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Nov 15, 2011

Renewables are the way of the future

Crikey readers have their say.

Climate change:

John Hunwick writes: Re. Friday’s Editorial. On Friday Crikey reported that the International Energy Agency (which has denied for years that there was any energy problem in the foreseeable future) has now woken up in a funk and realised that we are in a desperate situation. Renewables are the way of the future.

Mark Duffett (yesterday, comments) demands that Martin Ferguson’s support for coal and nuclear is the better option than the one offered by Christine Milne. But Ferguson maintains, of all things, that renewables are too expensive. He obviously has no idea of economics and how costs change with development. In case he missed it (from “Richard Farmer’s chunky bits“:

“David Crane, the CEO of one of America’s largest electric utilities that produces power for some 20 million US households with over 90% of it coming from natural gas and coal:

“We believe that in the next 3 to 5 years you’ll be able to get power cheaper from the roof of your house than from the grid. Solar is going to go from this thing that right now is like .1 percent of the market to 20 to 30 percent of the overall electricity mix. That’s huge … If you go back about four years to where the price of solar modulars were, the prices have been cut in half in the last four years. I predict that the price of solar modules will be cut in half again in the next two years…”

Unless we ignore the unsubstantiated arguments of Ferguson and supporters like Duffett, we will rapidly enter a phase of change that may occur too quickly and be too costly to reverse.

Adam Michell writes: I’ve been waiting for a comment from Tamas Calderwood (yesterday, comments) ever since the Berkley Earth Temperature Study report was released around October 21, in which team leader Professor Richard Muller (arguably the more credible of global warming sceptics) confirming somewhat to his surprise the level of warming closely matches the results of other measuring teams. And what a delight to see Tamas is at long last acknowledging the reality of a warming planet.

John Bushell writes: Mark Duffett and Tamas Calderwood: In 1939 and the early 1940s European countries (and slightly later the US and Japan) mobilised industry in an unprecedented effort to create, ships, submarines, war planes and armaments to fight a war for political freedom. The freedom they fought for was for themselves and future generations.

Now, a declaration by the majority of the world’s major nations of a “war on global warming” would ignite a similar mobilisation to achieve the sort of greenhouse gas reduction targets the Greens are talking about and that are required to avoid the extinction of oxygen-breathing creatures on earth.

We should question why the political and, in some cases, the community will is lacking for such an initiative.  Could it be that those who will suffer — and suffer mightily they will — are a few generations in the future and we are just too selfish to take the necessary action now?

Anonymous comments:

Brian Mitchell writes: Re. “The campaign to rid anonymous comments from the internet” (yesterday, item 14). I’d love to see the media stop publishing anonymous contributions, as in the main such contributions are destructive, negative and offer little in the way of improving public discourse or policy.

I’ve long been of the view that people with something to say should put their name to it, and particularly if what they have to say reflects on someone else or their work.

When editor of the Herald group of newspapers in WA, I instituted a policy, that I am happy to report continues long after my departure, of putting anonymous contributions at the bottom of the pile, and of informing readers that for anonymous letters to be published, a very good reason had to be provided (such as threat of violence, loss of job, etc). This has had the effect of improving the quality of the letters and the level of civility.

The online letters sections of media organisations are littered with offensive comments written by people with often ridiculous non de plumes. Some of the comments are foul beyond imagining and I doubt the writers would use such language if their real names were attached.

For a proper public conversation to take place we need to know who we’re talking to, and who’s talking to us.

Frankly, I think journalists’ holy grail of source anonymity needs revisiting too: far too many lazy journalists rely on the “sources say” for their stories and too many creepy politicians sidle up to journalists with leaks and “scoops”, knowing they aren’t to be held accountable for their treachery.

It should be easy enough for media organisations to demand that their contributors register in order to comment, using their proper name and an email address to verify (this has the added benefit of preventing a single commentator from creating multiple user names to flood an opinion column, unless they’re so committed they create multiple Yahoo! and Google email addresses) and then manage them.

The News Limited’s outpost in southern Tasmania, The Mercury, recently shifted policy to insist that commentators provide real names. It’s led to a marked drop in the number of comments, but a definite improvement in their quality.

It’s amazing how quickly cockroaches scurry back into the shadows when you shine a light on them.

Lesley Gruit writes: Why is it that the generally accepted rules of behaviour outside of cyberspace seemingly have to be renegotiated?

If somebody sends you an email demanding you forward it to others otherwise you won’t get good luck, then it is a chain letter. Just like the ones with stamps on.  And if somebody sends a comment hiding behind a pseudonym then it is an anonymous letter, just like the ones with stamps on.

They weren’t ever acceptable when delivered by your postal service so why would they be when they come via your internet provider?

Patricia O’Donnell writes: No comment should be published in any form, print, internet, broadcast, without attribution. There is a degree of spite and malice enabled by complete anonymity, which diminishes us all. And has depraved the quality of public debate. Whistleblowers have protocols to protect them, for good reasons. All others should be prepared to identify themselves.


Justin Templer writes:  Jim Hart wrote that we are now in the era of Books Without Borders, thus effectively making irrelevant the debate as to whether “a tax on books is a tax on knowledge”.

In fact we have moved far beyond discussing whether books are knowledge and whether knowledge is taxed. If my children want to know anything, they Google it. Tax free. I won’t posit a “paradigm shift”, but only because Wikipedia tells me that the phrase is abused and overused.

