Hybrid cars:

Klaas Woldring, president of the Dutch Australian Cultural Centre, writes: Re. “Car subsidy shows Rudd’s true colours” (yesterday, item 3). On Tuesday night the Dutch Australian community groups had the great pleasure to listen to guest speaker Mr. Roy Leembruggen, in the Chatswood RSL. Veteran Leembruggen, a third generation Dutch migrant, was in the news recently as the engineer who designed Sydney’s revolutionary first double decker trains. While the first part of the talk was about the great advantages of double decker trains the second part was even more interesting. It sketched the development of no less than 26 types of electric cars, buses and trolley buses, here in Sydney, and revealed the massive environmental advantages of such transport. Apart from the buses he also provided graphic design evidence of the Townmobil, for four or six persons, which leaves all petrol driven vehicles for dead in view of the rapidly increasingly petrol prices. Has Mr. Rudd availed himself of the Leembruggen electric car designs? If he wants promote Green cars the answer is right here. If the current lead batteries are going to be replaced by superior types, providing twice the capacity for the same weight and cost, a strong likelihood, the future of electric transport is beyond question.

Robbie Kelman writes: Bernard Keane can criticise the economic policy (or perhaps intervention!) of subsidising big-car, but hybrid technology is a sound transition and importantly these vehicles are available commercially right now! Hydrogen fuel cell technology has been held up as pollution-less driving but there remain massive issues with storage of the fuel and development costs are enormous. Add to that a requirement to add a new layer of hydrogen production, transportation and distribution infrastructure and hydrogen remains in the science lab for some time. It’s also incorrect to say hybrids achieve only marginally better consumption efficiencies. A Prius or Civic hybrid is a standard medium four person vehicle and achieves around 4.5 litres per 100 km’s. While you might get 6 litres per 100 Km’s out of a Yaris or Echo etc you wont fit four people in it for a country drive and the four seater equivalent to a Prius will consume closer to 9 or 10 litres per 100 km’s. With existing infrastructure (petrol stations rather then your reference to plug-in hybrids which are not yet relevant for Australia) why wouldn’t you go and add a battery and additional electric motor to a car, which makes it a hybrid, and achieve a 50% reduction in fuel consumption overnight? It would be tempting but foolish to wait around for some magic bullet pollution free private vehicle technology. Get on with what we have now, drive efficiencies and price reductions, drive market demand and consumer response, send a signal back to big-car that the public want these vehicles, keep consumers positive that maybe there just might be a way out of this crisis and pick up new technologies as they evolve.

Ken Lambert writes: Kevin Rudd has excelled himself in pointless posturing by pouring $35 million of our hard-earned into what your correspondent correctly claims is a twilight technology. As a method of reducing emissions in congested traffic areas, the hybrid car makes some sense — but not as much sense as the electric trams and trolley buses running around Brisbane in my early childhood, and electric trains running now in our major cities. Spending our bucks on those old fashioned technologies and perhaps making them free and frequent would make vastly more transport and economic sense. However with electric powered transport you are still transferring the emissions to the mainly coal power stations. And for those who think hydrogen is a fuel – it is an energy transfer medium – much like a power line or a gas pipe. Hydrogen does not bubble out of the ground with its energy prepacked by Mother Nature. Hydrogen has to be made by putting in more energy than you get out when it is burned with oxygen to produce water. Liquid hydrogen has to be stored at high pressure and cryogenic temperatures. The Germans are keen on it again for expensive cars. They are also rapt about Chinese solar panels and loved the Hindenburg – a hydrogen technology a little ahead of its time but sharing similar features – high cost subsidised wanks for the wealthy few.

