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Keep socialist blog En Passant going - donate now
If you want to keep a blog that makes the arguments every day against the ravages of capitalism going and keeps alive the flame of democracy and community, make a donation to help cover my costs. And of course keep reading the blog. To donate click here. Keep socialist blog En Passant going. More... (4)

Sprouting sh*t for almost nothing
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My interview Razor Sharp 18 February
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp on Tuesday 18 February. http://sharonfirebrace.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/18-2-14-john-passant-aust-national-university-g20-meeting-age-of-enttilement-engineers-attack-of-austerity-hardship-on-civilians.mp3 (0)

My interview Razor Sharp 11 February 2014
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp this morning. The Royal Commission, car industry and age of entitlement get a lot of the coverage. http://sharonfirebrace.com/2014/02/11/john-passant-aust-national-university-canberra-2/ (0)

Razor Sharp 4 February 2014
Me on 4 February 2014 on Razor Sharp with Sharon Firebrace. http://sharonfirebrace.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/4-2-14-john-passant-aust-national-university-canberra-end-of-the-age-of-entitlement-for-the-needy-but-pandering-to-the-lusts-of-the-greedy.mp3 (0)

Time for a House Un-Australian Activities Committee?
Tony Abbott thinks the Australian Broadcasting Corporation is Un-Australian. I am looking forward to his government setting up the House Un-Australian Activities Committee. (1)

Make Gina Rinehart work for her dole
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Sick kids and paying upfront

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Save Medicare

Demonstrate in defence of Medicare at Sydney Town Hall 1 pm Saturday 4 January (0)

Me on Razor Sharp this morning
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace this morning for Razor Sharp. It happens every Tuesday. http://sharonfirebrace.com/2013/12/03/john-passant-australian-national-university-8/ (0)

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Garnaut spells it out – we’ll pay for their pollution

Ross Garnaut suggests that a carbon price of $26 per tonne will raise about $11.5 billion in 2012/13.

He says 55 percent of this should be returned through an increase in the tax free threshold from its current $16,000 – taking into account the low income tax offset – to $25,000 and the abolition of that offset.

Increasing the tax free threshold benefits all individual taxpayers so Garnaut proposes that for taxpayers earning more than $80,000 a year the tax rates be increased to wipe out that tax benefit and leave those taxpayers with no compensation for carbon tax price rises.

For those not working, Garnaut suggests there be increased Government benefits.

Taking a long term view, compensation through the tax system and increased benefits is ephemeral. It erodes over time through bracket creep and can be undone at any time through Government tax and other policy changes.

Certainly, Garnaut takes a long term view when he says:

‘Australian households will ultimately bear the full cost of a carbon price. Returns to capital are determined in international markets and any reduction in them by domestic policy measures is temporary, except to the extent that the policy measures fall on rents from natural resources, monopoly or technology.’

And there’s the rub. The carbon tax and other carbon pricing mechanisms are designed in the long term to fall on ordinary working families many of whom are struggling as it is to make ends meet.

Working people are being asked to bear the ultimate costs of the minor economic restructuring that will result from the modest $26 a tonne on carbon proposed.

As the Greens and others have argued, a price less than $40 per tonne won’t produce a shift to gas-fired electricity stations and anything less than $100 won’t encourage a shift to renewable energy.

No Government is going to commit political suicide and impose those sorts of costs on working people.

The technology currently exists to shift to renewable energy in Australia by 2020. The political and economic will to do that doesn’t. The current economic arrangements preclude taking effective action to address climate change and any that are undertaken will ultimately reduce workers living standards. No wonder the tax is on the nose with 60 percent of Australians.

Tinkering with the market though a carbon price won’t solve the problems the market itself creates. The market is the problem, not the solution.

This quickly written piece first appeared with a range of other academic opinion in The Conversation.

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Comments

Comment from david
Time June 1, 2011 at 5:11 pm

The problem is not the market per se, but that pollution is a negative externality, hence why the tax. Further, given that the point of the tax is to get us to change our lifestyles, which would also mean living in greater densities, then what do you propose to make people change?

Comment from Arthur
Time June 1, 2011 at 6:49 pm

That bottom line stands with the argument above it but the market isn’t by any means the only ‘problem’.
The problem is that ‘sheeple™’ must need something to believe.

The ‘regional show’ is on in town for the next few days.
You know, it used to be cheap entertainment. Field events, livestock, crafts and Hubba Hubba, ‘Vanessa the Undresser’ and all those other tacky sideshows.
Ye Gods!

