Tag Archives: Australia

Both sides of politics are expecting a significant power price rise from the IPART today. They disagree on the cause. (Gary Rivett: ABC News)

The New South Wales Government is predicting households will soon be paying an extra $300 a year for electricity, but the Federal Government has rejected suggestions its carbon tax is to blame.

The state’s Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal’s (IPART) draft recommendations for electricity prices are due out today.

State Energy Minister Chris Hartcher is anticipating a sharp increase in power prices.

He says the carbon tax and green schemes such as the Renewable Energy Target scheme are the main reasons for the price spike.

“Unless the carbon tax and the green schemes are scrapped, it’s estimated that the average household in New South Wales will pay an additional $300 a year or more,” Mr Hartcher said.

“Now power bills have been rising sharply over recent times and an increase of this magnitude, over $300 a year, is going to hit families hard, is going to hit businesses hard.

“Don’t go ahead with the carbon tax, or if you have to go ahead with the carbon tax, despite every indication that you shouldn’t, at least scrap these green schemes, which are unaffordable.”

Federal Climate Change Minister Greg Combet has rejected Mr Hartcher’s criticism.

“When you look at what’s been driving electricity price increases in New South Wales in recent years, and what we’d expect from IPART today, the overwhelming contributing factors are state factors,” he said.

“Things such as the investment in the poles and wires or the solar panel rooftop programs that have been run out of New South Wales. That’s what’s been fundamentally driving electricity price rises.”

Mr Combet says households will be compensated for any power price rise associated with the carbon tax.

“Any electricity price rise that IPART indicates today that is attributable to the carbon price coming in is met by the Federal Government paying tax cuts to families, increasing family tax benefits for families with kids, an increase in the single pension, an increase in the pension for couples, payments for self funded retirees,” Mr Combet said.

Author: Mark Tobin – NSW political reporter
Source: Australian Broadcasting Corporation


Some scientists say regulators should require companies to feed GM foods to rats for two years before approving them for humans (iStockphoto: Creativeye99)

The Australian food authority has again defended itself against criticisms that its testing of GM food is inadequate.

French molecular biologist Professor Gilles-Eric Seralini of the University of Caen made the criticisms during a recent lecture tour of Australia.

Seralini first raised concerns about genetically modified organisms early last decade when he was with the French government authority that was assessing them.

He has since founded the non-profit Committee for Research and Independent Information on Genetic Engineering (CRIIGEN) which has been investigating the safety of GM food.

For example, in 2007 his team published a scientific peer reviewed paper on the health effects of Monsanto’s Bt corn product, MON863.

The corn, which has been engineered to produce an insecticidal protein normally produced by the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is approved for sale internationally, including in Australia.

In the study, Seralini and colleagues reanalysed Monsanto’s raw data and concluded that rats fed the corn showed evidence of liver and kidney toxicity.

The MON863 data had originally been kept as a commercial secret by the company, says Seralini. It was only released under a court order in a case taken by the German government against Monsanto, using lawyers funded by Greenpeace.

Since the reanalysis of MON863 data, his team has also raised questions over other GM foods.

Speaking at a symposium at the University of Technology, Sydney last week, Seralini criticised the Australian food regulator’s protocols for assessing GM food safety as inadequate.

He says long-term animal feeding studies are necessary to determine whether any chronic disease including cancers develop.

“We would like to see two-year long studies in rats because they are the lab animals that are used for all kinds of drugs, chemicals and pesticides all over the world,” says Seralini.

Internationally-accepted protocols

Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) has approved more than 50 GM foods imported into Australia and says it uses internationally-accepted protocols to assess the foods. The authority does not agree with the usefulness of animal feeding studies.

Although not generally requiring GM companies to submit such studies, FSANZ says it has considered Seralini’s reanalysis of Monsanto’s raw data on MON863 and does not believe the issues he raises are valid.

