Carbon copy

Geoff Russell writes: Re. “The Power Index: our long list of carbon cutters” (yesterday). Cutting carbon? Australia? Is that a joke? What were Australia’s CO2 emissions per kilowatt hour of electricity in 1990? According to the International Energy Agency, they were 817 grams of CO2 per kWh. And in 2010? 841 grams of CO2 per kWh. We have gone backwards in what will be the critical energy source of coming decades. Our major reductions in emissions have come by the sheer accident of having the bottom fall out of the wool market in 1990, and our 170 million sheep dropped to just  70 million now. If we hadn’t increased the cattle population, we’d have had even deeper savings.

And what were France’s emissions of CO2 per kWh in 1990? 105 grams of CO2 per kWh. And in 2010? 79 grams of CO2 per kWh. And how about the wunderkind of renewable energy, Germany? 607 grams of CO2 per kWh in 1990 and 461 grams of CO2 per kWh in 2010. But the wheels have fallen off the renewable wagon well and truly as Germany plans to open more coal power stations in 2013 than in the last 20 years.

You’ll know the world is serious about climate change when it stops its irrational phobia about nuclear electricity and does a massive nuclear build similar to that of France in the 1970s and ’80s. China has shown precisely this seriousness, and as its ongoing nuclear build comes online during this decade, its emissions will fall dramatically. They are already lower than Australia’s at 766 grams of CO2 per kWh in 2010.

Roy Ramage writes: Missing from your list is Professor Andrew Blakers of ANU, whose 2002 paper “Solarisation” described the quickest way to reduce energy costs and carbon production was via the mass retrofitting of solar panels. Now almost one million Australian homes have done so via a mix of group purchasing, market forces and government incentives. The results are extraordinary both in terms of money saved and carbon gas saved.

South Australia’s case is especially noteworthy. So while your Power Index folks have been to-ing and fro-ing, Australians, particularly regional Australians, have been acting and changing the power game forever. This in an economic development of singular importance. The feel-good part of carbon saving is a secondary benefit. Your carbon cutter power list will have to work very hard just to equal this.

Mark Latham for PM

Keith Thomas writes: Re. “Latham: I only said what Robb had said himself” (yesterday). Thank goodness, Mark Latham has turned his gaze on targets other than has-been Gerard Henderson. After reading Mark Latham’s 2005 Diaries I reckon he would have made a great prime minister — a mix of the best of Gorton, Whitlam and Keating. He has his weaknesses (as did Bob Hawke), but — as in the case of Hawke — I am confident he would have held them in check. Keep it up, Mark!

New, troubled Age

Barry Donovan writes: Re. “The verdict is in as Fairfax goes ‘compact’: The Age” (yesterday). Comments about the new Age should include the fact that the last time The Age launched a compact tabloid was the afternoon “Newsday” in 1969. which lasted all of about 18 months despite providing a Melbourne reporter’s bolthole for the first time for the redoubtable Piers Akerman, over from the west for the first time.

It was a remarkable choice today for the so-called centre-Left Age to run Malcolm Fraser and Amanda Vanstone ( a regular) as two of their three Opinion page writers and for the third to be Katharine Murphy, who is about to leave the paper’s Canberra bureau. And the new Age‘s so-called superior writing and insights in Canberra will now be without Michelle Grattan and other senior Fairfax journalists jumping ship, with Michael Gordon left almost alone to keep us informed. Combine that with the redundancy and resignation cleanout of a majority of the old Age‘s senior journos in Melbourne late last year, and the new Age faces  enormous challenges in 2013. But at least editor Andrew Holden’s mum likes it, as she said on ABC radio on Monday.