On finding out exactly who Alex is and why he wears a white suit and a bowler hat

Sometimes it’s one step forward and a few goosesteps back. Stumbling sometimes into the crowd from Clockwork Orange, which will give you a fright. Especially when you realise a whole bunch of the gang are in government.

You can see the glint in their eyes as they skewer their victims with cuts and more cuts. When did S and M make it into Parliament as family entertainment?

The New Feds, who seem to be sprouting gills for breathing under water (handy when you have such water-lapped borders to defend) seem to be busy manufacturing Gitmo in Oz at Manus Island (at least it’s a few jobs). It’s also helping the poor junk food industry by removing a website that gives food a star rating, probably because the poor junk food industry is too weak to stand on its own (given it may be eating its profits). Wow, imagine looking at the externalities of that industry.

The boys from Clockwork Orange

We digress from property occasionally only to show how much easier it is to go green by comparison.

But you have to be on your toes.

Lend Lease has pulled out of building the coal port expansion project at Abbot Point that threatens the Great Barrier Reef not to mention enables massive amounts of new CO2 emissions into the atmosphere.

A bunch of artists have pulled out of the Biennale of Sydney because it is partly sponsored by Transfield Holdings, whose sibling company has an incarceration contract over refugees at Manus Island in Papua New Guinea from where horror stories continue to emerge.

The Abbott government defends its protection of Assistant Health Minister Fiona Nash for pulling out of a website that gave star ratings for healthy food, while her chief of staff was forced to resign because of links to the junk food industry.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Nash was not as bad as former MP Craig Thompson in the previous Labor government who has been found by the Melbourne Magistrates Court to have defrauded members of the Health Services Union.

The people in the white uniforms with bowler hats have been busy.

In Victoria they’ve trashed the Victorian Energy Efficiency Target, which is costing 0.26 cents per kilowatt hour but has benefits estimated at $158 per person.

But to be fair, it’s probably because the decision makers are having trouble with their maths… and the private sector has snapped up all the bean counters.

We certainly hope they can find the calculators for some of the other stuff that we’re hearing around the traps that they’ve alighted on.

Nationally another target has been the national occupational licensing scheme. Never mind that it’s just wasted $30 million already invested. And never mind that it would make everyone lives a little easier when they need to get tradies or even real estate agents in across the border.

Also about to be flushed down the toilet are the build up of resources and understanding in the Climate Change Authority. In what looks to be its last report before it’s disbanded, the authority has recommended we boost our emissions reduction target to 19 per cent, up from 5 per cent.

Meanwhile, it seems we’re really enjoying spending money on reports over and over until we get the right answer. For instance on wind farms.

Once again, another report – the 20th – says there is no link to health impact from wind farms. What some academic observers have found however is a link between wind farm protesters and nutters. Or cults. When the scientists and academics start talking that way, you know they’re really pissed. (And we’re in trouble). But yawn… let’s do another report, the PM said.

The Erf, the Erf

In Canberra property people attending briefings on the Emissions Reduction Fund are starting to worry they could be left out in the cold or at least badly short changed by the determination of the Feds to pay for carbon reductions only after they can be proved.

This might be fine for big corporations and big industries for the property sector, made up of a lot of smaller interests, the big hope has rested on aggregating the project work across sectors or suburbs with some funding mechanisms to tide over those paying for the projects.

The problem, it’s feared, is the cost of the finance.

So to raise, say, $100 million to fund a major lighting retrofit program for instance, someone will need to fund the scheme, with the promise that it will be repaid when the Feds accept the reductions have been made.

But it’s risky. The financier may not be entirely sure the government will stick to its plan – the Feds have not exactly shown good will on carbon abatement. It’s also a five-year plan so anything can happen.

So the cost for risk will be quite high. Next will be the cost of interest.

All this money will be paid for by the Feds to the financier instead of to energy efficiency programs. What’s left goes to the project but the thinking in Canberra this week is that the sum will be much diminished.

There’s another big snag. No financiers that these industry members have heard of have so far put up their hands to get involved. They certainly were not at the briefing that our sources attended.

Let’s hope they’re late but willing starters.

Good news

No, Great News: Lend Lease has pulled out of the consortium to build the extension to the coal port at Abbot Point, which is good since this one leading green property company wants to rebuild its profile in that direction. Of course the official reasons it gives are thin, and not at all the point we’d rather they make, that many people have called for Lend Lease to abandon is dabbing in the brown arts just for a quid.

