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Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

It seems as if many people have been paying more attention to the Beckapalooza in DC ... and the whole furor had me initially confused, as originally I thought it was something to do with Beck the Mongolian Chop Squad ...

But last weekend, there was an election in Australia, and on the night it seemed like it could be the closest in Australian history. As the week went on, that proved to be the case. And I got to thinking, listening to the various independents that hold the balance of power, that there could well be an unlikely working partnership available, where trains could help delivered a progressive governing majority on the most improbable of foundations.

NB: the grassfire in a dry lake bed shot that I use on occasion is in fact from Australia, suffering what has been characterized as a long running drought, but what seems more likely to be a secular shift to a dryer climate.

The Election Results

It took until around Thursday morning our time, and for some close seats the election prediction swung back and forth several times before settling down, but with 83.4% of the vote now counted, the predicted outcome for the 150 seat House of Representatives, with 76 seats required to form government, is:

  • 73 seats for the right leaning Liberal Party / National Party coalition (with a caveat)
  • 72 seats for the center to center-left ALP, or Australian Labor Party
  • 1 seat for the Australian Greens
  • and 4 independents, in far north Queensland, northern New South Wales, and the island of Tasmania

This was a snap election called by the fairly recently installed Prime Minister Julia Gillard, after a party room vote removed the former ALP Prime Minister Kevin Rudd from the ALP leadership. And the ALP clearly lost the election, losing 16 seats and their majority, including losing the seat of urban seat of Melbourne, to the Greens, which they had held since Federation and losing their 5 out of 5 dominance of Tasmania to Andrew Wilkie, who had resigned from his position as a government intelligence analyst in 2003 to blow the whistle on the lies in the political build-up to going to war.

At the same time, the Coalition did not win, either. The Coalition is the working arrangement between the more urban-focused conservative "Liberal" party (liberal like Neoliberal, that is, not liberal like socially liberal ~ especially after they were taken further to the right by the former Liberal MP John Howard, who was PM for the entirety of my decade in Australia), and the country-based National Party (which indeed was originally named the "Country" party). And while the National Party is in coalition with the Liberal Party in most of the country, in Western Australia, they did not run in coalition and indeed the incoming National Party MP from Western Australia, Tony Crook, beat an incumbent Liberal Party MP for the seat. Running from the outset as "independent"
of the Coalition, Tony Crook is demanding a scheme of the Federal Government topping up a regional infrastructure scheme funded by minerals royalty payments as the price of his support for a Coalition government.

However, with "independent" National who will be sitting in the cross benches but clearly leaning to support the Coalition, and an Australian Greens MP who has said he wants "stable, effective and progressive government" and that he sees the ALP as in the best position to deliver on the demand, the two parties are in effect each sitting at 73 seats, three seats short of a majority, with four regional capital-I Independents, in the sense of sitting in no party room, holding the balance of power.

The Strange Gang of Three, Who Are Not A Bloc

Three of the Independents have been meeting with the caretaker PM, Julia Gillard, and the leader of the opposition, Tony Abbot, as a group, though they are no bloc, as New England MP Tony Windsor is eager to explain at every available opportunity. The fourth, the Tasmanian whistleblower Wilkie, has been meeting with the prospective Prime Ministers and others ... erh, Independently.

Who are they? Australia's ABC gives a wrap up:

Bob Katter

  • Member for Kennedy in outback Queensland since 1993
  • Was with the National Party until 2001 but left to run as an independent
  • Left the Nationals so he could better represent issues in his electorate
  • Easily retained his seat in all the elections since 2001
  • Kennedy is a family affair for Katter - his father Bob Katter Senior held the seat from 1966 to 1990
  • Bob Katter Senior was a Labor politician but later joined the Nationals
  • Was a Queensland MP from 1974 to 1992 and a strong supporter of controversial ex-premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen
  • Describes himself as a "wild boy from wild country"
  • Before the election he said he would work with the Greens if there was a hung Parliament


  • Mr Katter says the survival of rural Australia will be his top priority
  • Even though he rejects computers, he has already named broadband as a big issue
  • Has called for more more investment in ethanol
  • Opposed to privatisation and economic deregulation
  • He says a privatised NBN will not work, saying "privatised Telstra has been absolutely disastrous for rural Australia"
  • He is against banana, beef and other primary produce imports
  • He wants to bring back agricultural subsidies and tariffs
  • Mr Katter is a climate change sceptic and is against an emissions trading scheme

Tony Windsor

  • Has a farming background and is a primary producer
  • An active participant in innumerable rural and community groups
  • Holds a Bachelor of Economics from the University of New England
  • Mr Windsor is the incumbent independent Member for the northern NSW seat of New England
  • A former National Party member
  • Was defeated in a National Party pre-selection ballot in NSW in 1991
  • Went on to win the election as an independent and remained NSW independent MP until 2001
  • Held the balance of power with three other independents in NSW
  • Switched to federal politics in 2001, defeating the incumbent Nationals member in New England
  • Won New England on preferences in 2001, increased his primary vote to 57 per cent in 2004 and nearly 62 per cent in 2007
  • In 2004 Mr Windsor claimed then-deputy PM John Anderson and a Nationals senator bribed him to quit his seat
  • Recently came under fire from other candidates over the sale and release of his farm to a mining company


