Climate sceptic heads RET review

The law says that the Renewable Energy Target (RET) should be reviewed every two years, so a 2014 review is mandatory.

The law also says that the review should be undertaken by the Climate Change Authority (CCA), which still exists courtesy of the senate. The CCA in a draft report on the emissions target suggested the current 5% emissions reduction target was not enough if we are to pull our weight in the world. In the text they appeared to favour a 25% target, but recommended at least 15% pointing out also the an additional 4% could be added courtesy of Kyoto credits.

I believe the RET has been one of the more successful factors in restraining emissions.

Giles Parkinson reported two months ago now that the RET Review will be headed by Dick Warburton, a climate change “denier”. Warburton told RN’s AM program that the science was not settled.

I am not a denier, nor a sceptic actually, of climate change per se. What I am sceptical is the claims that man-made carbon dioxide is the major cause of global warming. I’m not a denier of that, but I am sceptical of that claim.

When asked whether he believed renewable energy had its role to play in Australia’s energy mix Warburton replied:

Yes it does. Renewable energy does have a place to play. The review is asking us to look to see whether it is an efficient and effective way of doing it as we’re doing it at the moment.

warburton_250I understand he did overtly oppose carbon pricing.

In my opinion Warburton is a denier. Given the degree of certainty in the science you either accept the science or deny it. There’s no room left for fence sitting. That being said, Warburton had a fine reputation as a businessman leading Dupont’s Australian operations, was used by the Keating government in industry renewal, has been a member of the Reserve Bank board and has had various company board roles.

It has emerged that Warburton has been the subject of an investigation into his role as a former director of a firm involved in Australia’s worst foreign bribery scandal. I would suggest that Abbott has done his due diligence and found him in the clear.

Both Abbott and Macfarlane have been emphasising their concern over renewables contributing to the cost of electricity. A second panelist is Matt Zema, the CEO of the Australian Energy Market Operator. As such he was responsible for a study recently

that found 100 per cent renewables would be possible in Australia, and concluded that the cost of electricity would be little different to business as usual, although AEMO declined to do a full cost analysis.

Greg Hunt parrots his boss’s concerns:

“We are a government that is unashamedly doing our best to take pressure off manufacturing and households through anything that can lower electricity prices,” he said in a theme frequently repeated by the conservative government.

If they are concerned about the future cost of electricity they could begin by looking at the policy of privatisation, found to be “a dismal failure” by Professor Quiggin.

A third panel member, Shirley In’t Veld, is the former head of WA government owned generation company Verve Energy which

has had a history of snubbing renewable energy and chose instead to invest in the refurbishment of the ageing Muja coal-fired generator. The refurbishment has proved to be a financial disaster, with the WA government admitting that nearly $300 million had gone down the drain.

The fourth member is Dr Brian Fisher, the former long-term head of ABARE until he left for private enterprise in 2006 to head up a fossil fuel lobby group, Concept Economics. At ABARE he gained notoriety for his positions on climate policies and is a noted free-market hardliner. Under Fisher:

ABARE was responsible for the infamous “MEGABARE” model that made Australia a laughing stock in connection to the Kyoto negotiations.

Sounds like a merry crew, Abbott’s idea of ‘balance’, and bound to add to the climate recalcitrance now so common in the Anglo-Saxon world.

There is a question as to whether the LNP deliberately lied and misled the public prior to the election. The SMH cites specific bi-partisanship as late as July 2013. Labor’s view:

“At every possible point, they tried to assure the community that there was a bipartisan consensus around the RET, and therefore the growth of renewables,” Labor climate change spokesman Mark Butler says. “What’s clear now is that it was just an utter falsehood.”


“They made it very clear; Greg Hunt staked his reputation on the maintenance of the renewable energy target,” he told said in the island state of Tasmania.

“It’s important for jobs. It’s important in terms of positioning Australia as a clean energy economy into the future.

“We’ll wait and see what they do but we’ll be holding them to account,” Mr Albanese said.

Update: Giles Parkinson tells how the Warburton Review is getting down to business today by looking at what the RET of 20% means. Presently it is a number – “41,000GWh of large-scale developments and an uncapped amount of small-scale generation”. It seems that more than half of that number can be made to disappear by changing definitions.

Climate Change Authority review

In late February the Climate Change Authority published a Draft Report of its Targets and Progress Review.