If the majority of the population are silly enough to fall for that in this day and age – then the Great Carbon Bubble is undoubtedly a cakewalk.
Once the ‘sheeple’ are told often enough what they are required to do in order to make their marginal lives more unsustainable – once that happens they’ll comply without too much of a whimper.

But what will inevitably burst the bubble will be all the greedy bastards sucking the tit of the new carbon trade.
If the poor old peasant has been dipping out the last couple of centuries because despite having the skills – he merely lacks the MEANS of production – then what in hell’s name will he be subject to with this rapidly emerging universal farce?

Surely there must be someone out there who actually comprehends what’s happening here?

Step by ratcheting step ordinary people are systematically being denied even the tiniest influence upon their destinies.
It is all a confabulation of lies – a huge confidence trick – all depending upon the entire population being kept too busy to think through this latest, gigantic IM-practical joke.

Comment from Arthur
Time June 1, 2011 at 6:55 pm

Anyone out there knows Kevin Rudd well enough to take him back to your house and get him pissed one night?
If you do – he’ll tell you.

Comment from Terrance
Time June 1, 2011 at 7:27 pm

One more thing … I recommend to those who think carbon pollution is a trick or con or made up – go live next to a brown coal power station. Take the children and live within say 100 metres of one. A few years should do it.

Comment from Calligula
Time June 1, 2011 at 8:11 pm

Terrance –
That comment places you.
Brown coal sets you as a Victorian.
Yours statement of living within ‘100 metres of a brown coal fired power station’ places you as a bit of a fibber.
Either you are a lying Victorian or the rules down there are remarkably different from here.
You surely know that no-one gets to live within 100 metres of ANY power station?
Leastways, not here they don’t.

My original qualifications and accreditation are steam power. Since then I have moved on a bit.
Nonetheless I keep my Quals current by reading up as much as possible.
(and please don’t come back at me about that. I do stay current)

I appreciate what you say and am aware that VicGov did a rotten thing by selling off their lignite powered plant to private enterprise.
Those greedy idiots were duped by your government.
They’ve certainly been bellyaching about it lately.

They could import Good quality anthracite from Queensland – but their plant would have to be converted to combust it efficiently.
That would cost more than they’d be prepared to pay.
Look mate. I could write a treatise on the subject – just for you.

You would still refuse to understand, anyway.
I refuse to say that the reason for that – is that your mind is closed to practical possibility.

Please stay in Victoria and fight your fight there.
Please, please, do not emigrate to Queensland.

We have enough trouble already with an outstandingly corrupt government, on the one hand pretending to be green, and on the other blithely supporting something infinitely worse than your brown coal – that fracking – destroying our farmland and our rivers.

Please stay away – at least until we can sort it out here.

Comment from Tony
Time June 1, 2011 at 8:43 pm

Terrance: A good point you make here on living near a brown coal plant. I certainly don’t think carbon pollution is a con or made up. I don’t think that is a view often presented here either. Thanks to the success of the perception managers (PR), I am actually very concerned at the almost zealot like fervor in the approach to defining a pathway for action. So we are set to be locked into a market based instrument, with the carbon tax structured as a precursor for it. The measure appears dubious with regard to its likelihood for success at best, the outcome of the European experience being moot.

As an exercise, let’s consider for a moment a situation where the outcome of carbon dioxide releases is unclear in the sense that we don’t really know if we “will all die” (with reference to your earlier post), ie. let’s discount the apocalypse. Irrespective of the final outcome due to carbon dioxide concentrations, the pollution (ie. by products) released at various stages of the production process leading to end user energy are often highly toxic. Ending these releases would make it worthwhile to move to a clean economy in itself.

Here I’ll put a potentially controversial posititon that in terms of selling a simple message, maybe framing these reforms (possibly with no intent) as a ubiquitous bogeyman called ‘carbon’, they have acquired a useful device to get everyone on board. Otherwise, we would see the usual cross factional fighting between sectional interests attempting to shift costs onto another, of which we still have seen some to some degree.

However, this device has now been usurped by financial engineers to simply make money from nothing without actually rectifying a problem. At this point, recalling Garnaut is an economist and not a scientist or engineer, so he has designed a solution for economists.

So taking the view above, we can look at a low carbon fuel like natural gas. Now, if we look at the specific production process of Coal Seam Gas Fracking, we have another fuel source that will result in hidden pollution, ie. indicative human and animal health effects from groundwater and farm produce contamination.

However, for end users these effects remain off the radar, gas comes in a bottle or a pipe and burns reasonably clean.

Sure, there’s less carbon dioxide released, but it would appear to be very polluting in comparison with conventional gas fields.

So the big picture is that any fossil carbon fuel source is problematic for more reasons than just the carbon dioxide.