  • Mr Windsor says he would do a deal with either major party
  • Mr Windsor has named broadband as a key issue
  • He also says a main issue is the "stability of the nation"
  • Has been heavily involved in the climate change debate
  • Claims credit for some ideas which have been picked up including the Renewable Energy Institute and bringing the issue of soil carbon to a national level

Rob Oakeshott

  • Member for mid-north NSW coast seat of Lyne since 2008 by-election
  • Former National Party member but left the party so he could better represent his electorate
  • Was a NSW Nationals MP until 2008 when he resigned to run for Lyne
  • Holds a Bachelor of Arts with Honours in Government
  • Has described his views as economically conservative and socially progressive
  • Mr Oakeshott won an easy victory at the September 2008 by-election
  • Before the election he said there was nothing to fear from a hung parliament
  • He said a hung parliament would increase the influence of all politicians, not just those in the balance of power


  • Mr Oakeshott says he is undecided on who he will side with
  • He names climate change as a top priority
  • He says an emissions trading scheme should be a key policy of any government he will help form
  • He has also called for a fair go for regional and rural Australia
  • Names the make-up of the Senate, the stability of the government and his electorate's needs as key issues  

So a socially conservative, agricultural-protectionist, climate-science denying rural MP from far north Queenslands, a socially moderate conservative, pro-regional development, supporter of pro-active climate change policy on the precautionary principle, and an "economically conservative, socially liberal" pro-regional development MP who says that the vast majority of climate scientists say there's a problem, that an eminent economist devised a scheme, and then it went awry.

If they vote the wishes of their electorates, they will support Coalition government: there is deep-seated distrust of the Australian Labor Party among many rural producers in most country areas, and one of the issues in the campaign that the Coalition turned to its advantage in many rural and regional areas was a proposal to shift from royalty-based payments for mineral resources to a profits-tax based system.

And of course, an ALP government is no guarantee of progressive government, with one of the principle causes of the loss in public confidence in Kevin Rudd and then the failure of the ALP in last weekend's election was the failure to deliver on a carbon pricing scheme.

Carbon and Climate Change policy

Bob Katter has discussed his opposition to climate change policy in terms of two distinct problems. The first is opposition to the financial traders in Sydney and Melbourne playing financial games with tradable permits. The second is in terms of the economic viability of regional areas, which have seen loss in markets for agricultural products with the last three decades policies of freeing up trade, and have become increasingly reliant on mining for economic survival. And the three main outputs of Australian mines are coal, iron ore, and aluminum.

Addressing the complaint about financial games with tradable permits is the most straightforward, by replacing the unnecessarily complex carbon trading scheme with a carbon permit auction scheme. Placing the permits as high upstream as practicable, to be held in registered accounts by individuals or firms selling the covered CO2 emitting sources, and only allowing them to be traded between holders of registered accounts ... which is to say, cutting the financial market speculators entirely out of the loop ... would satisfy some, though not all, of that complaint.

The balance of the complaint is a far more fundamental problem. But of course, a carbon fee is not an energy fee across the board, but rather a fee on energy from combustion of carbon. Australia is in a position to rapidly expand its reliance on carbon neutral power, and with it to gain a substantial degree of independence of aluminum production from the impact of any carbon fees.

And of course, China is approaching the point of Peak Coal, after which time a permit system on carbon emissions that included coal exports would push the domestic Australian economy toward being completely carbon neutral.

So a fundamental compromise would be to exempt exports for an eight year period, during which times there is a massive ramp-up in investment in carbon-neutral power productions, and phase bringing exports within the carbon cap over the following eight year period.

It must be stressed that this is no side-deal: a genuine carbon permit system, capped at current levels of domestic emission and bringing Australia's exports within the cap in the next sixteen years represents, on the one hand, a substantial stretching out of the exploitation of Australia's coal resources into the decades when the combination of Peal Oil and Peak Coal will be turning it into something that is too valuable to burn.

And on the other hand, it implies a wholesale shift of the Australian domestic economy into reliance on sustainable, renewable energy. This means many things, but one of the things it means is a reversal of the flow of jobs and population out of Australia's regional areas, because the new sustainable, renewable energy sources will require more labor input per BTU than the tradition coal, crude oil, and natural gas based power system.

Bob Katter and Ethanol

Bob Katter is a big proponent of Ethanol. He has seen the Ethanol fueled cars of Brazil, and as an MP representing a sugar-growing region, he wants the same in Australia.