Regulatory agencies in Europe, Canada, Japan, Mexico, US and Korea have all independently considered the safety data associated with the corn and have concluded there are no safety concerns, a FSANZ spokesperson says.

But scientists like Seralini say the tests used by regulatory authorities like FSANZ wouldn’t pick up the full range of possible impacts of GM food.

Seralini says genes from otherwise naturally-occurring proteins like the bacterial insecticidal Bt are altered when they are inserted into plants and this may produce unexpected effects.

A 2005 publication by Australian scientists doing research and development on a GM pea showed that when a bean gene was expressed in the pea, it produced a modified protein that produced an altered immune response when fed to mice.

Independence and funding

Seralini criticises FSANZ and other regulatory authorities for failing to obtain independent assessments of GM food, saying this was the case with MON863.

“All the tests were performed by the industry,” he says.

While FSANZ has published criticisms of Seralini’s work on its website, ABC Science Online could only find one rebuttal of Seralini’s work published in a peer reviewed journal, which was a study funded by Monsanto.

Seralini says his organisation accepts funding from anyone who is not involved with the biotech industry.

His Australian lecture tour was funded by Greenpeace and Seralini has provided expertise to the European Union, Ministry of Environment in Quebec, and the Supreme Court in India, among others.

CRIIGEN is now looking for donations of 3 million Euros to fund a two-year rat feeding study on three major GM foods, including MON863.

“It’s little money compared to the money that has been spent by governments to develop the biotech industry,” says Searlini. “It’s a lot more than has ever been given to one independent lab.”

Chemical effects

Seralini is also concerned about the effect of chemicals associated with GM crops.

One of the most widely used type of GM crops today is design to be tolerant to the herbicide Roundup.

Seralini’s team reports finding evidence that even low levels of Roundup residues can have toxic effects on human cells.

“We saw not only toxicity but endocrine-disrupting effects,” he says.

Seralini criticises regulators for only requiring the full range of toxicity tests on active ingredients of agricultural chemicals.

The actual formulation used in the field contains a mixture of chemicals and the toxicity of that mixture should be tested, says Seralini.

FSANZ says the toxicity of herbicides is a matter for Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority and the Office of Chemical Safety in the Department of Health, but defends the safety record of Roundup.

Author: Anna Salleh
Source: ABC – Australian Broadcasting Corporation


THE recent clinching of a $1.9 billion Australian defence contract by the Germans illustrates to carbon price knockers that they need look no further for proof that an economy which relies on renewable energy can outsmart one dependent on fossil fuels.

Germany is currently the world-leader in installing renewable energy. (Credit: iStockphoto)

Germany’s electricity sector delivers 21 per cent of its power from renewable sources, such as the wind and the sun. Just 8.5 per cent of Australian power is provided by these sources, despite the fact that our continent has them in spades compared to the Germans.

This month it was reported that a Bendigo workshop planned to lay off 50 staff because it had missed out on a government contract to supply vehicles for the Australian Army.

The tender for Land 121 Phase 3 military vehicles was won late last year by German consortium Rheinmetall MAN which will export about 2,700 fully assembled vehicles to Australia.

The Bendigo manufacturer, operated by French engineering giant Thales, had been building the required military vehicles under a previous contract.

But now, the Thales retrenchments will add to a growing list of Australian based employers who are cutting jobs and threatening to push our unemployment rate close to six per cent in 2012, according to CommSec economists.

Anxiety over the potential of the Eurozone crisis to wreak havoc around the globe is undoubtedly driving the softness in the Australian economy.

But what of Germany, which finds itself at the epicenter of the EU debt maelstrom?

How is it possible that a nation shouldering the lion’s share of bailing out Europe’s basket-case economies has its finances in the best shape ever in two decades?

The yearly German unemployment rate keeps falling and at 6.7 per cent in January was the lowest since reunification. The Berlin based BGA Exporters and Wholesalers group estimated total German exports hit a record $US1.3 trillion last year.

