Brendan Nelson and the ETS:

John Goldbaum writes: Re. “With Nelson off-piste, Turnbull might make a run” (yesterday, item 2). Brendan Nelson is not necessarily arguing a different policy position from Malcolm Turnbull, Greg Hunt and Julie Bishop and he is not necessarily confused by the nuances of his own party’s policy. There is a third possible explanation for the Liberal Party’s differences on an ETS starting date. Brendan appears to be telling the green part of the electorate one thing and the dirty and greedy global warming denialists the complete opposite. Unfortunately for Brendan, videotape catches out two-faced, double-dealing, fork-tongued politicians. He may not technically be sitting on the fence but he won’t get away with having a bob each way while walking both sides of the street. Will the real Dr Nelson please come clean?

Mark Byrne writes: It is notable that Brendan Nelson is using his position to focus the public’s attention on the remote possibility that Australia could be left isolated in reducing emissions. (This incredible scenario would require countries already leading emissions reductions to retreat from their current and future stated efforts). Nelson’s game is from the playbook of delay. Such tactics increase the risk of climate catastrophe. “Game Theory” suggests that Australia’s adoption of policies that are seen internationally as “cooperative” and “fair” are most likely to lead to the global agreements required to avoid the worst effects of climate change. It was after all the global leadership of other countries that moved Australia to finally commit to the initial Kyoto protocol. Our solidarity with the emissions reduction leadership group (in doing our part in what is required) will maximise the pressure on the USA to join the rest of the rich nations. This in turn will open the way for developing nations to follow in a fair manner.

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Dr Mark Duffett, research fellow in geophysics at UTAS, writes: Re. “Geosequestration’s fatal flaws: too big, too slow, too gassy” (yesterday, item 13). Christine Milne cannot continue to be allowed to get away with blithe arm-waving on energy options as she did in Crikey yesterday and Q&A last night. None of her objections to geosequestration are valid. Addressing each in turn: “It is not zero emissions”: Up to a 90% reduction isn’t good enough for Ideologically Pure Carbon-free Christine. Of course CO2-sequestered coal burning isn’t zero-emission, nothing is. Even geothermal, plant, solar panel and wind turbine construction entail some CO2 emissions. “Too slow”: Senator Milne apparently thinks we can move to zero-emission energy “in the next few years”. Exactly how many geothermal/solar/wind plants does she think we can construct in that time (as opposed to how many would actually be needed)? Has she calculated how much sequestration infrastructure could be constructed for the same expenditure of industrial effort? Has she any idea of the resource and, yes, energy waste implied by her seeming insistence on switching off and walking away from our existing functional coal mining and energy infrastructure by 2012? “Too big”: So, what, the potential reservoirs are too small? No? Senator Milne’s only objection seems to be that some large (diameter) pipelines might be needed, that this constitutes a ‘techno-fix’ and is therefore bad. It’s called “reservoir engineering”, and it’s how we extract gas that’s been stored underground for millions of years (N.B yes, this is a hint about the reliability of geosequestration). We’ve become very good at it. But again, it comes back to the alternative. How many solar panels do we need to replace our entire coal-fired electricity generating capacity? How many can we install by 2012? How much will this cost? Only when Senator Milne can put some hard numbers on her fantastic vision will the debate “move on”.

Adam Barker writes: With the back and forth on geosequestration: in Crikey over the past few days I have to wonder why nobody has pulled up the Lake Nyos disaster from 1986. Is this technique so different from this or am I reading this wrong? CO2 escaped from an underground reservoir and killed everything that breathes within 20kms of the lake. Surely if we are storing lots and lots of this gas underground which is going to be held under pressure we are aware this could escape? The coal lobby’s argument that CO2 is harmless was a great chuckle, even though it scared the hell out of me. “We breath it out”. Ever tried to breath it in? That’s what concerns me.

Bob Brown:

Ebony Bennett, media advisor to Greens Leader Bob Brown, writes: Re. “Bob Brown — keeping the bastards guessing” (yesterday, item 10). The Greens’ policy priorities, outlined by Senator Brown in his Press Club speech are far more economically responsible than the combined $100 billion in inflationary tax cuts, which the Greens have consistently opposed, implemented by the Howard and Rudd governments over the past few years. Several of the initiatives mentioned by Senator Brown would cost nothing (restoring the right of Territory governments to legislate for death with dignity, applying the Racial Discrimination Act to the NT Intervention, removing discrimination from the Marriage Act); others have already been costed by the Greens. A $30 a week increase in the single aged pension, for example, would cost $3 billion annually and could be funded by scrapping the $3.5 billion Howard government tax cut for people earning more than $75,000 a year (honoured in this year’s federal budget). Reducing power bills and greenhouse gas emissions by retrofitting households with energy saving devices should form part of the compensation the federal government offers to families to help them adjust to the ETS and could be partially funded by the revenue generated from auctioning carbon permits. Not to mention the fact that the Greens are the party advocating a market-driven solution to climate change through an all-inclusive ETS, while the Liberal party prefers to regulate the transport sector.