And while an ethanol policy designed by Bob Katter would almost certainly be the kind of environmental disaster as the corn-starch ethanol policy instituted to pander to the states of the old High Grass Prairie ... if it is necessary that the ethanol policy be a sustainable, green, ethanol policy rather than a soil-mining, extractive brown ethanol policy ... well, that would also be good for the sugar producers.

Because, unlike corn starch, Sugar Ethanol can indeed be produced in a sustainable, renewable way. If the sugar itself is cultivated in a renewable way, and the conversion of bagasse to heat to support the process is done in an appropriate way, Sugar Cane can be converted into ethanol with substantially better than 200% net energy return on energy investment. As illustrated in the left, estimates of energy inputs into Sugar Cane Ethanol range from ~11% to ~27%, implying a gross energy return on investment of from 3.7:1 to 9:1. Even the more conservative estimate is above the 3:1 threshold required to maintain the component of the transportation system that remains organized along current late-20th century lines.

As in the US, the foundation of the scheme would be exemption from motor vehicle fuel tax for biofuels, including the ethanol component of an ethanol-gasoline mix. Unlike the US, however, since Australia is a nation with available sugar-can growing regions, this tax-exemption would be limited to domestically produced ethanol with a gross energy return on energy invested of 300% or better ... essentially limiting the exemption to domestic sugar cane ethanol and to biodiesel produced from energy-frugal oil-bearing crops.

Added to this would be ecological husbandry payments to qualifying biofuel producers who met objective standard in ongoing improvement of soil and watershed conditions toward a desirable (and attainable) level and maintenance of those standards once met.

I don't have access to the information on which to run the numbers, but if a reasonable percentage of the carbon permit auction scheme does not suffice to cover the motor vehicle fuel tax exemption and the soil and watershed husbandry payments, then surely an import tariff on Australia's growing oil imports would suffice. Doing this in a budget-neutral way, of course, would be to placate the "economically conservative" Rob Oakshott.

But, Won't Transport Grind To a Halt

Still, a serious carbon fee system will run into two of the same problems in Australia that it faces in the United States: the oil-addiction of the transport system and the coal-addiction of the electricity generation system.

And the Steel Interstate offers the same combination of benefits on both fronts.

This is even more striking in Australia, where 2/3 of the Australian population lives in the five mainland state capitals, and 80% of the population lives in the ten largest cities. Indeed, this population distribution lies behind both the continued existence of a distinct "country" conservative party, its ongoing decline in representation, and the resulting compromises with the largely urban bases Liberals that led to the election of the three regional Independent MP's from what would otherwise be stereotyped as National Party seats.

Indeed, the ALP proposed to proceed with the frequently-proposed Australian High Speed Rail corridor from Melbourne to Brisbane, through the heart of the eastern seaboard population centers of Australia, including not only Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, but also sixth, seventh and eighth largest cities of Gold Coast, south of Brisbane, Newcastle, north of Sydney, and Canberra, north of Melbourne and southwest of Sydney in the Australian Capital Territory.

And while the ALP's failure to propose a carbon fee system that could get passed was in large part responsible for its defeat, the fact that it retains a chance to form minority government may be due to the HSR promise, with the ALP retaining a seat north of Sydney along the line of the promised first phase that it held on a razor thing margin and would have lost based on the national swing against the ALP.

But HSR is not enough. It is also necessary to provide an alternative to reliance on diesel road freight.

A Steel Interstate for Australia

Below is a map of the major intercity passenger rail services in Australia, but it also serves quite well as a sketch of the bulk of the required Steel Interstate system, both for allowing freight to move between the main metropolitan centers of the nation without reliance on crude oil, and for connecting all of the main electricity consumption regions with the enormous, in per capita terms, sustainable renewable energy resources available across the Australian continent, with ultra high voltage direct current transmission lines sharing the corridor with 25kV AC rail power supply lines.

It can be seen as basically three lines:

  • The Eastern Seaboard line from Melbourne to Brisbane and then Cairns in tropical Queensland, alone the eastern coast
  • the Eastern Transcontinental from Sydney to Perth, and
  • the Northern Transcontinental from Melbourne to Darwin via Adelaide

To these can be added a fourth. With Sydney as the largest city, it is necessary to connect Melbourne and Sydney, and also Sydney and Melbourne. However, that connection implies running through metropolitan Sydney, with its heavily used and underbuilt metropolitan rail system leading to substantial bottlenecks, as well as coping at various points along the way with challenges posed by the Dividing Range. And so, connecting Melbourne to Brisbane is done most effectively by a second route that runs inland.

The most recent study of this very-well-studied proposal finds economic benefits on the order of $2.2b and economics costs on the order of $2.7b.

That is, however, at an interest rate of 7%, and without counting the benefits of restoration of Australia's position as a net oil exporter in an age of Peak Oil. In the framework of national scheme to provide for a Steel Interstate and Electricity Superhighway grid, the Inland Rail Expressway ought to be included as the fourth of the eligible transcontinental route.