The full draft report (all 265 pages) is downloadable from the first link above. Unfortunately I don’t have time to read all of it. Clive Hamilton at The Conversation has written an excellent overview.

Report summary

I’ve reproduced below the summary from the Executive Summary provided by the Authority, with some slight enhancements.

This Review can inform upcoming decisions on international commitments, guide long-term investment decision-making and inform the design of the Government’s Direct Action Plan.

The Authority’s views are grounded in science which says the world needs a long-term limit on emissions to stay below 2 degrees of warming and reduce risks of dangerous climate change. Australia also needs to take a long term view of emissions and set a 2050 emissions budget.

The Authority has also considered international action on climate change which shows a clear trend towards more ambitious action, although all countries need to do more.

The Authority has considered the economic implications of stronger targets and has concluded that it is possible to move to stronger targets at relatively small cost to the economy. The Authority’s draft recommendations seek to balance short term clarity and stability with longer term flexibility by recommending a single 2020 target and a trajectory range to 2030.

The Authority considers a 5 per cent target for 2020 to be inadequate because the Government’s [own] conditions [for moving beyond 5 per cent appear to have been met] and the pace of international action justifies us going further. [It] is inconsistent with action towards the 2 degrees goal and more ambitious targets might now be easier to achieve than earlier thought.

The Authority presents two targets for 2020 – 15 per cent and 25 per cent, with different trajectory ranges to 2030 [35 to 50 per cent and 40 to 50 per cent respectively].

Compared with 25 per cent, 15 per cent would require faster reductions later, and would use up more of the [carbon] budget sooner. [It] would place us in the middle of the pack on climate change action and would cost slightly less in the short term.

Australia can use international emissions reductions to help meet its target. While we have many domestic opportunities to reduce emissions, allowing international emissions reductions to be part of the mix can help lower costs. The Government should consider allowing the use of international emissions reductions to go beyond 5 per cent.

The Authority seeks feedback on this Draft report to inform its deliberations on final recommendations.(Emphasis added)

Clearly the Abbott Government will take no notice of the Review. In fact they have specifically reneged on the extended 5 to 25% range which had been bipartisan policy since 2009.

Emissions targets

In fact we may achieve better than 5% without too much government effort. In the Executive Summary (page 4 on the counter) we are told that during the 2008-2012 period we accrued 91MT CO2-e in credits under the Kyoto Protocol which can be carried forward. Then this:

Official projections made in 2012 indicated that 754 Mt CO2-e of emissions reductions were required in the period to 2020 to deliver the 5 per cent reduction target. On current estimates, the same level of emissions reductions would be equivalent to an 11 per cent reduction. Taking into account the Kyoto ‘carry over’ equivalent to 91 Mt CO2-e, this would imply a 14 per cent reduction by 2020.

The Authority appears to favour the 25% option, which yields a smoother path. It costs only $2.7 billion pa more (0.16% of GDP). With 15% you need accelerated effort after 2020.

My impression of the report is very favourable. Scientifically it appears sound. Economically they appear to have covered all bases, including trade implications.

The progress made to date has been because of changes in the balance within the economy from heavy manufacturing to services, a diminution in land clearing, and the impact of renewables and other factors in the electricity sector. Since 1990 our GDP has doubled while emissions have remained pretty much the same.

Stabilisation scenarios

The authority understands that there is considerable risk inherent in the 2% target stabilisation scenario and contemplated moving to 1.5°C. They stayed with 2°C because that is where the action is internationally. On page 42 they published this wondrous graph:

Stabilisation probabilities_croppedb_580

The source has Malte Meinshausen’s name on it, so it’s got to be OK.

The y axis gives stabilisation targets in terms of CO2 equivalent stabilisation. The x axis shows the matching probability of staying below any particular temperature rise. For inexplicable reasons the line is drawn at 415. In terms of CO2 equivalents we are now at 480. This gives us less than 33% chance of staying below 2°C and about a 10% chance of exceeding a civilisation threatening 4°C.

Moreover the climate sensitivity model used to create this graph is almost certainly conservative on the low side. Recent research indicates that the climate may be more sensitive to greenhouse gases than previously thought. As it stands the yellow band represents, I think, the extent of the compromise between rational science and science that makes concessions to politics.