This is hardly a picture of an economy that has been struggling under the impost of a carbon cost and renewable energy subsidies.

Energy production using fossil and nuclear fuels is penalised in Germany by virtue of the Renewable Energy Act, which guarantees higher prices for generators of electricity sourced from wind and solar through feed-in-tariffs.

The legislation has encouraged a phenomenal uptake of solar roof panels for a nation that hardly boasts sunny weather. Today Germany has over 150 million solar panels installed or 25,000MW, more than Australia’s entire baseload capacity.

Compare that with a mere 1,250MW of photovoltaic panels in the sunburnt country and the irony is scorching.

Critics who claim that pricing carbon using feed-in-tariffs, taxes or emissions trading is somehow linked to an underperforming economy and high jobless rates ought to be silenced by Germany’s success in bursting that myth.

And if the proof in the pudding is not enough for the naysayers, they could look to volumes of published material demonstrating that the early costs of encouraging renewable energy benefit an economy in a matter of years.
Respected energy experts Dr Wolfram Krewitt and Dr Joachim Nitsch’s published research while at the German Aerospace Centre that is regularly cited to drive home this point.

In a peer reviewed paper they wrote: “While the success of the German Renewable Energy Sources Act in supporting the use of renewable energy sources for electricity generation is widely acknowledged, it is partly criticised for imposing unjustified extra costs on society.

“[This] paper makes an attempt to estimate the external costs avoided in the German energy system due to the use of renewable energies for electricity generation, and to compare them against the compensation to be paid by grid operators for electricity from renewable energies according to the Renewable Energy Sources Act.

“… [R]esults clearly indicate that the reduced environmental impacts and related economic benefits do outweigh the additional costs for the compensation of electricity from renewable energies,” Krewitt and Nitsch concluded.

Another misleading argument renewable energy doubters like to peddle is that the rise in renewable energy use and the reduction in coal use is only possible in economies that also have a nuclear sector, to supply supposedly ‘reliable’ electricity when ‘the sun don’t shine and the wind don’t blow’.

Germany also recently burst this myth.

After the Fukushima nuclear disaster last year, the German government ordered the shut down of eight reactors, prompting warnings that when winter came around, a surge in energy use would cause black outs.

But not only has the electricity supply remained reliable in the coldest months, the unusually icy weather of late has seen the German energy sector prove very resilient in the absence of 9,000MW of nuclear back up. In fact during a cold snap last week, the country with the fastest growing renewable sector was propping up nuclear powered France which was importing over 6,500MW to support its fleet of old outdated nuclear plants.

With a 100 per cent target, renewable energy is a fact of life in Germany, tried and proven.

The vocal and incessant deniers of this evidence have only ideologies, opinions and a gaping lack of comprehension.

Matthew Wright is executive director of Beyond Zero Emissions.

Author: Matthew Wright
Source: ABC – Australian Broadcasting Corporation


While cattle have been stopped for now, the issue raises a bigger question of conflict of interest.

IT IS A PECULIAR TWIST of logic that we elevate a small handful of Australian actors to be called national treasures, yet our national parks struggle to make even B-grade celebrity status.

In truth, our national parks are ‘national’ in name only. Largely the creation of state governments, these should-be national treasures enjoy very little national oversight or protection.

In an important move, the Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke’s decision to stop cattle grazing in Victoria’s Alpine National Park illustrates the critical need to place our national parks under federal oversight.

When the Baillieu Government made the decision to introduce cattle into a national park it walked away from its responsibilities to manage the state’s natural environment. At a state level, the decision was widely viewed to be politically motivated. At a national level, it highlighted the fundamental flaws in our national legislation to protect these critical areas.

It started in 2010 when, despite an electoral promise to do so, the Coalition failed to release its environmental policy as part of its election campaign. In place of a policy, a multitude of special interests jostled for precedence and only months after the election, the results of this policy vacuum were evident in the hoof prints that had trampled a delicate, finely balanced ecosystem.