The Steel Interstate must be fully funded, of course, given Rob Oakshott's "conservative economic" leanings, but as in the US, this funding can be in the form of an interest subsidy while the capital cost is refunded out of user fees. Natural funding sources are an imported crude oil tariff, for an immediate source of funds, and then a designated percentage of carbon auction revenue.

So, would that work

Now, I am not saying that any of this is a sure thing. Bob Katter might be persuaded by a Sugar Cane Ethanol program and northern Queensland Steel Interstate ... and then again, he might not be. After all, he does reckon that he knows better about how the climate works than 90%+ of climate scientists, so he's an awfully bright fellow (in his own estimation at least), and certainly too clever for me to be able to predict.

But its worth a go. And setting the program out will at the least get the ideas out there ... since Federal Elections come every three years (at least), there may still be time to win the next election for an environmentally sustainable Australian economy, despite the reluctance of the ALP and obstinate refusal of the Coalition to pursue it.

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Midnight Oil ~ Truganini

Of course, more likely, in the words of the ALP Minister for the Environment, there's a road train going nowhere.

Originally posted to BruceMcF on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 06:55 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  And remember, there is no Political Solution ... (19+ / 0-)

    ... to our Troubled Evolution.

    Our So-called Leaders Speak
    With Words they try to Jail Yah
    They Subjegate the Meek
    but its the Rhetoric of Failure

    Start 2010 with Lesbian Creative Works, 100% Yuri from ALC Publishing

    by BruceMcF on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 06:42:54 PM PDT

  •  Australia left too much to the states. (5+ / 0-)

    I was struck not only that there were so few trains from Sydney to Melbourne and Brisbane, the highways are so underdeveloped. That's because infrastructure has been left almost entirely to the states, which did little to connect with other states.

    In the meantime, Melbourne to Sydney is the second busiest air route in the world, and Sydney to Brisbane is the 7th in the Asia-Pacific region.

    Greg McKendry, Linda Kraeger, Dr. George Tiller, Steven Johns. Victims of Wingnut violence

    by Judge Moonbox on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 07:15:59 PM PDT

    •  Australia mostly lacks the ... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bronte17, NoMoreLies, Unenergy

      ... second tier of cities that provided an essential base of support for US Interstate Highway system ... and prior to that the rail system was deliberately used by its state government owners to corral business from regional areas in the state for the state capital. That's part of why Queensland was narrow gauge, NSW and South Australia standard gauge, and Victoria broad gauge, so neighboring state could not "steal business".

      And the northern line originally existed in the 1800's and was taken out, and a Constitutional part of South Australia handing the Northern Territory to the Federation was the promise to restore the Adelaide / Darwin rail line ... but with no time deadline on that promise, it was not completed until about a decade ago.

      Start 2010 with Lesbian Creative Works, 100% Yuri from ALC Publishing

      by BruceMcF on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 07:22:51 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  asdf (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BruceMcF, Unenergy

      Even if Australia is geographically huge, I'm surprised they opted for such a staunchly federalist style of government. I'm not sure what the population was at Federation, but I'd guess 5 million.

      More and more powers howevers are going to the Feds. During the Howard years they lost their powers over gun control and now the ALP are proposing what looks like a federal takeover of healthcare. Some are saying state politics is becoming a backwater.

    •  There is no logic to even having states (0+ / 0-)

      7 governments for 20 million people? Nutty.

      •  Yeah, tremendous danger that too many ... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        ... of the representatives in government would actually be in a position to meet an appreciable portion of the people they represent. Far better to have nearly 3/4 of a million people per district so there's no risk of any but the top people having any real access to their representatives above the city level.

        Start 2010 with Lesbian Creative Works, 100% Yuri from ALC Publishing

        by BruceMcF on Mon Aug 30, 2010 at 12:21:57 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Of course, ... (0+ / 0-)

        ... the United States had 13 states with 4 million people, and Switzerland has 26 cantons with a population of 7.6m.

        There is absolutely nothing wrong with seven governments per 20m people, in a democratic society, though of course it provides too many places for resistance to reside to be a comfortable number for a dictator.

        The problem, if anything, is that in some states too many people too closely packed together lord it over too large a colonial regional area. From outside Newcastle, Sydney and Wollongong, it looks like NSW stands from Newcastle, Sydney and Wollongong, but from Newcastle or Wollongong its clear that its just Sydney.

        Start 2010 with Lesbian Creative Works, 100% Yuri from ALC Publishing

        by BruceMcF on Mon Aug 30, 2010 at 12:34:42 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Don't see how this helps (0+ / 0-)

          Australia is way the heck over-governed. You don't need a dictator in Australia; you just have the police! And the State governments are really just capital city governments.