Katherine Stuart writes: Bernard Keane’s comment that “A realist position probably…acknowledges that Australians are still too wedded to their cars and Governments are too slow to provide public transport, to seriously consider alternatives to an entire lifestyle based on motor vehicles” doesn’t go anywhere near far enough. Australians are wedded to their cars because it’s the only realistic way to negotiate our urban sprawl – unless you’ve got all day. And that’s hardly going to change in a hurry – there’s too much private capital invested in our houses. The fact that the former Howard government was in climate change denial has left Australia way behind Europe on taking action to reduce CO2 emissions (how does Howard get an Order of Australia on this account?) – but why is my 100% wind power still going to cost me more each month than coal-generated power is a very good question for the current government. I’d drive a hybrid if I could afford to buy one – cutting commuting emissions alone is surely worth it. What I’d love to see though is some nifty device you could stick up your car’s (or truck’s) b-m that would break down the CO2 so our vehicles would be f-rting pure sweet O, and the captured C could be recycled somehow. Alas, entropy says “no”. Although plants do it all the time. So what about little green algae-men up your tailpipe? In-moto sequestration?

Stephen Harrington writes: Note to Bernard Keane: Hybrid cars do not “plug-in”, and thus do not “use coal-generated electricity to charge up”. A hybrid engine like the one currently being used in the Toyota Prius uses a small(er) petrol engine coupled to a battery-powered motor. This electric motor can drive the car by itself under small loads, like in a traffic jam, and then the engine starts up when needed (Honda’s old Insight used the two motors in reverse, with the electric motor kicking in with moderate acceleration). The large batteries are then continually recharged by the petrol motor during braking and idling etc. It seems that you’re thinking of fully electric cars — which are certainly not coming any time soon to a car factory near you.

Graham Brookman writes: Just a follow up on the Bernard Keane article on hybrid cars. Electric cars are already being made in Australia that run on green power for a fraction of the price of petrol. If we got off our industrial arses and mass produced lightweight versions of them perhaps we’d have stop gap until a principally electric public transport system emerges and TOD dominates all new urban development, See www.bev.com.au Dickson Beattie has one in Adelaide cheers

John Kotsopoulos writes: Re. “Has Kev got a deal for you — old technology hybrids, going expensive” (yesterday, item 8). Obsolete hybrid huh, Michael Pascoe? Toyota is the most profitable major car company in the world and you reckon they can out guess them. Not bloody likely.

Nick D’Arcy:

Walt Hawtin writes: Re. “Nick D’Arcy’s a dropkick, but we should let him swim” (yesterday, item 5). Charles Happell has some valid points to make on Nick D’Arcy’s potential ban from this year’s Olympics, however I think his Barry Hall analogy lacks punch (pun intended). AFL is, the last time I looked and despite the best efforts of the games’ administrators, a body contact sport. That is, bodily contact is a part and parcel of the game. Further, the Hall incident happened on a football field, in front of cameras and spectators and was arguably part of the argy bargy of play at the time. Was Hall’s act violent and unnecessary? Yes, definitely. But Hall did not, unprovoked and in a public place, drunkenly king hit an unsuspecting mate. D’Arcy is a participant in a non-contact sport that in Australia is heavily linked to the Olympics, a movement that rates fair play and clean competition as a value it holds dearly. It is understandable that one may cynically chortle at these values, but D’Arcy, as reported some time ago, has delivered a pretty brutal beating to a mate on at least one other occasion whilst out on the sauce, so portraying him as a p*ssed young innocent doesn’t work either, does it. I doubt whether, at 20, I would ever get away with that sort of behaviour. Certainly I would never have kept my job.

Dean Galloway writes: A while back a drunken journalist roughly shoved one of your contributors off a stage in full view of most of their peers. The offender “apologised” via voicemail and retained his highly-paid job and position of influence as a respected public commentator. At the time, many journalists excused this disgraceful behaviour and equally disgraceful outcome simply because they disliked the victim. I wrote to Crikey at the time pointing out that, in the real world, most of us would be promptly sacked and our excuses/reasons for such conduct disregarded. It would appear that athletes are also in this rarefied club of professions that are exempt from the same standards the rest of society are expected to follow. On the other hand, bouncers that assault (or even kill) athletes are most certainly not condoned by society, as past experience has shown. Could Crikey please sort out this confusion once and for all and publish a list of the professions that are exempt from ethical concerns so that I can make a career change ASAP? I, like most people, have never been given anywhere near the same level of leeway in any aspect of my life and would love to get a free pass, it only to see how the other, famous half live!