To me the graph confirms the merits of the campaign, which gives an almost 95% chance of staying below 2°C. The Authority is aware that net negative emissions will probably be necessary later in this century.

International comparisons

Abbott and company are becoming quite annoying in suggesting that there is no action internationally. The Authority noted that there were 99 countries with ‘Copenhagen’ commitments covering over 80% of the planet’s emissions. This map shows the extent:


Then this graph shows how our targets fit with those of some of a selection of relevant countries.

2020 targets_cropped_580

Sorry I can’t get a clearer image. It’s on page 65 of the report. The y axis shows annual per capita CO2 equivalent emissions. The dots show the per capita emissions at 2005 levels. Notice that both China and India will increase per capita emissions. We are the clear outliers historically and in terms of where our targets will get us. Even at 25% we are only thereabouts with the US and Canada and well behind the pack.

The carbon budget approach

Especially pleasing was the Authority’s use of the carbon budget approach. They determined Australia’s budget as 10,100 MT CO2e for the period 2013 to 2150. A 15% target would use 4,324 MT by 2020, leaving only 5776 MT for the following 30 years. If we were really serious we would be going for 45 to 50% by 2020.

The review will have two values beyond the academic, in my view. Firstly, it should provide guidance for Labor and the Greens, looking forward to the time when the adults are back in charge. Secondly, I think other countries could look at the Authority’s use of the carbon budget approach. Its methodology is good although its level of ambition is still ordinary. Certainly it could stimulate other countries’ thinking about how to plan stabilisation of emissions.

Missed opportunity

Ben Eltham at New Matilda tells us that the LNP have responded with a press release from Greg Hunt containing a pack of lies. The could have used the report to

axe the carbon price, keep Direct Action, triple our emissions reductions and change the carbon debate forever.

How would it do so? By buying carbon reductions on global markets. Because of the collapse of the European carbon market, credible carbon reductions are now for sale on international markets for as little 50 cents a tonne. The report thinks that Australia could buy the roughly 427 million tonnes of carbon reductions necessary to raise the target to 15 per cent for “between $210 and $850 million.”


Firstly, Labor climate change spokesman Mark Butler has supported increasing the targets, has supported the CCA and it appears that Labor is willing to go to the 2016 election supporting a price on carbon.

Secondly, (actually from last year) research by the Climate Institute finds that emissions cuts of 11 to 19% will be achieved if the current laws are not changed.

The Qld Government’s People’s Budget Planner

I have just completed and submitted my views re what should be done about the Qld budget in the People’s Budget Planner.
The planner allows you to play with various ways of reducing the state budget using a mix of various tax increases, service cuts and asset sales alternatives.   If you get below the debt budget target it also allows you to spend the interest savings amongst a range of spending alternatives.
The government obviously hopes that playing with the budget planner will encourage people to support asset sales as a better way to bring the budget back to a sustainable level compared with cutting services or, shock horror, tax increases.
The planner does have some serious limitations.  For example, what you get when you click on more details is fairly skimpy.  For example, in the case of selling the ports business there is no indication of how much revenue will be lost and/or what effect this will have on costs to port users.  The details are a slightly extended explanation, what the sale will yield and a few examples of where this has already been done in Australia.
When it came to spending the interest saving there was nothing to give a feel for how much was already being spent in an area.  For example, if you allocated 10% of the total interest saving to improving bike infrastructure you may have been choosing a doubling of the existing budget or something that was barely worth the effort.
Despite its limitations, the planner is useful for helping people understand some of the budget choices and as a mechanism for allowing people to state their preferences.
The interesting thing from my point of view was that the planner showed that the budget could be balanced by simply increasing a range of taxes and charges while doing nothing else.   The planner is worth filling in and submitting if, like me, you think that taxes should be set at levels that allow governments to do their job properly. 

What Business Spectator thinks of our refugee policy

On Maundy Thursday, the Business Spectator lead story was this telling article on the Rudd/Abbott refugee policy by Rob Burgess.  The article starts with:

As many Australians prepare for a holiday marking the most important Christian festival of year, it’s worth remembering that Jesus of Nazareth began life as a refugee, taken to Egypt to escape King Herod’s slaughter of male infants.  

The refugee family eventually went home, so there was no need to transfer the infant to an offshore detention facility – I mean, who’d even think of doing that?”