          •  The benefits of eliminating the state gvts ... (0+ / 0-)

            ... is an example of comparing the ugly reality of the current system to a fantasy imagined picture of what happens when state governments are eliminated.

            But if state governments were in fact to be eliminated, the reality is far more likely to be the dysfunctional chaos of California, where all the additional issues tossed up to the Federal level because they are beyond the capacity and scope of local councils (including the oversight of local council governance) result in a permanent state of deadlock.

            Start 2010 with Lesbian Creative Works, 100% Yuri from ALC Publishing

            by BruceMcF on Mon Aug 30, 2010 at 04:18:48 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  very informative diary, thanks (3+ / 0-)

    maddening how much attention beck absorbs away from real issues.

    Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Mohandas K. Gandhi

    by Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 07:18:58 PM PDT

  •  My best guess from here in the States... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Liberal Of Limeyland that Australia will be holding another election in the near future.  I would also not be shocked to see Ms. Gillard ousted as the ALP standard-bearer before that election is held, since the results this time out were clearly a repudiation of her and her takeover.

    •  The ALP certainly could take that course ... (4+ / 0-)

      ... on the other hand, if the election results is seen as a repudiation of the recent behavior of back room kingmakers in the ALP, then if the back room kingmakers depose Gillard, that won't do any good for their chances.

      Abbott seems to be angling to take the country back to an election in the near term future, but of course they need to be careful to avoid the blame for taking the country back to an election.

      Start 2010 with Lesbian Creative Works, 100% Yuri from ALC Publishing

      by BruceMcF on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 07:25:12 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yep. Aussies don't like leadership spills much, (4+ / 0-)

        and they like early elections even less.

        Speed, quality, price. Choose two only.

        by Clive all hat no horse Rodeo on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 07:41:12 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  If there is an early election (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BruceMcF, Unenergy

        Whoever is seen to have caused the instability will find people waiting on the roofs for them with baseball bats. A lot of Aussies can't wait for this election to be over, so I hate to think what the reaction will be if they have to go through another five weeks of leaks, soundbites and schoolyard bickering.

        •  Abott clearly wants an early election ... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Liberal Of Limeyland, Unenergy

          ... that is the "fault" of the Independents, since if they go down, it will be at the expense of Coalition rivals.

          OTOH, if New South Wales and Queensland voters got their ire at their respective state labor governments, and in QLD's case their frustration at not being allowed to be the ones to sack Rudd, out of their system, it could backfire badly. A 1% swing in four or five seats and the ALP have a majority.

          Start 2010 with Lesbian Creative Works, 100% Yuri from ALC Publishing

          by BruceMcF on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 07:53:51 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  NSW government will lose next March (0+ / 0-)

            The latest poll I saw had them down 61-39, and with optional preferencing there won't be many Greens preferences to save their sorry arse. At the next election the ALP should recover some of their losses, and if the Queensland government are gone by then they could win back a few there.

            On the topic of Greens preferences, I'm not sure what the exact flow of Greens preferences was but lets assume it was 80-20. If it had been 70-30 then the swing against the ALP would have been 1.17% higher and off the top of my head seats like Corangamite, La Trobe, Moreton, Lindsay and perhaps Robertson and Petrie would have been won by the Libs. Greens preferences no doubt saved Australia from on outright Coalition win.

            •  I think Greens preferences would have been ... (0+ / 0-)

              ... higher for Labor than normal if the poll is correct that 1/3 of new Green voters were punishing labor for their failure to bring down a greenhouse gas system.

              Robertson is the seat around Gosford, the first stop north of Sydney on the ALP-proposed HSR system. Given the extremely high number of Sydney bound rail commuters on the Central Coast (I once in a while was in a situation to stand on a train until it got to Gosford so I could sit down for the rest of the trip to Newcastle) ... and I've not heard any reporting that the HSR proposal helped, but Robertson was on a narrow thing margin, and just sacking the former MP who was on the nose is not enough to account for its vote holding firm.

              Start 2010 with Lesbian Creative Works, 100% Yuri from ALC Publishing

              by BruceMcF on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 08:10:34 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  I think the only question in New South Wales ... (0+ / 0-)

              ... is what happens in the upper house.

              Since Coalition governments have had a habit of ripping out rail lines, I am hoping they do not win the balance of power in the upper house, which would make it much easier to not only halt services but actually rip out track and eliminate corridors.

              Start 2010 with Lesbian Creative Works, 100% Yuri from ALC Publishing

              by BruceMcF on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 08:26:57 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  It would seem (3+ / 0-)

    ...that Australia is made for rail.  The two routes to the west and the north could operate at very high speeds, given protection from wildlife on the tracks.

    The southeast and east coast is so densely populated that a rail backbone would be a very efficient intercity mover.  But my impression is that each of the cities are sprawling like newer growth in the US.  How would transit work there?