Airports going green?

Well it’s like saying that they’re trying make nuclear fusion healthy and safe for baby. But at least some are trying. Others are just trying.

Willow Aliento has uncovered some fantastic and passionate work from some people. Okay, one hero, Dr Sam Phua, who is doing his best to bring proper carbon measurement to the runway. And a true blue Queenslander John Wagner, who with his family, is building an airport and business park outside of Toowoomba that he promises will be the “greenest airport in the world.”

Go Dr Phua and the Wagners.

What’s the story with GE’s media stories?

GE says it will double its investment in clean tech and efficiency to US$20 billion by 2020. Chairman and chief executive Jeff Immelt said so.

But take a closer look. Some of the funds are being used to progress industries that are far from clean. Such as coal seam gas fracking for instance.

So, huh?

Ecomagination, GE’s research and development program “to develop cleaner and more efficient technologies”, has generated over US$130 billion in revenue for the company since its launch in 2005, and reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 34 per cent and water use by 47 per cent, Immelt said.

A GE media statement said the global investment would have benefits for Australia, with GE already partnered with CSIRO and putting its weight behind Australian projects including a wave power prototype, a compressed air engine and a water filtration system.

But don’t be surprised if your eyebrows rise up a few feet when you read the fine print.

The majority of the media release announcing the boosted funding was dedicated to explaining a particular Ecomagination-funded project “generating buzz” – a “search for alternative technologies to replace the water that now forms the basis of the hydraulic fracturing process”.

The project is looking at using carbon dioxide to fracture rocks and release gas and oil, rather than pressurised water as is currently standard, and could be employed in areas where water resources are scarce, it says.

“The efficiency of the actual fracturing process should be the same as or close to the water process,” according to Mike Bowman, an engineer in the GE sustainable energy advanced technology lab.

“An efficiency benefit will come when the well starts producing since the CO2 that is left behind will improve the yield of hydrocarbons out of the well more than using water.”

Sure it’s great to save water and to be efficient but if it’s fracking, well who the hell cares. And don’t call it clean energy.

It’s not 1994, quite yet. (Oops..)

By the way check out Fairfax Media’s coverage of the long wall mine and how it’s made a reservoir crack and dry up.

https://www.smh.com.au/environment/conservation/woronora-reservoir-source-dries-up-longwall-coalmining-gets-blame-20140224-33d0h.html

And speaking of clean energy – not – there are times when watching a government backflip makes us want to cover our eyes, like the overturn of the uranium mining ban in Queensland, which opens the state’s uranium reserves to mining companies from July this year, according to a source at Nuclear Free Queensland.

One area poised to be opened up is Ben Lomond, only 50km out of Townsville, where a French company, Mega Uranium, has held the mining lease since 2005. Didn’t the massive spill at Ranger which polluted waters in Kakadu make anybody in the Newman Government rethink the wisdom of this decision?

We can possibly look forward to similar dire policy gymnastics in New South Wales, where the lifting of the ban on exploration in 2012 makes pressure for permission to dig up what they find almost inevitable.

Let’s be clear – uranium is not a renewable resource, and nuclear energy is not clean power. Queensland has (as the tourism ads always remind us) plenty of sun, they should probably put it to productive use instead.

4 replies on “News from the front desk: Issue No 180”

  1. Well, the more I read this the more pissed off I become! I think it’s a revolving circle, a large part is aimed fairly and squarly at the poor policy decisions government is making, desipite highly qualified advise based upon a ‘mandate’ which has nothing to do with good government or good public policy.

  2. Well, the more I read this the more pissed off I become! I think it’s a revolving circle, a large part is aimed fairly and squarly at the poor policy decisions government is making, desipite highly qualified advise based upon a ‘mandate’ which has nothing to do with good government or good public policy.

  3. “When the scientists and academics start talking that way, you know they’re really pissed”….
    What on earth makes you think the “scientists and academics” need to have over-indulged in alcohol in order to make known their frustrations???

  4. “When the scientists and academics start talking that way, you know they’re really pissed”….
    What on earth makes you think the “scientists and academics” need to have over-indulged in alcohol in order to make known their frustrations???

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