 And ends with:

While the nation spends a long weekend celebrating the life of the world’s most famous refugee, political leaders might take time to sniff the wind again and realise we’re standing out in our region for all the wrong reasons.

As Fraser sums it up: “Whatever else our refugee policy is, it isn’t Christian.”

In the middle there was a well argued article with useful supporting data that included:

“In years to come, people will look back at the Abbott Government’s practice of locking innocent children up on remote Pacific islands and shake their heads with disbelief,” said Hanson-Young on Wednesday.

It may not take years. Other nations, including key trading partners, are already shaking their heads at Australia’s offshore processing regime…….

” At this year’s human rights dialogue between China and Australia, vice-minister of foreign affairs Li Baodong said China had concerns “especially on the protection of refugees and asylum seekers, the right of the children of refugees in education and other rights … We have also asked about whether these refugees will be illegally repatriated to other countries….”

While the Greens have long used moral arguments to condemn Labor’s and the Coalition’s policy, economic and strategic concerns give added weight to opprobrium from our trading partners.

Recent history shows how quickly a latent dislike of Australia can become manifest – the fury on the streets of Indonesia during the recent phone-tapping scandal was fed by negative stereotypes of Australians that stretch back through the 20th century.

Not only are we remembered as the lucky country that ran the white Australia policy, but our political leaders of the past have (often unfairly) been seen as colonialists seeking to impose a Western order on peoples who, from their own domestic perspective, were throwing off the shackles of a colonial past.

Whatever the roots of our negative image within the region, Australia’s national interest lies in the paring away of stereotypes, not augmenting them with stories of babies flown to Pacific Island prisons.”

Think about how those who used to be excluded by the White Australia policy must see us now:  Here is a country getting all agitated about 18,111 protection visa applications from boat people in 2012/13 despite having a strong economy and an estimated 2013 net immigration of 234,000.  A country that claims to be all about a fair go but thinks its OK to send refugee children to concentration camps in breach of a refugee convention that Australia signed.  A country where both Abbott and Rudd are very public, white Christians being nasty to refugees who mostly aren’t Christian and who would have been blocked from entry under the white Australia policy.

Having an Attorney general who has stated that it is “OK to be a bigot” doesn’t help either.

Progress is being made whenever an important, Murdoch owned business blog is saying, in effect, that our refugee policy is not only non-Christian but also bad for business and our relationship with our neighbours.

Enjoy your Easter.

Appendix:  Refugee Council of Australia’s data on Australia’s refugee performance compared with the 10 best countries:

Graph for Australian self-interest through Asian eyes

Friday Salon: Easter edition


An open thread where, at your leisure, you can discuss anything you like, well, within reason and the Comments Policy. Include here news and views, plus any notable personal experiences from the week and the weekend.

For climate topics please use the most recent Climate clippings.

The gentleman in the image is Voltaire, who for a time graced the court of Frederick II of Prussia, known as Frederick the Great. King Fred loved to talk about the universe and everything at the end of a day’s work. He also used the salons of Berlin to get feedback in the development of public policy.

Fred would only talk in French; he regarded German as barbaric. Here we’ll use English.

The thread will be a stoush-free zone. The Comments Policy says:

The aim [of this site] is to provide a venue for people to contribute and to engage in a civil and respectful manner.

Follow that and you should be fine.

Climate clippings 93

Climate clippings_175

1.Three reports

First, the Climate Change Authority released a Draft Report of its Targets and Progress Review.

I have a draft post in the bin, which I’ll publish after Easter. Labor are likely to adopt the enhanced targets it recommends, whereas the LNP have confirmed they won’t go beyond 5% by 2020.

Second, I’m working on a post on the IPCC’s second report in the current series, released on 31 March Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. To get a head start you can follow the links from the report website.

I should be able to finalise the post for the week after Easter.

Third, the Summary for Policymakers of the IPCC’s third report Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change was released on Monday. I hope to tackle it over Easter, aiming for publication the second week after Easter. The ABC has comment: politicians and Frank Jotzo and John Connor. The Carbon Brief has a lot of useful material.

2. The cost of mitigation

The IPCC mitigation report puts the cost of action at 0.06% of GDP, but calculating the cost is complex, especially when looking at the damage caused by doing nothing.

Researchers Rosen and Guenther find that the economic modelling is not possible, there are too many variables and too many unknowns.