    50 states, 210 media market, 435 Congressional Districts, 3080 counties, 192,480 precincts

    by TarheelDem on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 07:22:33 PM PDT

    •  Transit there is already ... (3+ / 0-)

      ... superior to the US, but of course inferior to Europe ... Australia was only recently a net oil exporter, and only for a brief period, so they never had the ultra-low gas tax levels of the US, although they have not had the higher gas tax levels of Europe either.

      Melbourne has its tram (modern streetcar) system, Sydney its Cityrail heavy rail system which is essential for getting most of the workforce of Sydney City (the heavily built up eastern commercial center) in to work, Brisbane previously lagged behind but in the last two decades has been expanding both heavy and light rail systems, including a light rail system that runs down to serve the Gold Coast.

      Start 2010 with Lesbian Creative Works, 100% Yuri from ALC Publishing

      by BruceMcF on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 07:28:14 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Article on Bob Katter in Melbourne Age (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    He seems sincere, but quite loonytunes and the stereotype of a croc-wrestling outback Aussie. His gripes include restrictions on shooting, fishing and "you can't even boil the bloody billy".

  •  Nice article Bruce, a couple of things, one minor (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BruceMcF, Calamity Jean

    one of possible interest.
    The Independent WA National's name is Tony Crook with an r. Funny a Crook replaced someone who went by the name of 'Ironbar' Tuckey.

    Second the idea of rail in Australia has been suggested to create a Iron Boomerang. That is in the East we have enormous quantities of coal, and 3,000 km away in the West, enormous deposits of Iron ore.
    The idea, and not so silly, is to built a major rail way line across the continent to ship the coal west, Iron Ore East and have large scale smelting operations at each end or along the rail line with a port at each end.
    Project Iron Boomerang
    May get negative response to this, but the reduction in coal for electricity use is my major beef, in steel production it is still the main process used. Burning coal for steel is not necessarily something I'd reject out of hand as it value adds where the resources are cutting down in shipping and transport emissions if the rail line runs on renewable energy.

    The rest of your post is excellent, I particularly like the idea of using existing rail lines to build a high voltage DC grid. Thanks for taking the time to put this together.

    "You Still drilling for oil? Well good luck, I mean it. Idiot. Shine, Baby, Shine." JR Ewing

    by Unenergy on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 08:22:07 PM PDT

    •  Thanks, pass the link around Oz ... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Calamity Jean, Unenergy

      ... tonight stateside, which is of course Monday arvo in Oz.

      I think the prospects exist for arc steel production in Australia based on renewable electricity, providing the same export-substitution opportunities as aluminum production. Assuming renewable resource available from both wind and solar and biomass from WA, central SA, and inland New South Wales, central SA would remain a strategic location for that. While Direct Reduction Iron produced with natural gas is certainly not carbon neutral, DRI Iron and an Arc Furnace fed with carbon neutral electricity is a much lower carbon footprint than a coal foundry, and of course the DRI can be supplemented by scrap.

      Start 2010 with Lesbian Creative Works, 100% Yuri from ALC Publishing

      by BruceMcF on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 08:42:12 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Coal Seam Methane is slated to become (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        a major resource which will be exploited in the Eastern States. Natural gas with 1/4 the emissions of coal when used in combustion process is a figure I have read as being close to the mark.
        So a railway line and a gas pipeline as well as a HVDC corridor?

        Arc furnaces is something Katter knows about, I think I heard him call aluminium 'congealed electricity'. Once again, from solar and wind, much cleaner, much smarter than burning a depletable, and valuable resource.

        "You Still drilling for oil? Well good luck, I mean it. Idiot. Shine, Baby, Shine." JR Ewing

        by Unenergy on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 08:48:34 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yes, roughly 1/4 the carbon ... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          ... emissions as coal for iron production, and with carbon-neutral power, Arc Steel production is basically carbon free, so heading well below 1/5 the carbon footprint.

          It was when I heard Katter call aluminum "congealed electricity" in his Press Club appearance with the Oakshott, Windsor and Bandt (where Bandt quipped that he never thought he would find himself to the right of Katter) that the seed of the idea was planted in my head.

          Start 2010 with Lesbian Creative Works, 100% Yuri from ALC Publishing

          by BruceMcF on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 09:07:55 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  China, US, Australia (4+ / 0-)
    Actually, if one considers sustainable and economic coal production, China already passed peak coal production several years ago and has been dependant on imports for several years. The problem is that many of China's coal reserves are low quality and located too far from consuming regions (mainly the East coast) to be economicaly viable, and this is why China's mix of new power generation plants includes a fairly high fraction of nuclear in addition to wind, Solar and "Clean Coal".

    That said, the US and China are now cooperating on development of Carbon Sequestering technology (including carbon extraction and super critical combustion), presumably to stretch the supply as far as it can go. And we should not overlook the fact that India has one of the world's largest coal reserves and is increasingly dependant on coal to meet it's growing power needs (despite heavy investment in wind).

