Tag Archives: Open Threads

Saturday salon 16/12

1. Remembering

They say that if you remember the 1960s you weren’t really there. I remember quite a bit about the 1960s. Who could forget Christine Keeler, Mandy Rice-Davies, British secretary for war, John Profumo, and the Soviet attaché Yevgeny Ivanov in what was known as the Profumo affair. Christine Keeler died on 4 December 2017, a young 75.

She grew up for a time in a railway carriage, mixed with the rich and famous, and struggled thereafter, lacking the resilience of Mandy Rice-Davies. Here’s the iconic photo, from a life in pictures:

Continue reading Saturday salon 16/12

Saturday salon 9/12

1. Checking Katter facts

Bob Katter is a colourful character, which allows him to get away with what other people might be accused of bigotry. However, I find he usually gets his facts right, it’s his solutions which are really weird. When he said that a person was being torn to bits by a crocodile in North Queensland on average every three months the ABC decided to check his facts.

Turns out he was stretching it a bit.

Stats show that there was one fatal crocodile attack every three years from 1985 to now. However: Continue reading Saturday salon 9/12

Saturday salon 1/12

1. How not to run a party or a government

Malcolm Turnbull in announcing a royal commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry, to be led by former High Court judge Kenneth Hayne, told us that the inquiry was entirely unnecessary, but the government was a couple of seats short and had effectively lost control of the agenda.

Chris Bowen, shadow treasurer, formally wrote to his counterpart Scott Morrison (AFR, pay-walled), saying that the inquiry was neither far-reaching enough nor adequately resourced, that there had been inadequate consultation over the terms of reference, plus the deliberate targeting of union-dominated industry superannuation funds – a political strategy which diminished its credibility. Continue reading Saturday salon 1/12

Climate clippings 118

1. South Australia going for broke

Malcolm Turnbull would call it a ‘reckless, irresponsible, ideological frolic’, but South Austria has been running 63% on wind and solar during the last few months, and is going for broke.

Giles Parkinson says SA must, and will, lead world on renewables.

    The Weatherill and Koutsantonis strategy is to embrace new technologies, cheap wind and solar and storage, smart software and smarter management, and put into practice the sort of scenarios envisaged by the CSIRO, Energy Networks Australia and more recently by the storage review commissioned by chief scientist Alan Finkel.

All that can stop Weatherill and Koutsantonis is Nick Xenophon at the next election putting the LNP into office.

Turnbull and Frydenberg will be swept aside as irrelevant detritus.

If I get time I’ll do a longer post.

2. Finkel’s frustration

Chief Scientist Alan Finkel is fed up with our conservative national politicians:

    Finkel argues that Australia has managed a unique trifecta – high prices, high emissions, and high uncertainty – and fallen behind the rest of the world. And he has no doubt who is to blame.

    “Everyone else has a strategy,” says one of the key points of his presentation (see above). The next line is equally damming: “Regulatory system suffering 10 years of policy paralysis.”

    Energy insiders and observers know exactly what Finkel is referring to: the first is clear, the political impasse caused by the Far Right and its opposition to basic economics and science.

    The second offender would be interpreted as the Australian Energy Market Commission – the rule maker that has stood in the way of blindingly obvious reforms such as introducing environmental considerations into the National Electricity Objective, and which has resisted and delayed nearly every proposed change that would nudge Australia’s ageing, creaking energy infrastructure into the 21st Century.

3. Finkel says there is no need to panic about energy storage

    While the ESB, in arguing for a National Energy Guarantee, speaks of the system threats and urgency to act with a level of “variable” renewables accounting for between 18 and 24 per cent of total generation, this new report says surprisingly little storage may be needed with 35 per cent to 50 per cent wind and solar.

I suspect that there will be real worries about the credibility of the ESB (Energy Security Board) while John Pierce chairs the Australian Energy Market Commission. You may recall that during the Finkel review, Finkel questioned the point of meeting with the AEMC because no engineers were present.

