How Green is my Coat?

16 02 2007

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few things twist my knickers more than Little Johnny (described by Dubya as “a man of principle” – high praise indeed) demonstrating he has no principles (other than a tendency to foist his Christian doctrine views on Australians), and in its place an amoral stance for the sake of political expediency.

while being interviewed by Tony Jones on ABC’s Lateline 5/2/07, these are a few of his latest words on global warming & what he thinks Australia’s ‘response’ should be, now that he’s suddenly donned on his new green coat:

“We have to play our part, but we have massive advantages because of our fossil fuels. We have uranium and, therefore, the potential of nuclear power, and we want to behave in a way that plays to Australia’s strengths and protects Australia’s employment. We don’t want to give all of that away in some kind of knee jerk reaction that damages the Australian economy.”

“…and the whole focus of our policy should be on reducing carbon emissions in a way that doesn’t damage the Australian economy unreasonably or unfairly”

when asked if he thought coal-fired power stations were a major, if not the major contributor to global warming:

“Stationary power is certainly, yes, all round the world, and that’s why getting cleaner coal, it’s why looking at nuclear, which is the cleanest option of all, to run power stations you can’t run power stations, on the Australian experience, on wind and solar. You either run them on the way they’re run now, it’s predominantly coal or gas or sometimes hydro, or you run them, in the future, with nuclear. Nuclear becomes more viable economically as the cost of running coal fired power stations increases with the adoption of cleaner technology.”

more on nuclear being the “cleanest option” in a later post, but which will it be, PM, “clean” coal (a political tool/term for a technology that doesn’t exist yet), or nuclear? if you think “clean” coal will be too expensive & therefore nuclear is the only way to go, then just shut up about “clean” coal, ok?

“We are lucky as a country because we have the vast reserves of coal, and we’re the largest coal exporter in the world and we employ a lot of people in that industry and I’m determined that any response we provide doesn’t unfairly disadvantage or hurt them. The issue is, how can we, maintaining our economic strength, reduce the amount of carbon we’re putting into the atmosphere? Now, that’s the challenge and that’s why we want to keep the nuclear option on the table, and that’s why we want to look at clean coal technology.”

“lucky”, if you ignore the flip-side that our coal exports are a substantial part of the biggest problem in human history.

how can you even start the decade-long process of replacing coal with nuclear & still not unfairly disadvantage or hurt the coal industry? even using carbon sequestration to delay the inevitable will take just as long to develop, commercialise & roll out as nuclear, & also involves huge infrastructure costs, all of which adds up to higher energy costs for consumers. or is all this hot air about carbon sequestration just to make sure the coal industry vote for you later this year?

when pressed further on the question of whether continuing to export coal for use in dirty power stations (as virtually all of them are) is in Australia’s best interest as regards our share of global warming’s impact, i believe he’s correct – if you keep your morals out of the equation – that doing so would kill most of our coal industry and still not achieve much impact on global warming, as our cheap coal export recipients (Japan takes the lion’s share of our exports, & China is likely to become a major component too) would simply buy it elsewhere &/or use their own…

…unless all coal exporters put their balls on the block & stop selling it at the same time they stop using it themselves; a lofty & unlikely-at-this-stage goal to say the least.

on the issue of carbon taxing or trading schemes, and whether – as an alternative – the government should simply legislate that Australia’s coal-fired power stations adopt the carbon sequestration technologies Howard himself disingenuously espouses:

“That doesn’t sound very much to me like a market mechanism, when you compel somebody to apply a particular technology. It is far better, if you want to keep faith with the market approach, to develop a carbon pricing or carbon trading system”

legislating the population toward self-preservation worked for the transition away from leaded petrol, and away from ozone layer depleting CFCs, to name just a couple off the top of my head for which we & our children are already reaping the benefit. oh, that’s right, it was the former government that lead those changes (in Australia) for the public interest, despite the financial pain.

“It’s a question of how you do it and it’s a question of ensuring that Australia doesn’t become the international mug and introduces a system that penalises us, to the disadvantage of this country internationally. That’s why I’ve been very keen to link what we might do here with what is done internationally.”

i’m suddenly reminded of the two dorks interviewed in The Corporation who paid for their college tuition fees by announcing to the mass media “hi, we’re proud to be sponsored by <major coporation name>!”.  It was a totally unsustainable technique for anyone stupid enough to follow their footsteps when the media ceases to give a shit after the first stunt.  One of them (not the blond one!) went on to say “I have alot of faith in the corporate world because it’s always going to be there so you may as well have faith in it, because if you don’t then it’s just not good”.  nice to see those corporate funds creating some insightful future Suits poised with undoubtely more unsustainable tactics with which to take the world by storm.

when not placing their faith in a system that allows a collection of people to behave typically amorally, and sometimes totally imorally (by legislation requiring the bottom line to be put ahead of all other interests, even the public good), economists sometimes talk about the need for “destruction” to make way for “creation” in economic markets. and they would be right. as a society & its needs mature, old industries die out and new ones replace them – it’s been a frequent reality throughout industrial history. you do what you can for the displaced employees, but ultimately their jobs have to go, whether they’re blacksmiths, whalers, photolab film developers, or coal miners, whether it’s because we don’t need, or don’t want, their industry. when baking the cake kills you AND your neighbours, it doesn’t matter whether it’s an Australian or a Chinaman doing the eating.

it seems to me that John Howard:

  • doesn’t have much faith in the economic benefit of carbon sequestration for coal-fired plants & merely talks about it because he needs to be seen talking green instead of just Nuke Nuke Nuke.
  • will lead us invariably to nuclear power despite its massive infrastructural costs which we the consumer will ultimately pay for, all the while the “not in our backyard” mentality towards locations for both generation &, critically, the storage of nuclear waste permeating every Australian electorate (from hypothetical local consumption, as well as from that we already export) – especially South Australia which already has vast areas cordoned off from WW2 nuclear testing and some of the most geologically stable areas of the continent, good safe water port access, & despite loads of money to be made from providing world-class much-needed storage facilities.
  • has no intention of setting the stage for a prompt but graceful move from coal to any other technology (other than decade-hence nuclear, or hypothetical clean-coal) for fear of losing coal votes while he is in office, & obviously leaving that political suicide job to the next guy.
  • as usual intends to play Follow-The-USALeader, having no intention of being a leader of Australia, or on the world stage, by seriously & promptly encouraging the commercialisation & roll-out of proven renewable technologies, in deliberate preference to insisting that an alternative to coal has to fit with the existing Big Power generation paradigm & infrastructure (refer to my previous post on the decentralisation & democratisation of renewable technologies).

in other words, John Howard is STILL putting short term Big Business interests way ahead of the long-term sustainability of Big Business & the habitability of the country in which they & we reside.

this issue is too important to be influenced by comparatively insignificant political concerns & partisanship. if we do not address the issue now, there will not be a pleasant blue-green planet on which to play the game of politics. yet political posturing is the best John Howard can come up with – yet again.

next PM please.

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