Emissions impossible:

Ben Elliston writes: Re. “How do you halve emissions by 2025? Look to the UK…” (yesterday, item 8). In Amber Jamieson’s article about the complementary measures being used by the UK to reduce emissions, one deserves special mention. While Australian state governments are busy finding ways to minimise the popularity of feed-in tariffs for solar electricity, the UK Renewable Heat Initiative is essentially a feed-in tariff for heat.

Payment levels are differentiated by the technology generating the heat (e.g. solar, geothermal, biomass) and payments are made for any heat that is generated, regardless of how it is used.  While this may seem a bit odd, a production-based incentive is superior to up-front rebates. It reduces the potential for rebates to be absorbed by vendors and keeps buyers focused on system reliability, proper installation and on-going performance.

Can you imagine any government in Australia even willing to propose paying people for the hot water they generate on their own roof?

Australia exists in a parallel universe — presumably the same universe in which the rest of the world is not acting on climate change.


Guy Rundle writes: Re. “The Brocial Network proves just why we need Sl-twalk” (Wednesday, item 13). Mel Campbell accuses me of “telling young women what’s what” in my article on Sl-twalk. Actually, I didn’t. I offered a point of view, comparing it to the “reclaim the night” marches of the 80s and 90s, which can be argued with. Furthermore I explicitly noted that:

“…this position accords so exactly with my nostalgic middle-aged prejudices that there must be something wrong with it.”

…and then offered some arguments about other ways of looking at it, some of which were in favour of Sl-twalk as an event. It’s difficult to know how it would be more possible to make it clear that I didn’t have a simple, stable position on the event.

As far I can tell, most of the criticism of Sl-twalk is coming from within feminism and women’s activism more generally, not from without. Whether the event constitutes a reply to things such as the “brocial network” or plays into it, is a question for others to answer.

Extrajudicial killing:

Greg Edeson writes: Re. Neil James (Wednesday, comments). Far be it from me to point out a simple point, but it is pretty clear that regardless of whether the US (or for that matter the Australia Defence Association) regards itself at war with or in Afghanistan or Osama bin Laden, the US invaded Pakistan to carry out an assassination. Had said assassination happened in France or Argentina, the outcry would have been much louder, but the point is the same — targeted assassinations are expressly illegal under US law, especially this one that was outside a war zone.

And then there’s the moral question — morals (and the laws that seek to uphold them like LOAC) can’t just be cast aside when they’re inconvenient. How would the ADA feel if, say, a team “representing”the people of Iraq flew into the US and “double tapped” George W? The logic behind the extra-judicial killing of OBL is exactly the same.

I’m not sure why the ADA feels the need to so strongly assert the legality of this invasion, or debate the role of colonialist interferences in national politics (from Britain to Russia to the US), but it is getting a bit tired.

John Richardson writes: Whilst it’s entirely reasonable for Neil James to promote the views of his Association, when he does so in a disingenuous fashion, he succeeds only in tarnishing its reputation.

Neil says that the Australia Defence Association “agrees with John Richardson that targeted assassinations are a controversial matter in international law generally and that extra-judicial killings are invariably illegal in both peacetime and war.” Well Neil, that’s not what I said & for you to attempt to fashion a position based on that false claim speaks for itself.

Neil then goes on to boldly assert that “no extra-judicial killing was involved”, before metaphorically shooting himself in the foot and lamely acknowledging the falseness of that assertion by stating: “The lawyers will argue about this for years until customary international law, or less likely revisions of the Hague Convention or the UN Charter, catch up with state practice one way or the other as usually occurs.”

The truth is that Neil’s position is just as contentious as anyone-else’s however, instead of promoting and defending his views based on their merit, he seems more content to try and make his point by twisting or misrepresenting what others may be saying along the way.

Whilst this approach to debate may be acceptable within the hallowed confines of the Defence Association, from my perspective it succeeds only in bringing both Neal and his Association into disrepute.


Michael R. James writes: The three contributions to the debate about Depleted Uranium (yesterday, comments) require further clarification. As someone who did his PhD on radiation-biology I attempted to resolve the issue for Crikey readers in a longish post to the original article. This was a complex problem so I tried to précis the 10,000 word Wiki article on DU but could only conclude that it remains very uncertain. A few relevant extracts:

The chemical toxicity of depleted uranium is about a million times greater in vitro than its radiological hazard.

Normal functioning of the kidney, brain, liver, heart, and numerous other systems can be affected by uranium exposure, because in addition to being weakly radioactive, uranium is a toxic metal.

“Inhalation of insoluble uranium dioxide dust will lead to accumulation in the lungs with very slow clearance — if any … there may be localised radiation damage of the lung leading to cancer.”

But then the contrary case (much more at Wiki):

The IAEA reported in 2003 that, “based on credible scientific evidence, there is no proven link between DU exposure and increases in human cancers or other significant health or environmental impacts,” although “Like other heavy metals, DU is potentially poisonous. In sufficient amounts, if DU is ingested or inhaled it can be harmful because of its chemical toxicity. High concentration could cause kidney damage.” The IAEA concluded that while depleted uranium is a potential carcinogen, there is no evidence that it has been carcinogenic in humans.

Regarding radon, a decay product of uranium, in his Crikey comment John Poppins wrote:

“According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, radon is the second most frequent cause of lung cancer, after cigarette smoking, causing 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year in the United States.”

While it is true that the EPA have this official policy, what the lay reader should know is that it is very contentious among radiobiologists, as I explained in a previous note in Crikey and in a detailed piece by Dr William Sacks at the BraveNewClimate site. The number of radon-caused lung cancers is entirely theoretical and is extrapolated from high-dose data from early (unprotected) uranium miners.

The disputed extrapolation assumes “linear-no-threshold” (LNT), i.e. that even at very low doses there is a proportional impact of radiation, something which we have known for decades is simply not true. The radon lung cancers are imputed and entirely without any supporting actual data. The health advisory bodies (as above) all admit this but persist in applying the precautionary principle even though it raises unnecessary implications for mammography and MRI scans.

But in the case of DU, although any carcinogenic effect of the very low doses is unknown (because of the absence of statistically significant numbers in the studies), together with the clear toxicological effects of the metal it is sufficient to invoke the precautionary principle and not use DU in armor-piercing munitions.

A legality:

Bruce Graham writes: As many writers have told us, “Strauss-Kahn is … entitled to be treated as innocent until proven guilty.” Is it too pedantic to point out that the accepted legal phrase is “Innocent unless proven guilty”.

The difference in presupposition is important. He is refused bail not because of a presupposition of some future judgement and penalty, but because of a current judgement that he is a flight risk.


Keith Thomas writes: Re. “Maley: are we heading for a post-QE2 collapse?” (yesterday, item 19). I am unimpressed with the cut and paste job Karen Maley did with the opinion piece by Richard Koo, chief economist at the Nomura Research Institute.

We have almost 1000 words with “according to Koo”, “Koo says”, “Koo argues”, “Koo points out” and more.

Can we have a bit of value-added, please, focused on the Australian situation rather than an uncritical copying of a piece designed for an American readership?

Power failure:

Dave Horsfall writes: Re. “Post-Fukushima, Loy Yang plant may be sold in fire sale” (yesterday, item 1). Andrew Dodd wrote: “Loy Yang A is a 2200 mw power plant and produces a third of Victoria’s electricity.”

Only 2200 milliwatts?  Jeeze; Victoria doesn’t seem to need much power.

C’mon Crikey, and get your own subediting together before you throw stones at others.

Peter Fray

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