4. Queensland chooses sunshine over coal, to relief of solar industry

    Phew, that was close. That must be the reaction of the Australia solar industry, and local and international renewable investors, after a result that puts the Labor government within touching distance of a small majority or at least a workable minority government.

    The re-election of Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk in Saturday’s nail-biting poll will guarantee the medium-term future of the solar industry in Australia, along with several large-scale wind and hybrid projects, and some key storage installations.

    It will also likely have a bearing on federal politics too, given that the Queensland government is unlikely to approve a National Energy Guarantee that seeks to choke the level of wind and solar that can be added to the national grid, or reinforces the power of the energy incumbents.

It was an important win for Queensland, the nation and the planet.

5. More gas on the way

The Adelaide press carries a story about New report into potential fracking expansion in the Cooper Basin

In Brisbane we have Queensland on cusp of new gas boom

    QUEENSLAND is on the cusp of a new gas boom with exploration for shale gas to start in the Cooper Basin.

    In what could be a new money earner for the state — and ease the cost of energy prices — millions of dollars will be spent to determine if the extraction should start.

    It is understood Geoscience Australia estimates prospective shale and tight gas resources in the Cooper Basin could provide 29 years of east coast gas at current production rates.

    The Turnbull Government will use cash from the $30 million geological and bioregional assessments program to evaluate the priority area.

It’s basically the same story, just different parts of the Cooper basin.

Then there is this story – Arrow Energy strikes major gas deal with Shell in Queensland’s Surat Basin:

    A deal to extract gas from Queensland’s Surat Basin will create 1,000 new jobs, boost domestic gas supply, and unlock one of the largest gas reserves on the east coast, the resources industry says.

    Arrow Energy has signed a 27-year agreement to supply more than four times the forecast east coast domestic gas shortfall to Shell’s Queensland Curtis Liquified Natural Gas project every year.

So there is plenty of gas around without NSW and Victoria changing their anti-fracking policies. Price is another issue. I recall Matthew Stevens in the AFR saying all the cheap gas had been developed. However, we should all hope that it is not necessary to burn the gas.

6. Tesla big battery switched on

One might say it was an important step for mankind.

Apart from anything else, I’m told it is a tourist attraction.

    It marks a momentous day for the national grid, and a major step towards a modern network that will ultimately deliver cheaper, cleaner, smarter and more reliable energy than we have now.

It is the first of a number. They will have a role in grid stabilisation more than backup power. For that SA is relying on dirtier energy during this summer. In just 58 days (the Tesla took 66, I think) US firm APR Energy have just built a diesel-powered bank of generators capable of putting out 276 MW of power. The bank of generators can fire up from a cold start in just eight minutes.

I think this facility is to be replaced by a 300 MW gas plant designed for emergency standby, when it is built.

7. Syria joins Paris climate accord

    Syria has announced it intends to join the 2015 Paris agreement for slowing climate change, leaving the United States as the only country in the world opposed to the pact.

    Syria, wracked by civil war, and Nicaragua were the only two nations outside the 195-nation pact when it was agreed in 2015.

    Nicaragua’s left-wing Government, which originally denounced the plan as too weak, signed up last month.

8. A Kodak moment for coal

John Quiggin says The Queensland election’s renewables versus coal debate isn’t about jobs. It’s a culture war.

There is one thing I disagree with Quiggin in this article. He says no-one can reduce electricity prices by much. Prices, perhaps not, but Labor has reduced electricity bills by 16.1%. Why has no-one other than me noticed? And you could reduce them by a further 25% by nationalising retailing.

Other than that it’s a good article.

Christiana Figueres has really laid it on the line. She reckons Adani is a Kodak moment for coal.

    She hopes to see coal, like those sentimental moments in time captured in photographs, confined to history — with the world remembering the contribution the fossil fuel has made to human development, while recognising the need to retire it as a fuel source because of its contribution to global warming.

    And, she says, it’s happening.

    “We just had 25 countries come together [at the latest international climate change talks] in Bonn to say that they are moving out of coal in the short term.