    Regarding Australia, it certianly has some good rail assests and is economically dependant on them since rail underpins the mining industry, Australia's largest industrial sector. Without rail, how would BHP and Rio Tinto transport iron ore and coke grade coal to port to ship it to China (it's biggist customer) and points North, East and West?  

    So given the fact Australia has one of the highest per capita CO2 emissions (higher than the US), the world's largest reserves of high quality iron ore and a fair amounts of high quality coal, why not build steel highways?

    Let's hope they do, it not a densly populated country but it does have high energy intensity and CO2 emissions and that's not a good thing for the world.

    What about my Daughter's future?

    by koNko on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 08:57:56 PM PDT

    •  I was counting Peak Coal ... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      koNko, Calamity Jean

      ... in the same gross tonnages way as everyone, which leaves it in the coming decade ... of course, if adjusted for quality it seems plausible to me that its been passed already. Lots of people around the world burning what is more carbon rich dirt than what we would recognize as high grade coal.

      Rising imports do not in and of themselves prove that domestic peak has been passed ... though the failure to meet rising demand with rising production indicates would certainly indicate that a domestic peak is indeed pending if it has not already been reached.

      Start 2010 with Lesbian Creative Works, 100% Yuri from ALC Publishing

      by BruceMcF on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 09:17:20 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Chinese already import abut 40% of coal (0+ / 0-)

        And it'd pretty clear there is not much intention to build hundereds of km or rial to reach the low quality stuff.

        That, I suppose, is a positive since even in modern plants, it is even more dirty.

        What about my Daughter's future?

        by koNko on Mon Aug 30, 2010 at 12:08:55 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  koNko, China emits 42% of world's Coal-based CO2 (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      China rapidly increased (in preparation for Copenhagen, no doubt :)) CO2 emissions from coal from 2.1 billion metric tons in 2000 to 5.4 bn tons in 2008:

      Data from EIA/DoE

      India's share of world coal CO2 in 2008 was only 8% (compared to about 16% of it share of world population, implying that India's per-capita coal CO2 emissions are about half of world's per-capita coal CO2 emissions; compare that to China's 42% of coal CO2 for a world population share of about 18%, implying that China's per-capita is about 42/18 = 2.33x = 233% of world per-capita coal CO2).

      Also, according to CAIT/WRI (regn require), Coal reserves in China are apparently much larger than India's:

      Coal Reserves:

      India: 149,190
      China: 241,879

      World: 1,749,852
      US: 484,643     

      units: Total MtCO2e Eq.   

      India and America share a mutually beneficial trade and economic relationship.

      by iceweasel on Mon Aug 30, 2010 at 12:19:04 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  India is increasing coal use (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I'd be very happy to see it not do so, but if you study where the trend is going, it's not exactly good news. I doubt (hope) India will reach the present level of Chinese coal use because the amount of energy intense industry in India no where near the level of China and percapita energy use is much lower, but I think you a rather optimistic anout future prospects and you really ought to consider the recent increases in steel production in India which will only increase along with increased properity and construction (the main use).

        Your suggestion that China puposely increased it's coal use ahead of COP-15 is frankly rediculous and a bit of CT if you don't mind me saying so.  The increase of coal for power generation and industrial use, particularly steel production is very well documented and follows the trend of industrialization and cinstruction, which both have been booming. Should you care to verify this you can go to the US DOE databse which has comprehensive global data with breakdowns of use, and includes such data as steel mill efficiency and emmisions.

        Why I mention steel making and construction is that it accounts for a high fraction of Chinese use and an increasing fraction of Indian use that will trend upward as I mentioned. I'm sure you know the world's largest steel producer is Indian owned and that as the Indian economy booms (it is now doing so) these emeissions will logically increase as India produces more steel from ore (unlike American producers that use almost entirely recycle materials).

        I agree that China has large coal reserves, but as I have noted elsewhere China is not intending ti use much of thus because it is low quality and inaccessable; China is already a net importer of coal ad what it imports is clesner and cheaper that what it would produce from some of the reserves (or it would not import). It's a similer situation to Canasian coal tar sands - the reserves are huge, but is it econmically and environmentally sustainable? Apparently not.

        As I noted elsewhere, China is building diversified clean power generation capacity rapidly to reduce it's dependance on coal; in fact, China is now the No. one invetor in clean enery with an investment level nearly twice that of the US, the next greatest investor. China is also steadly reducing it's energy intensity ber GDP and recently announced it shutting doen hundreds of factories that have failed to meet energy reduction quotas.

        That said, it will continue to increase CO2 emissions for several years to come simply because it is building infrastructure and housing which are both energy intensive. If you want energy effcient rail systems you have to make steel and in the short term that has a CO2 budget attached; long terrm, it delivers lower emissions. Today, china is building the worlds largest rail system, so there you go.