Under the guise of a scientific grazing trial the government quietly, if not secretly, introduced 400 cattle to the Alpine National Park. Popularly compared to Victoria’s version of Japan’s ‘scientific’ whaling, the decision ran contrary to scientific evidence and was widely criticised by the scientific and wider communities alike, including in open letter from 125 leading ecologists.

Freedom of Information requests and investigations by both conservation groups and the media found a litany of holes and flaws in this ‘scientific’ trial which, as it transpired, was the first instalment in significant and disturbing list of government actions that continue to chip away at core environmental management controls in Victoria.

In the last 12 months, the Baillieu Government has exposed a number of threatened species to logging by changing the key regulatory instrument of the Code of Practice for Timber Production. In effect, changes to the code of practice allow the Secretary of the Department of Primary Industries to exempt areas identified for logging from threatened species laws.

At the sweep of pen we have also seen the government dismantle a necessary system of firewood permits in Victoria’s state forests that had been in place since the Bolte Government in the 1950s. The government also introduced legislation to extend firewood collection in red gum national parks.

In the 1990s the states and the Commonwealth agreed that states would have responsibility for threatened species management in areas targeted for logging under regional forest agreements. In short, national environmental laws do not apply in logging areas, an issue that places our threatened species at the mercy of state-owned logging interests.

This may explain why, in early December, the Baillieu Government released a Timber Industry Action Plan effectively sanctioning logging in parks and reserves. Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh later ruled this out but there has been no apparent change to the formal written policy.

Since 1993 Australia has been a party to the global Convention on Biological Diversity. Under the Australian constitution, the federal government is responsible for delivering on international obligations for nature protection, with states largely responsible for land management, a point formalised in the Inter-Governmental Agreement on the Environment in the early 1990s.

Recently, Minister Burke proposed a regulation that damaging activities such as cattle grazing, mining and land clearing in national parks and other key protected areas are referred to the federal government for review and approval. The regulation is still open for feedback but it would certainly be an important step in making national parks national and would restore greater integrity to our magnificent network of national parks and protected areas.

Taking it a step further, the Victoria National Parks Association and other environment groups are discussing the desirability of national parks becoming truly national by making their management a ‘trigger’ under the federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act 1999.

Some state governments, including Victoria’s, have responded negatively to this perceived attack on their rights. But can it be really claimed as a ‘right’ if a government abrogates its responsibility to care for key area under its jurisdiction? The return of cattle grazing to Victoria’s Alpine National Park illustrates this point.

The federal Environment Minister stepped into Victoria’s cattle debate because of the potential impact of grazing on the threatened alpine tree frog and the nationally listed alpine sphagnum bogs and fens are listed under national environmental law. The fact that the trial was in a national park was not in itself a trigger for federal involvement.

National parks are the most efficient and effective way of conserving nature, particular threatened species. Now is time to recognise the importance of national parks to the nation as a whole.

Matt Ruchel is executive director of the Victorian National Parks Association.

Author: Matt Ruchel
Source: ABC – Australian Broadcasting Corporation


Starting Tuesday January 3, the Northern Territory has a cash for container scheme in place.

Cash back: Container deposit scheme starts in Top End but Opposition threatens to scotch it. (Photography: Zsuzsanna Kilian)

People will pay a 10 cent deposit on cans and bottles.

If they want the money back, they will have to take clean and uncrushed containers to collection depots.

They are listed in major centres like Darwin, Palmerston, Alice Springs and Katherine, but there are none in large remote communities.

The future of the scheme is not assured.

The Opposition has announced it is considering ditching cash for containers if it wins power at Territory elections in August.

A threat by drinks giant Coca-Cola Amatil to launch a legal challenge to the scheme has not eventuated.

Author: Katrina Bolton
Source: ABC News


The Tasmanian Government is investigating how much the state could earn from storing carbon in its native forests.