Pattie Tancred writes: Charles Happell writes: “High-profile sportsmen are expected to observe a code of behaviour that simply does not apply to other men and women of their age”. Doesn’t apply? Since when is it OK for anyone to get drunk and smash people in the face? In what benighted corner of this benighted planet does Charles Happell hang out? If it’s somewhere where men and women (of any age) are absolved of standards of behaviour that prevent them from drinking themselves stupid and socking others in the face, then he won’t mind, I’m sure, if one day he encounters one of these charmless inebriated nurks and ends up after “a moment of drunken stupidity” with an elbow in the face and “terrible injuries”.

Nick Smith writes: Charles Happell is correct in his description of Nick D’Arcy. But using a thug like Barry Hall to justify his argument is ridiculous. If I were a parent of an Olympic swimmer I would not want D’Arcy anywhere near my offspring, based purely on the facts as agreed by D’Arcy. Swimming is not the AFL and maybe it is the AFL which has its behavioural standard bar set too low.

Rudd in Japan:

Martin Gordon writes: Re. 10 June’s editorial. I was pleased our PM visited Japan, to repair relations which have been fractured around Asia due to the view around Asia of our perceived pro-China bias under his government. The Japanese are more likely to be receptive to nuclear sympathy than discussions about whaling too. The new committee, to inform a conference to review a convention or whatever sounds like another bureaucratic w-nk. We already have international institutions to deal with nuclear disarmament the IAEA, the NPT etc and also conventions on chemical and biological weapons. The problem states are presently Iran, and North Korea and previously Libya and Iraq. Talking in such high terms turns the media spotlight off the stoush over the building of a nuclear waste storage facility here in Australia, and not supplying uranium to India to avoid a catastrophic increase in greenhouse gas emissions too. The diversion may work for while but the problems won’t go away, so in the interim mission (the diversion) accomplished!

Stephen Magee writes: When Rudd gushed his national “Sorry”, all right-thinking Aussies were washed along in the consequent wave of emotion. Sixty-plus years later, we’re still waiting for the national “Sorry” from Japan. We’ll be waiting for it for a long time yet, because the Japanese still don’t believe that they are at all to blame for the Asia-Pacific War. The Hiroshima memorials are an integral part of this collective national blindness. It is, therefore, a pity that Rudd decided to lend it his support and prestige. Since his Treasurer subsequently chose to give a speech to the Central Party School in Beijing, it would appear that the kòu tóu is now official government policy.

Ward Hack writes: What do the naysayers think Mr Rudd should have written in the book at Hiroshima? How about “You started it — you lost!”

The ABC’s saving the planet:

Leah Marrone writes: Re. “ABC tells kids: save the planet or DIE” (yesterday, item 17). As a child of the 80s I remember not only the grim reaper ads but the strong environmental message that was put in our schools an on TV. A video we watched in the late 80s/early 90s had a child time-travelling and seeing his home flooded… and something about his pet tortoise dying I think… he returned home to stop his mother using a clothes dryer when it was sunny, and his sister using a hairdryer on her dry hair.. And BAM he saved the planet … I clearly remember that video and I was only in primary school when I saw it. This image, along with cartoons like Captain Planet and Widget the World Watcher shaped my early environmental beliefs. Captain Planet had a message at the end of each show on how children could help the environment “the difference is YOU”. Maybe the ABC should show reruns of Captain Planet — it had an impact on many people I know who are now in their mid to late 20s. As for the ABC game — don’t underestimate children — they can take the right messages from such things.

The Henson fracas:

Peter Wesley-Smith writes: A question for Daniel Saks (10 June, comments): why is the Henson affair a matter of informed consent? We don’t raise issues of minors’ consent on matters such as playing football (risking physical injury) or joining a religious cult (risking intellectual injury). Why do we do so in relation to posing for photographs? Is there something special about risking moral injury or whatever it is that the child might suffer? Is it that we are still frightened about anything relating to s-x?

Exporting gas:

Peter Wotton writes: Re. “Alcoa deals crippling blow to Oz resources exports” (yesterday, item 1). Is it beyond the capacity of the gas companies and/or the government to divert one of the large liquefied gas tankers taking gas to the Asian markets from the North West Shelf to a facility in Perth where the gas can be introduced into the Perth system and then also into the outer lying areas?

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