Video games:

Simon Bush, chief executive, The Australian Home Entertainment Distributors Association, writes: Re. “Video games explosion as duty calls gamers” (yesterday, item 16). I don’t at all begrudge the success of the games industry, in fact kudos to them, however, I often see reports saying that the games industry is worth more than that of DVD or film. However, we are not comparing apples with apples as games statistics include hardware, our figures do not and only include software.

“While video game sales decreased in 2010 for the first in the past two years — down 16% — they still amassed $1.7 billion in hardware and boxed software sales. Despite the reduction, video games were still able to eclipse DVD/Blu-ray sales — $1.2 billion – and sales at the box office — $1.1 billion.”

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9 thoughts on “Renewables are the way of the future

  1. Roger Clifton

    John Bushell calls for a global mobilisation to fight a “war on global warming”, a heroic call which would many of us would answer. However here in Crikeyspace, we are surrounded by people who would rather replace it with a “crusade for renewables”. While we can respect other people’s religious beliefs, we should not let them impose their bigotries upon the rest of us, upon the climate itself, and on the generations that follow.

    We are not running out of nonrenewables while we are endlessly finding more. We are running out of places to grow food, build solar farms and windmills, and we are running out of atmosphere to dump our waste gases. Now, can you really remember what you hold against nuclear?

  2. klewso

    Nice ideal, but again, it might be a stupid question (but that’s never stopped me before, so here goes) :- what system of verification is in place, and used, anywhere, to ensure that the name subscribed is the actual name of the subscriber? That someone hasn’t gained access to someone else’s “resource” and used it to correspond? How do I know “you” are who you say you are? A password can be issued to a false name as easily to a real one?
    Which “newspaper” (if we’re going to hold them up as paragons – with their resources behind them, at their disposal, for good or other) does that sort of verification – or does “a phone call” to that given, suffice?
    Sometimes it appears “any name” would satisfy this “anti-nom de plume” argument as it’s being waged by some?
    For all you know I could be Spartacus! Or Lord Lucan, Kerry Parker, Russell Heinz, Michael Jackson even Terry Lewis – or a mixture.

  3. Mark Duffett

    John Hunwick, for the purposes of decarbonising our economy it doesn’t matter how cheap solar from your roof gets, if it’s not giving you a watt after sunset.

  4. klewso

    What beats me is the number of so-called “professional journalists” letting their prejudices compromise their impartiality and professionalism, influencing their attitude, emotion and the language they use, when dealing differently with either side of politics, dependent on party, tainting their reporting of events – initiating this sort of “reaction to politics” – who seem so much to be leading this crusade against the sort of language used anonymously. As if they, in their “amorality through position”, had nothing to do with fostering this sort of “heated political debate”, and get all antsy when it comes washing back.

  5. sauron256

    Justin Templer: don’t worry, I changed Wikipedia, it’s not abused and overused any more.

  6. Dogs breakfast

    From the top!

    Roger Clifton – what I still hold against nuclear! Too easy.

    How about that as it is a finite resource, it is just responding to one problem with the same logic that created the first problem!!!! So that would be dumb.

    2 – It can’t be done, politically, in Australia at least. Reality bites

    3 – due to the vast engineering and concrete involved, it is unlikely that building a nuclear power plant actually reduces carbon output at all over its life, so it actually doesn’t help the problem at all.

    Three strikes and you’re out.

    Add in that current nuclear plants create extremely long lived extremely toxic by-product, so that would be dumb.

    Yes, thorium – thorium reactors will save the planet, except that I read this week comments form one of the world’s leading academics who wrote that there are still significant technical and engineering problems to solve before thorium can even be considered. By the time thorium is up and running the world could be entirely renewably run.

    Nuclear is the answer to a question nobody asked, and a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.

    But apart from that, yeah, nuclear is great.

  7. Dogs breakfast

    Yes Mr Duffett, solar ceases to work after sunset, except for those solar mechanisms that are storing power (batteries, molten salt, a number of technologies actuallly)

    And wind ceases to provide electricity when the wind isn’t blowing, but geothermal is forever, as is tidal, some recent wave energy technology shows huge promise.

    No one individual renewable technology answers all of the power generation needs at all times however all of them together do and will.

    An effort equivalent to the pre-war build up suggested by John Bushell is an intriguing thought as it may actually come to that.

    We just have to stop the mentality that this is a problem for future generations to solve.

  8. Holden Back

    Cue the ‘sceptic’ backlash against Bjorn Lomborg now he thinks renewables are the way to go?

  9. Mark Duffett

    Dogs Breakfast, from the top, all your points are wrong or misconceived.

    1) With Integral Fast Reactors, the supply of fissionables can be extended for many millennia without needing to mine any more. With further mining, this goes out to millions of years ( Certainly at least as ‘forever’ as artificial geothermal, which can be characterised as either heat mining or an extremely inefficient and slow nuclear reactor.

    2) Last I heard (from a Bernard Keane report, IIRC) support for nuclear in Australia had fallen only just below 40%, a month or two post-Fukushima. The GST was introduced with less support than that. And why bother having any debate on anything ever if the status quo can never be changed?

    3) ‘…the vast engineering and concrete involved’…except that full lifetime considered, per kWh generated nuclear uses five to fifteen times less concrete and steel than wind and solar (,

    4) ‘extremely long lived extremely toxic by-product’


    Yes there are such things as batteries, but good luck trying to build and sustain a national grid with several million lead-acids or AAs. My original response was to John Hunwick’s trumpeting of impending solar-grid ‘parity’. You can be sure that when it comes to cost calculations leading to such claims, it’s very much a case of ‘batteries (or any other storage) not included’.