The survey will help determine the value of protecting forests which can earn carbon credits. (Photography: Rob Blakers: Supplied)

The Climate Change Minister says consultants CO-2 Australia will provide the first accurate snapshot of the amount of carbon stored in Tasmania’s private and public forests.

Cassy O’Connor says it will help determine the value of protecting forests which can earn carbon credits.

Resources Minister Bryan Green sees it as an opportunity to diversify the revenue stream from public forests, but not to the detriment of the traditional forest industry.

It is still unclear which forests will be protected under the $276 million forest peace deal.

The group charged with identifying which forests to protect has failed to complete its draft report due today.

A spokesman for Mr Green says a new deadline has not been set.

Source: ABC News


(Photography: Hot Dry Rocks)

Geothermal power’s been something of an orphan when it comes to the drive to transition from fossil fuel to clean, renewable energy economies. That’s despite the release of recent studies showing that the US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia – Western Australia in particular – have geothermal resources that dwarf their energy needs, and despite the fact that it’s a proven, time-tested, economic source of clean, reliable baseload power.

That’s not to say that there aren’t places around the world where geothermal power project exploration and development isn’t ramping up at a fast pace. Boise, Idaho; Reno, Nevada; Reykjavik, Iceland; the UAE’s Masdar City; and Perth, Australia stand out when it comes to tapping into and harnessing earth’s geothermal resources, according to a Global Innovation Series post on Mashable Tech.

Globally, activity in the geothermal power sector recovered somewhat in 2010 following a weak 2009, as overall investment increased, according to NRG Expert’s 2011 Geothermal Report. At the national level, Kenya, Iceland, Mexico and countries in South America – where new exploration concessions have been awarded in Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Peru – will see high rates of growth in geothermal power development, according to NRG’s research. Activity in the geothermal power sector is also gaining steam in Western Australia and New Zealand, as well as in Japan, the Philippines and Indonesia.

An Abundance of Geothermal Energy Waiting to be Tapped

Recent studies have shown just how abundant the earth’s geothermal resources are:
– US geothermal resources could produce more than 3 million megawatts (MW) of green power – ten times that of the installed capacity of coal power plants today, according to an SMU Geothermal Laboratory study funded by a grant
– Canada’s geothermal resources have an energy capacity one million times the country’s current electricity consumption, according to a Geological Survey of Canada report. An estimated 40 percent are believed to be recoverable with current technologies – that’s still 25,000 times annual electricity demand.
– An analysis by Hot Dry Rocks shows that just two percent of Australia’s geothermal potential could generate ten times more electricity than all of its coal and electricity production today.

Inaccessibility may prove that tapping into and harnessing some, even the majority, of that energy to be impractical or uneconomic, but the sheer scope and scale of this clean energy resource virtually assures that there are huge amounts that are worth the effort.

Access to capital is the main obstacle, as developing geothermal power projects have high up-front capital costs. The ongoing successful operation of Calpine’s Geysers geothermal power plant north of San Francisco is a testament to geothermal power’s economic viability over the longer term, however. Additional hurdles come in the form of assuring environmental safety, as well as proving new enhanced geothermal systems (EGS) technology.

Energy demand surged 5.3% worldwide last year, the highest rate since since 1973, according to BP’s 2010 energy review, while annual global greenhouse gas emissions hit a record-high 30.6 billion metric tons, according to an International Energy Agency (IEA) report.

While overall US renewable energy investments have increased at a 14 percent constant annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2000-2009, geothermal power has increased a relatively slow 1.2% CAGR, notes Investment U senior analyst David Fessler.

The US is the world’s leading producer of geothermal energy, however. The situation in Canada is especially perplexing, where despite having total geothermal resources estimated at more than 1 million times its energy needs, there’s not one geothermal power plant up and running.

It makes you wonder why oil and gas companies aren’t drilling for geothermal instead, and why governments in both countries aren’t doing more to steer investment capital in that direction.