Yet crisis trumps uncertainty, we have no real choice but to act.

3. Trouble in the vineyards

Early ripening is becoming a huge problem for growers and wineries.

growers say they’re having trouble processing their crop because it’s ripening too quickly.

Researchers are blaming climate change, with warmer conditions and drier soils accelerating the ripening process.

4. Microbes cause Permian–Triassic extinction?

The Permian–Triassic extinction event, commonly known as the Great Dying, was responsible for the extinction of roughly 90% of all life on Earth.

According to new research at MIT the event may have been caused by microbes.

The team’s research indicates that the catastrophic event was in fact triggered by the tiniest of organisms, a methane-releasing microbe called Methanosarcina. New evidence suggests that at the time of the extinction, the microbes appeared in massive numbers across the world’s oceans, spreading vast clouds of the carbon-heavy gas methane into the atmosphere. This had the effect of altering the planet’s climate in a way that made it inhospitable to most other forms of life inhabiting Earth at that time.

5. Land clearing returns to Qld

According to The Wilderness Society the Queensland Government has approved the clearing of 30,000 hectares at Strathmore Station in the Gilbert River catchment in the Gulf country, which will add the equivalent of 4.2-6.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the same as running up to another 2.6 million cars on our roads.

Strathmore wants to clear another 70,000 hectares. Together with another proposed Gilbert River project, IFED’s so-called Etheridge mega farm, the two schemes would clear and flood 200,000 hectares of land.

That would be like bulldozing a 10km wide strip for 200km.

6. Instruments of persuasion

Dr Rod Lamberts of the Australian Centre for Public Awareness of Science at the ANU says it’s time to dump science and facts as instruments of persuasion in favour of advertising and marketing. He says we need to appeal to people’s emotions, which will

have a stronger effect than trying to appeal to their brains via some kind of, you know, fact channel.

But please note, the facts are needed to support the campaign:

If the goal is to affect change, then I believe we need to step more into the realms of advertising and marketing and so on, in terms of delivering messages that are supported by what the science is telling us, but don’t have the science in those messages. (Emphasis added)

Jane Caro agrees on the need for a different approach:

Facts have never changed anyone’s mind about anything, sadly. It’s very hard for scientists to understand this, because they’re highly rational people, but in actual fact, no-one has ever been rationalised out of a belief.

There are only two things that change people’s attitudes and behaviour, particularly their behaviour, and they’re two emotions, and they’re hope and fear.

Again, facts and the science are surely needed to rationalise a changed belief. Beliefs need reason to support them.

Who mounts and pays for an advertising and marketing campaign? We look to governments, but in Australia they are the actual problem.

7. Direct Action less popular than the price on carbon

Meanwhile Essential Media Communications have done a survey of opinion that shows Direct Action distinctly less popular than the price on carbon. In terms of age, there is a tipping point beyond which the doubters predominate and it’s age 55. Abbott’s climate policy may come back to bite.

as the flat-earthers take control of the Federal Government, more Australians than ever have come to the conclusion that the Earth is in fact round.

Changing our policymakers seems the best way home but then Labor needs to offer more than tokenism. In my opinion Labor politicians should be the prime target group. The current mob won’t change without a spell in opposition and transformational ideological renewal.


Use this as an open thread for climate topics.

Ending the age of entitlement

“there are no cuts to health, no cuts to education, pensions don’t change…”

That was Tony Abbott at the National Press Club just days before the last election, as reported by Peter Martin.


was the headline of Samantha Maiden’s Murdoch paper report in the Courier Mail on Sunday.

Budget pain to hit all: Hockey

That was the headline of Laura Tingle’s front page article in the AFR on Monday.

Treasurer Joe Hockey says no group will be safe from cuts in the May budget, as he braces voters for potential changes to the age pension and tighter asset tests.

Large numbers are cascading everywhere. Maiden’s article tells us that 94% of Australians over 70 qualify for either a pensioner concession card or a seniors health care card. Some 78% of the cost of scripts claimed under the PBS is going to concession card holders. Half of the $40 billion age pension bill goes to households with assets of more than $500,000. The $40 billion bill could rise to $70 billion over the next decade.

Labor increased the aged pension from 65 to 67 but that is to be phased in by 2023. The LNP are considering lifting the eligibility age to 70.

Another option is to include the family home in the assets test if it is worth more than $1 million.

