Clarification:

Crikey says: Re. “Conroy making history with public interest test” (yesterday, item 3). Yesterday, in a story about the proposed public interest test on media ownership, Matthew Knott wrote, “According to media regulation experts contacted by Crikey, Britain is the only country known to have introduced a public interest test on media ownership.” Since publication, it has come to our attention that the US media regulator, the Federal Communications Commission, assesses whether major media and telecommunications mergers would benefit or harm the “public interest, convenience, and necessity”. Our story has been updated to reflect this.

Carbon tax:

Geoff Russell writes: Re. “Why the federal government has failed at solar” (yesterday, item 9). Giles Parkinson seems intent on blaming the government for the failure of the Solar Flagships program. But is there any government anywhere that has turned solar power from cool to practical?

Parkinson mentions that the Japanese plan 28GW from solar PV in this decade. Let’s assume they succeed. Will that be worthy of boasting  or despair? Because 28 GW of solar PV will produce about 29 terawatt hours of energy per year at particular times of the year and day. That 28 GW as a response to climate change is raising the white flag. It is pitiful. In the 1980s, Japan built nuclear plants that generated about three times the energy and made it reliably available 24/7. In the same decade France built nuclear plants that generated about six times the energy. In Germany, a decade of feed-in tariff redistributions of wealth to the wealthy has produced just 20 terawatt hours per year from solar PV. Again, this is pitiful.

If Australia was to succeed in generating 28 terawatt hours per annum from rooftops by 2030, is that a lot? It’s about 13% of current electrical energy needs of 229 terawatt hours (according to ESAA). Keep in mind that dealing with climate change means we need to replace energy from oil and gas along with that from coal. So we need much, much more electricity. So we will really just have dealt with 13% of the smallest, easiest part of the problem. I’m a cyclist who loves nothing better than saddling up 7.5 kilograms of high-tech carbon fibre and alloy, but there are times when you really need trucks. Big mother trucks.

Climate change isn’t about choosing the coolest technologies, it’s about stuff that works. Stuff that scales.

Martin Gordon writes: The letters columns and airwaves are full of the usual piffle from the usual suspects about carbon tax. I agree with acting to reduce carbon emissions and understand the economics, but I am astounded at occasional references to coral bleaching (which is not going to stop), claims that other nations are heading down the same path (which is massively overstated) and a sales pitch that is sounds like “money for us” (as part of its electioneering strategy) and Labor attempts to create the doubt about the potential lack of permanence of the tax from a change of government.

The biggest lie is the carbon tax is only paid by polluters, as if it were true you would not have to compensate consumers. The Labor claim that the Coalition is planning to tax taxpayers for its plans is clearly misleading, as that is really the essence of its own carbon tax policy. Under the carbon tax, you pay the tax when you buy anything that has an energy input (i.e. everything) and you are partially compensated by social security and tax changes. The massive churn of money, which achieves little, is my greatest concern and this is the European experience, so you get the costs but little benefit.

Ironically, the most effective current government measures to reduce emissions are some direct outlays (similar to Coalition proposals) to close some particularly polluting power stations, for example. In Europe the same has happened.

The carbon tax increases prices, creates a vast bureaucratic industry and itself will make little difference to emissions. Down the track, the volume and cost of emission permits we will need to buy and the churn of money is staggering.

The carbon tax is a tax, not a reform, built on a prime minister’s lie (plus some dreadful singing, and a complete lack of any moral imperative).

John Kotsopoulos writes: I am sorry that, while I support solar energy, I will never be convinced that encouraging people to plonk solar panels on their roofs in willy-nilly fashion is a sustainable way to go.

The claims of savings are based on the lower cost of installation brought about by large taxpayer-funded subsidies and overly generous and unsustainable feed-in tariffs. Meanwhile, the subsidies are reducing and the feed-in tariffs are being brought back more into line with the value of electricity being produced.

As the solar panels and associated equipment all have a finite life, the issue of opportunity cost and depreciations must also be factored in, in addition to the costs of an annual clean for the panels. When the solar installations reach the end of their economic life, we must also consider what will happen if home owners decide that without government largesse they cannot afford to replace their equipment.   Based on  comments I have seen, some in the electricity industry see domestic solar as a reason to slacken off on investment in future supply infrastructure. This is a potential disaster in the making.

Go solar by all means but give the incentives to commerce and industry to do it on an appropriate scale, so what is done is sustainable and does not risk mortgaging our future electricity security.

Ian Lowe writes: How can the Coalition get away with its repeated claim that the minuscule $23 per tonne of carbon dioxide is “the world’s biggest carbon tax”? Five minutes research shows that Sweden introduced a carbon price more than four times that much 20 years ago and has increased it since, that Norway, Denmark and Finland also have substantial carbon charges.

Politicians are usually careful to make statements that are factually correct but deliberately misleading. In this case, they are repeating (literally ad nauseam) a barefaced lie. Why don’t we have a media that expose this sort of deception?

Peter Fray

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