To be fair, Australia, New Zealand, South American countries and others with substantial geothermal resource potential have also been sitting on huge troves of geothermal energy. That may well change drastically in the years to come.

Author: Andrew Burger
Source: TriplePundit


Sidney, Austrália, 23 nov (Lusa) – A Câmara Baixa do parlamento australiano aprovou hoje o imposto sobre o rendimento dos recursos minerais, que prevê o agravamento em 30 por cento sobre a exploração do carvão e ferro a partir de 01 de julho de 2012.

O imposto sobre os recursos minerais, MRRT na sigla inglesa, foi aprovado na Câmara Baixa do parlamento australiano por 73 votos a favor e 71 contra, graças ao apoio de três deputados independentes e um do Partido Verde.

De acordo com o governo liderado por Julia Gillard, o agravamento do imposto contribuirá para financiar os cortes nos impostos corporativos e fundos de pensões.

Fonte: Expresso / LUSA


WA could be the first state in Australia to set up a power plant that will convert industrial and residential landfill waste to energy.

Perth-based company, New Energy Corporation, plans to build a $200 million facility in Rockingham if it is approved by the Environmental Protection Authority.

The plant would handle more than 130,000 tonnes of residential and industrial waste per year.

NEC’s general manager Jason Pugh says that would generate enough energy to power 15,000 homes.

“Essentially we’re going for waste that will otherwise always go to landfill,” he said.

“So, we understand that recycling is the most important step in waste management and we’re filling that void between recycling and landfilling.”

Mr Pugh says emission levels would be far below the legal limit.

“Essentially, what we do is convert the waste into a gas and then we fire that natural gas to create electricity so the emissions from the plant are very, very similar to a gas-fired power station,” he said.

“So, not only are we doing something better with the waste but we’re recovering that lost energy as well.”

The Sustainable Energy Association’s Ray Wills has welcomed the proposal.

“I would have had a concern 30 years ago but we’ve got great technology now,” he said.

“Technology that means that we really don’t need to be worried about the emissions from a plant like this.”

If approved, the plant is expected to be running by late 2014.

Source: ABC News


A team from Japan won a world solar car race through Australia’s outback on Thursday, after battling more than 3,000 km (1,800 miles) of remote highways, dodging kangaroos and other wildlife and avoiding a bushfire.

Race officials said the team from Tokai University, near Tokyo, finished the race from the northern city of Darwin to the southern city of Adelaide at about noon on Thursday.

The teams set off on Sunday.

The Nuon Solar Car Team from the Netherlands came second, while a U.S. team from the University of Michigan finished third.

Nuon’s driver Javier Sint Jago said he had to avoid a bushfire, wallabies, cattle, sheep and lizards on his marathon drive, although the biggest challenge was to fight the strong winds which buffeted his 140 kg (300 lb) vehicle.

“It was pretty rough. The side winds were 50 to 60 km an hour (30-40 mph), and can easily push you off the side,” he said.

“It was just so much concentration.”

Thirty-seven cars from 21 countries started off in Darwin, heading south and using only the power generated by the sun in the 11th running of the annual race.

High-tech solar cars use public highways on the trek, with teams camping out by the road overnight as their cars run out of power after dark.

Along the way, they dodge other traffic, as well as kangaroos, camels and other wildlife wandering the outback deserts.

This year’s race was made more dangerous by bushfires in the remote Northern Territory, which forced some cars to stop racing on Tuesday and camp out at a police roadblock as the fires crossed the highway, 300 km north of the central town of Alice Springs.

One car from the Philippines burst into flames early in the race when its battery exploded. No team members were injured, the fire was extinguished and the car resumed the race with a replacement battery pack.

The race is a favorite for university teams and researchers looking for new green sources of energy to fuel cars.

Author: James Grubel
Editing: Elaine Lies and Ron Popeski
Source: Reuters


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