        Both China and India face this same prospect and took identical and coordenated positions at COP-15, and in making their commitments in January 2010. I think you know the reasons why: they are developing countires.

        To be frank, neither have much choice if they are to raise themseleves out of poverty, and the question is to what degree they can take a different and cleaner development path, but let's not pretend they will not increae thier emissions - we have to deal with the facts.

        I think this chart based on US DOE data provides the big picture in terms of percapita CO2 emissions


        Today, India has admirably low percapita CO2 emissions and it would be great if you can keep that same level as the economy develops but apperently the Indian government is unwilling to make that commitment because I think they have done the math. Indisn emissions are a quarter of China's and an eighth of the US. If you can top out at half of China's that would be great but I believe forecasts are higher.

        Obviously both China and India can never possibly reach the emissions levels of a country like the US or Australia, we have so many people that would be a complete disaster, but realisticaly our emissions will increase over the next few years and so we will have to work smarter if we hope to prosper - anything less will be unsustainable and simply won't happen.

        Let's see how India does with coal over the next few years. If you can make the steel you need without coke and using renewable energy that would be great, but it remains to be seen.

        What about my Daughter's future?

        by koNko on Mon Aug 30, 2010 at 12:54:30 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  At the moment, Australia has the ... (0+ / 0-)

          ... resource to make steel with natural gas and renewable electricity, but Arc steel production still needs iron. I have no idea how biocoal would work for iron production, though biocoal is of course only as sustainable as the production of its feedstock ... cutting down old growth forest to make biocoal for iron production is not any tremendous improvement.

          Start 2010 with Lesbian Creative Works, 100% Yuri from ALC Publishing

          by BruceMcF on Mon Aug 30, 2010 at 04:23:50 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  koNko, (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          i'll try to respond to your comment later. Hope all is well.

          India and America share a mutually beneficial trade and economic relationship.

          by iceweasel on Wed Sep 01, 2010 at 03:15:18 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Sure (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            Always nice to meet you and occasionally debate.

            BTW, if I get some time on Saturday I'm going to finish writing and post a Diary about the count-down to COP-16 (Cancún) and the remaining conflicts between developed, developing and undeveloped nations with regard to the principles and terms of the climate convention under negotiation, including underlying economic issues that were difficult to discuss here following Copenhagen but no need to be addressed if an agreement is to be reached.

            So it dovetails with this discussion quite well, actually.

            Does a developing nation like India with low percapita CO2 emissions have to reduce it's emissions to the same extent as a wealthy developed nation that already contributed to the carbon inventory?

            That may be one of many questions that needs an answer to play ball.

            What about my Daughter's future?

            by koNko on Wed Sep 01, 2010 at 07:15:42 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  In my view, (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              the nominal goal should be for all countries to get to a uniform per-capita emissions levels of 2.25 tons per person or so (that's about half of the global per-capita CO2 emissions from energy use in 2008), based on a fixed year (say 2008) populations, by 2050. Low per-capita emitters should be able to catch up on necessary development by increasing up to certain peak level (say 4.5-5 tons per person) by some peak year. Any deviations from the nominal goal should be negotiated by each country. That's my proposal. And it gives high emitting countries 40 years to ramp down their emissions level by doing whatever it takes (innovation, investments etc). What do you think about this proposal?

              India and America share a mutually beneficial trade and economic relationship.

              by iceweasel on Wed Sep 01, 2010 at 09:44:39 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I agree with that ultimate goal (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                I'm just deeply sckeptical about achieving anything close to environmentsl and economic justice in the time we have to work so I think the best prossible short-term outcome is to reduce emissions as much as possible and to fund what will be, for lack of a better world, rescuing the victims of global warming.

                My diary, which I think I will get to finish Saturday will discuss the principle of and goal of an equitable division of carbon budgets and the fundamental unfairness of wealthy countries who have benifited economically from the present carbon inventory and generally have higher percapita emissions demanding the developing world to match their cuts while they continue to export dirty, carbon intensive industries to poor countries and have tried to impose a regimin that, with allowances, would actually allow them to maintain or even increse emissions while developing counties India being a texbook case) would be economicaly handicaped because of their historical low emissions.

                It's a classic case of do as I say, not as I do. But the punchline is that that is true: developing countries can't and shouldn't take the same road, but need allowances to feed their populations and raise them out of poverty, wich ultimately takes energy.

                It's a big, complex subject, and my personal positions are admitiadly a bit radical bot in terms of how I approach hat the developed world needs to do, but also the deevloping world (particularly India and China with our huge populations).

                It will probably be a lot of work for not so much response because it cases far from the Western/american narrative on the environment (even for greens) but it's my contribution.

                And I keep asking the same question at the bottom of every comment I post. That's what I want to know; what is the future we a leaving our children? someone please tell me what my daughter has to sacrifice so they can live comfortable today.

                What about my Daughter's future?

                by koNko on Thu Sep 02, 2010 at 10:25:25 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

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