Peter Garrett’s power:

Simon Rumble writes: Re. “Bob Brown — keeping the bastards guessing” (yesterday, item 10). Bernard Keane says that Peter Garrett opted for a world of compromise, imperfect solutions and negotiations as the price of real power. Sorry, what real power does the minister for opera subsidies and national parks wield?

Obama will save the planet:

Glen Frost writes: Re. “G8: Planet saving undone by self saving” (yesterday, item 5). In July 2007, Roger Beale spoke at a climate change conference. Roger suggested the G8 would not do a deal on climate change until one George W Bush had left the White House. Imagine the media headlines if the G8 did agree a formula to reduce emissions… Bush et al would be heroes… Given that many political leaders haven’t forgiven Bush for WMD/Iraq, and that a sizeable percentage of the world refer to George W as “the toxic Texan”, a deal won’t happen until 2009; Obama can save the world, Bush can’t. Hope this helps Alan Kohler et al with understanding the timeframes for agreement: it isn’t “failure” as you suggest, they’re just holdin’ out for another six months.

GM food:

Dr TJ Higgins, deputy chief, CSIRO Plant Industry writes: Re:CSIRO scientist asks chefs to leave GM foods alone” (8 July, item 2). I wrote to chefs who signed onto Greenpeace’s GM free charter because CSIRO believes it is important to provide the scientific facts around GM to help people make informed decisions about the technology, see CSIRO’s position statement on gene technology. My GM pea research emphasises the effectiveness of case-by-case evaluation of GM plants and the important role science can play in decision-making around the introduction of GM crops. The research does not imply that all GM plants are inherently bad. Food Standards Australia New Zealand undertakes comprehensive evaluation of GM foods to ensure they are safe for human consumption. FSANZ says “This assessment ensures that any approved GM foods are as safe and nutritious as comparable conventional foods already in the Australian and New Zealand food supply.” FSANZ also regulates GM food labelling. Crop varieties, both GM and non-GM, developed by CSIRO are largely delivered to farmers by seed companies. This is usually a commercial arrangement that provides a small amount of funding to CSIRO that is put back into crop research. While commercial products, such as new crop varieties and patents, from our research provide some revenue, we are not dependent on patent income to fund our research. No-one has been sacked from CSIRO for speaking out on GM.

A lack of direction:

Simon Wilkins writes: Re. “Australian skies are like the backblocks of Africa” (8 July, item 13). A frequent Crikey reader but not a frequent flyer, I was on a UA863 flight from San Fran to Sydney yesterday, when two favourite Crikey rants came together. Surrounded by 300 plus World Youth Day attendees (and one orthodox Jewish family) and my headphones tuned in to United’s Pilot radio channel which allows passengers to listen in to Tower/pilot chatter, I waited all flight for the punchline to the joke in which I found myself… thank goodness the flight was uneventful (except for the insipid food, turbulence and, most nauseatingly, the Catholic position on most issues of bioethics). However, the difference in the level of ATC activity between SF (constant) and Sydders (sparse) was quite surprising. Perhaps Ben Sandilands can advise whether this was a function of the traffic levels at the two airports, or whether this reflects a, more concerning, lack of direction to pilots?

Trading bullsh-t:

Michele Stephens writes: Re. Kieran Masel (yesterday, comments). Right on. The latest chattering class reminds me of that old maternal admonishment, “Moving food around your plate is NOT eating it!” How long will it be before Australia does something to prevent carbon emission? London is using combined heat and power, Germany has adopted photovoltaic solar and four countries have now abandoned nuclear power (Sweden, Germany, Belgium and Spain). Grrrrr.

Ignaz Amrein writes: Kieran Masel please start a petition, I’m the first one to sign!


Adam Rope writes: Last week Michael Vanderlaan (2 July, comments) wrote, in a response to an ABC Learning article in Crikey, about ABC Mona Vale raising its fee’s by 15%. Not the publicised 11%, but 15%. I can report that down the road at ABC Warriewood, they’ve done exactly the same thing. Anybody else out there think that a near $75 per fortnight price rise is justifiable? And, after our child attending for nearly 4fourrs there, we are going to find another option.

Satin watch:

Zachary King writes: Actually Maurie Farrell (yesterday, comments), I love the satin watch. In the interests of disclosure I am not media, have never been media and god help me never will be. I still love satin watch and to be quite honest have no idea why it titillates me so. It’s Crikey’s very own home grown meme – keep it up.

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