other than being a good Labor idea, I think the Government’s objection may be that the CEFC adds to gross debt. The fact that it adds nothing to net debt is apparently irrelevant.

The dividend stream more than covers the cost of administration. The Direct Action alternative is to pay public servants to hand out taxpayers’ money without a return.

Each dollar spent by the CEFC leverages $2.90 in private capital expenditure. So far over $500 has been spent leveraging $1.55 billion of private capital investment.

Apparently the CEFC operates in a niche that would not happen without it.

It has been able to do deals that are too small, too complicated, or not previously done in Australia. In other words, deals that bankers can’t get past their own credit committees which prefer easier propositions.

Perhaps the CEFC’s real crime is to offend Big Coal.

Gonski gone

Kevin Rudd and I are on a unity ticket. There’s no difference between Kevin Rudd and myself when it comes to school funding.

That’s Tony Abbott before the last election.

“you can vote Liberal or Labor and you’ll get exactly the same amount of funding for your school”.

That’s Christopher Pyne, from the Brisbane Times piece, which is probably the clearest account of what is going on.

In simple terms, Pyne is going to honour the 2014 agreements, plus give the share owing to Queensland, WA and NT without expecting reciprocal commitments, but from 2015 there will be a “flatter, simpler, fairer” formula, within the same envelope of funding, but again without reciprocal commitments from the states and territories.

The LNP’s commitment on funding has only ever been for four years.

Presumably the LNP will have to change the law. Bronwyn Hinz at Crikey:

Another obstacle for Pyne is that the increased funding for school systems that signed up to Labor’s National Plan for School Improvement have been legislated for the period 2014-2019. The complexity of this legislation and a hostile Senate means that the Abbott government cannot just back away from these legislative commitments, and certainly cannot prevent the first additional funds from flowing before the start of the new school year.

Pyne claims that the Better Schools plan was incomprehensible an un-implementable. Certainly he declined a briefing from the Gonski panel and has never shown the slightest interest in Gonski’s findings. He plans to work from the old Howard scheme as a base.

Funnily enough, none of this is a surprise to me. It’s exactly what I expected from what was said before the elections. The statements by Abbott and Pyne back then were always a transparent snow job. Unlike Gillard’s “no carbon tax” statement, they intended to mislead. Continue reading Gonski gone

Climate clippings 87

Climate clippings_175These posts are intended to share information and ideas about climate change and hence act as a roundtable. Again, I do not want to spend time in comments rehashing whether human activity causes climate change.

This edition picks up the theme of activism mentioned in Climate change: reconnecting politics with reality.

1. Blue sky

After the last election some friends of my younger brother, feeling blue, decided to turn blue into an optimistic colour, and invented the Blue Sky movement. To join all you have to do is ‘like’ the Facebook site put something blue on your front footpath visible from the road, take a photo and post it on the site. Yes, and take the Blue Sky Pledge, which includes reducing your own emissions, displaying blue for 12 months, and encouraging others to join.

Here’s one example:

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I notice that people have been using the site to share links.

If you click on “Community” or “About” at the head of the Blue Sky FB page and then click “more” you’ll get the full Blue Sky spiel.

2. Go Getup!

Ben Eltham thinks GetUp! is currently Tony Abbott’s most dangerous opponent. Continue reading Climate clippings 87

Climate change: reconnecting politics with reality

After the rally on Sunday 17 November Ben Eltham took a look at climate activism in the digital age and nominated climate policy as “the central battleground of 21st century politics.” Sooner or later, somehow or other, climate activism has to be turned into real politics. As one of the ten themes in the Centre for Policy Development’s Pushing our Luck: ideas for Australian progress Professor John Wiseman, Deputy Director of the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute at the University of Melbourne looked at the shape of climate policy for the future.

You can find his whole piece at page 142 on the pdf counter, but I’ll attempt to give a brief outline here.

First he surveys the science, our prospects and the risks. The risk of a 4C future is unacceptably high. He quotes the World Bank’s report Turn Down the Heat:

    ‘Even with the current mitigation commitments and pledges fully implemented there is roughly a 20 per cent likelihood of exceeding 4°C by 2100. If they are not met warming of 4°C could occur as early as the 2060s.’

What does 4°C mean?

    Professor John Schellnhuber, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, provides a stark assessment of the difference between a rise of two and four degrees. ‘The difference,’ he says, ‘is human civilisation. A 4°C temperature increase probably means a global [population] carrying capacity below 1 billion people’.

He then looks at the climate budget approach and posts a version of this now familiar graph:

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He concludes that we need more ambition and urgency, both at the national and international levels. The achievement of emission reductions at the necessary scale and speed will require transformational rather than incremental change. Continue reading Climate change: reconnecting politics with reality

Climate change, sustainability, plus sundry other stuff