    “That does not include Australia or India or China, but you can begin to see the trend.

    “India is headed for peaking its coal consumption by the year 2027.”

News has just come through that China Construction Bank won’t grant loan to Adani.

Saturday salon 25/11 – very late edition

1. Citizenship Chaos Could Be Terminal For Turnbull

That was Ben Eltham on 6 November. Then you can go anywhere, for example:

Continue reading Saturday salon 25/11 – very late edition

Saturday salon 18/11

1. The future of humanity

Set aside an hour to listen to the IQ Squared debate on “Humanity is designing its own demise”

Toby Walsh, Professor of Artificial Intelligence UNSW, Signe Dean, science and health journalist, Clive Hamilton, Professor of Public Ethics CSU, and Kristin Alford, Futurist go at it with zest, intelligence and learning.

Unbelievable progress has been made, especially in health and wealth. Among the things I learnt was that we don’t need to fear AI, just the people behind it, and that Elon Musk is actually mad, but will have a colony of 1,000 people on Mars by 2050. Continue reading Saturday salon 18/11

Saturday salon 11/11

1. Bier her

Bier her, Bier her, oder ich fall um, juchhe! You can hear the German drinking song here.

Today we could remember Armistice day, ending the First World War 99 years ago, or Ned Kelly hanged on 11 November 1880. Then there was the dismissal of Gough Whitlam 25 years ago, and the important Harvester Case on November 8, 1907. Before we get too far past it I want to remember 31 October 500 years ago when a cranky friar in Saxony let it be known he was not happy with the Catholic Church. However Martin Luther’s biggest contribution to modern life may have been to liberate German beer. Continue reading Saturday salon 11/11

Saturday salon 4/11

1. JFK assassination theories revive

Seems Trump is keen to release all the JFK assassination files, but on CIA and FBI advice they have been redacted and some withheld.

The fact that the CIA and the FBI are doing this gives conspiracy theories more energy. The BBC gives some details of the new material, which basically confirm that something strange was going on.

Here we have an outline of the key theories. Continue reading Saturday salon 4/11

Saturday salon 28/10

1. China has arrived

The biggest story of the week was probably the Chinese Communist party congress. Leader Xi Jinping is looking to stay for at least another 10 years and putting his “socialist thought” into the party constitution, places him alongside Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping in the pantheon of revolutionary leaders. But Richard McGregor says the real star is the party itself, and the West should wake up: Continue reading Saturday salon 28/10

Saturday salon 21/10

1. Child art from those who became great

A few months back Artsy posted a piece What Do the Childhood Works of Famous Artists Look Like? It had works by Dürer, Klee, Dalí and Picasso, but my favourite was the painting by Edward Hopper, Little Boy Looking at the Sea:

The image was drawn on the back of Edward Hopper’s third grade report card dated October 23, 1891, when Hopper was nine years old. Continue reading Saturday salon 21/10

Saturday salon 14/10

1. Jacaranda time!

There are festivals in Grafton and in Goodna, which for the uninitiated is between Ipswich and Brisbane, but not for another two weeks! Seems a bit late to me.

Any way the jacarandas are out in Brisbane now, so the place is turning purple. This photo is near the lake in the grounds of the University of Queensland:

Continue reading Saturday salon 14/10

Climate clippings 117

On Monday and Tuesday this week we are going to have the AFR national Energy Summit in Sydney with everyone there, including Josh, Jay, Bill, Andrew Vesey and a different Malcolm Roberts (Chief Executive, APPEA). Should be fun.

The Weekend AFR had about half a dozen articles, led off by an article by Ben Potter, Angela Macdonald-Smith and Mark Ludlow (no doubt pay-walled) which said our energy has become dirty, expensive and annoyingly unreliable. They reckon something has to be done, it’s just that:

the causes identified by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull – or unofficial backbench energy spokesman Tony Abbott – are not the same as the causes power industry experts and regulators highlight. Continue reading Climate clippings 117