Moreover, Hockey reckons the age pension indexation needs to be sustainable. Labor increased the rate and indexed it to average male earnings, which escalate faster than the CPI. Hockey appears to favour a return to the CPI.

Cutting the ‘seniors supplement’ (I get $500 taken off my tax because I’m old) has also been mentioned.

Justin Greber quotes the savings (paywalled) calculated by Stephen Anthony of Macroeconomics. Anthony reckons we need to cut the budget by about 1% of GDP or $16 billion. Overall he says:

the primary focus for the government should be in stemming middle- and upper-class welfare, with the most obvious savings in the aged and family benefits, drugs, industry assistance and removing overlaps between different levels of government.

As to the oldies, he says changing the indexation back to the CPI will save $900 million. Including the family home in the assets test will save $1.1 billion, while cutting the seniors supplement would garner a further $500 million. Peter Martin identifies a further $1.5 billion in carbon price compensation, so in all about $4 billion could be screwed out of the oldies.

Peter Martin also points out that the aged pension has increased by 25% since the indexation changed four and a half years ago, compared to the CPI of 13%.

There’s little doubt that rich old men could contribute a little more.

For context we need to note that the Australian budget is approaching $400 billion.

As a disclosure I’m modestly self-funded with no superannuation. I’d appreciate help with pharmaceuticals but get none other than the normal PBS. In this post I’m not arguing the merits or otherwise of any of the proposed changes. I do think, however, that we could consider paying a bit more tax.

Yet Peter Martin argues that tax increases are already included in the forward estimates because they don’t compensate for bracket creep. The CPI and bracket creep could make our incomes virtually flatline in real terms. He favours increasing the GST.

New Zealand increased the GST in two phases from 10 to 15% without stalling the economy or undue public concern. John Hewson says we are the champions in the OECD in tax concessions, including notoriously concessions to rich retirees and the fossil fuel industry. There are plenty of options available and Anthony stresses the problems are in the out years, not the next budget or two. There should be time for debate.

The Commission of Audit report is said to be available shortly as is a review of the welfare system.

My main worry in all this is that the poor and the vulnerable are going to be hit as well when there really is no need. Also there are sectors where we need to increase spending, such as skills, education including universities, research, innovation and smart industry development. Did everyone see the 4 Corners program on the hollowing out of sophisticated manufacture with the demise of the car industry? That at a time when the CSIRO prepares to cut another 300 jobs.

Meanwhile the Fairfax poll is now 48/52 in favour of Labor. There are some problems for Abbott in the regions, perhaps over foreign investment and trade policies. However, the Labor TPP surge is largely courtesy of a stunning increase in the Greens vote. 26% of 18-24 year-olds now favour the Greens. From 16-39 the LNP vote is lower than Labor, while within the margin for error. It’s the oldies that are keeping Abbott afloat. They don’t always vote in their own interest.

You can use this post as an open thread on politics.

Modelling the cost of mitigating climate change

Forget it, it’s too hard!

That’s what two researchers, Dr Rich Rosen and Edeltraud Guenther of Boston and Dresden respectively, have concluded. They say it’s impossible to calculate the cost of mitigating climate change, there are too many variables and too many unknowns. Modelling which purports to do so cannot and should not be used by policymakers.

Nevertheless mitigate we must! Crisis trumps uncertainty:

“Mitigating climate change must proceed regardless of long-run economic analyses”, they conclude, “or risk making the world uninhabitable.”

Economic modelling of climate mitigation costs against business as usual (BAU) has commonly been used in developing policy after the Stern Review of 2006 and the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report of 2007. For example the Australian Treasury modelled the costs of the Gillard Government’s Clean Energy Future package through to 2050.

A complete waste of time, according to Rosen and Guenther.

Nevertheless treasuries in the future will no doubt continue with their best efforts. In the end a cost has to be entered in the budget, including the forward estimates. And no doubt the long-term story will continue to be told in order to convince us that the authorities know what they are doing.

We’ll know, however, that we are being fed a work of fiction.


This post was published previously in PragmatusJ (my reference blog). It explains how the QCA came up with a “fair and reasonable” Qld FIT of 8 cents/kWh and the inherent problems of letting politicians or bureaucrats set the FIT.
The following are some brief comments on the Qld Competition Authority (QCA) report “Estimating a Fair and Reasonable Solar Feed-in Tariff for Queensland (March 2013) Table numbers are QCA report table numbers.  Key findings were:
The report admits that it was only concerned with being fair to the retailers, not rooftop solar PV (RTS) owners, power generation companies or consumers.  By implication, the QCA was also committed to defending the payments made to power distributors.
  1. When calculating the “fair” FIT the QCA managed to find excuses for not including most of the savings associated with the use of RTS.  This made an enormous difference.  If these savings are included, the FIT would have to be above 100 cents/kWh before RTS stopped reducing the power bills of Qld householders who don’t have RTS.  The QCA exclusions reduced this figure to a measly 8 cents/kWh.
  2. The difference in estimates highlights the problems associated with having bureaucrats or politicians set the feed in tariff.  It also highlights the problem of determining the FIT on the basis of the effect on household power bills.
  3. This post is not advocating that the FIT be raised to $1.00 kWh.  It is suggested that auctions or some other market based system be used to set the FIT.



The US navy has been investigating the production of fuel from seawater using electricity from ship’s nuclear power systems for a number of years.  This process would allow aircraft carrier task forces to stay at sea longer without depending on vulnerable fuel tankers to keep the planes flying.  The navy has now announced that they have successfully used the fuel from their pilot plant to fly a plane with an internal combustion engine.  (Well, OK a model mustang.)

The process used involves electrolysis of sea water to produce CO2 and hydrogen followed by a catalytic reaction to produce hydrocarbons.   There is nothing radically new here.  Hydrogen has been produced commercially using electrolysis for a long time.  There are also well established commercially available processes for converting mixtures of hydrogen and nitrogen or hydrogen and CO2 into a range of useful chemicals and fuels.  My guess is that most of the effort taken by the US navy has been focused on developing a process that could fit into a small part of an aircraft carrier.

The potential of these types of development go well beyond the needs of the US navy.  Think about it: Unless there is an amazing breakthrough, renewable power plus batteries are not going to be able to deliver 100% renewable transport.  Renewable power + batteries is not going be suitable for long distant flights, travel in the Australian outback or long distance sea travel.  There is a need for energy intensive transportable fuels to cover these needs.

Bio-fuels are not the answer.  Diversion of land to the production of bio-fuels is already causing starvation of people in some countries as well as damage to the environment.  (Think jungle clearing for palm oil production.)  In addition, the production of bio-fuels is vulnerable to climate change and pests as well as posing potential problems if the organisms used escape into the wild.  What is needed are low impact renewable fuels produced by inorganic processes such as the US Navy process mentioned above.


Saturday salon: your say


An open thread where, at your weekend leisure, you can discuss anything you like, well, within reason and the comments policy.

Also, for climate topics please use the most recent Climate clippings.

The gentleman in the image is Voltaire, who for a time graced the court of Frederick II of Prussia, known as Frederick the Great. King Fred loved to talk about the universe and everything at the end of a day’s work. He also used the salons of Berlin to get feedback in the development of public policy.

Fred would only talk in French, as he regarded German as barbaric. Here we’ll use English.

Update: I’ve decided that I won’t put up a separate Lazy Sunday/The week that was post at this stage.

Please use this thread to share information about what you’ve been up to on the weekend or notable experiences during the week, shows you’ve seen, books you’ve read etc.

This implies that the thread will be a stoush-free zone. The Comments Policy says:

The aim [of this site] is to provide a venue for people to contribute and to engage in a civil and respectful manner.

Follow that and you should be fine.

Work categories and voting patterns

Roy Morgan have done some interesting research on voting patterns according to how we earn our living. This table shows the work categories most likely to vote for the three major parties:

Roy Morgan_4971_600

To me there is a vague shape of a class analysis, with workers voting Labor and bosses voting Liberal, but one has to be careful about the actual numbers. If Labor gets a first preference vote in the low 30s there is plenty of scope for workers to vote Liberal.

There is interesting detail in the accompanying text. Primary school teachers are split down the middle. With the Greens we have to remember that the vote is low. While social workers are the profession most likely to vote Green only 33% of them do so. I would be interested in how many vote Liberal.

It’s now well known that Green voters earn more on average than other voters. Clearly they have spent more years in education.

I’m wondering what you make of it all.

Climate change, sustainability, plus sundry other stuff