Given the events of Fukushima and the Gulf oil spill, in addition to the carbon issue, it simply makes more sense to ensure technological approaches applied are safe and clean in the event of a catastrophic failure or side effects of the normal extraction/generation process.

Thanks for raising that initial point.

Comment from Calligula
Time June 1, 2011 at 9:26 pm

Tony –
What has happened here?
Are you a combustion expert?
When did combining oxygen with carbon contravene the laws of chemistry/physics?
If your local powerplant appears to be shooting pollution into the atmosphere – then you are most likely right.
If so, complain bitterly and ensure that your complaint is sustained until the pollution stops.
Terrance has hinted there’s a bit of that happening in Victoria with the Lignite fuelled plant – greedy private owners not keeping up with maintenance schedules – most likely.

But none of that has anything to do with carbon dioxide emissions.

Then I read further down your missive, Tony.
Forgive me, a bit difficult to decipher.
Are you suggesting that a fuel is better ‘cos it has ‘less carbon’?
Ridiculous.
Even nuclear and wind/tide power and solar has carbon emissions and infinitely worse pollutants in manufacture and with plant infrastructure.
It seems we have this problem in Australia that all you ‘experts’ out there refuse to face the facts of reality.

There is no solution to a problem that we cannot in any case evaluate, let alone solve.
Put it this way. I have no agenda or means of furthering private ambition for the simple reason that, other than on John’s sufferance and my own piss poor pages I have no influence at all.
But I am an engineer wanting to speak my piece because what I say is true.
There are a few engineers lately speaking their stuff truthfully and being shouted down by those ‘experts’ being paid by the government.
I heard an engineer today with an admitted interest in nickel mining say to Australia that his nickel mine had been deemed as one of our worst polluters and carbon users.
His nickel however is mostly used these days in ‘new age’ solar and electric ‘renewable energy’ scenarios.

Work it out people.
By the time our bi-partisan greed machine has screwed us all crosseyed and sold us off overseas – your children will be enduring a short, brutal and savage, Hobbesian existence under bark humpies.

Leastways the children of you compliant fools will.

Comment from Reinhardt
Time June 1, 2011 at 10:31 pm

David, up top –
Indeed, the tax is to change lifestyles – but somehow without any plan whatsoever.
Living in greater densities, as you say – once again without any plan let alone any sustainable scenario.
Not even, as they say, a mud-map.
Brilliant, isn’t it!

Comment from Ralph Bennett
Time June 1, 2011 at 11:02 pm

Hi John,

You need to stabilise population growth from the 1.2 million extra people, we are growing by every 3 years. ( Simply abolish the baby bonus…….from ABS data, our birthrate is double our deathrate and make our emmigration rate…around 70k per year to equal our immigration rate. )

The billions being spent on growth infrastructure ( ie pollution) can then be re-directed to research and development of emerging technologies, health and education.

No need for a carbon tax and stabilisation will solve all the “intractible” problems facing Australia and the World.

Cheers,

Ralph

Comment from Tony
Time June 2, 2011 at 12:19 am

Sorry Calligula, this will take another missive. Careful with the framing of the case. I state carbon fuel energy production >processes< (including extraction) pollute and cause signficant environmental degradation (river contamination, ecosystem decimation, or just ask the Gulf of Mexico how it's feeling). That is how I present "carbon pollution", not just carbon dioxide coming out a stack. Terrance's statement appeared to imply a similar view.

This is a different position to the basic political argument that carbon dioxide releases alone will "kill us all". Okay, a radical extension of the usual position, but since it was used by Terrance, I use it here. I deliberately put aside this position to seek another justification.

As you suggest, the reality is we simply don't know how this will play out with any certainty. Fault has been found with data and models at times. However, it's plausible to accept their trend argument, if not the degree. We must note a trend has significant variation across geographic areas.

So, in the absence of carbon dioxide itself as a diabolical armageddon, what do we have?

As stated, the case is made around conventional pollutants and waste streams in the extraction, production and consumption processes.

It is on this basis there is a case to clean up our act irrespective of the 'carbon' proposition.

"Are you suggesting that a fuel is better ‘cos it has ‘less carbon’?"

Good question that, well picked up. It's the conventional position of the energy "experts", so I take their view and say let's look at it from that perspective.

We are being told it is a clean alternative and, as you also state above, we know that fracking pollutants are proving to be a far more sinister and immediate impact on living conditions than the likes of the beloved Queensland anthracite.

In that context, does it really matter if natural gas (from CSG) burns with less carbon when you've potentially poisoned the acquifer? For CSG, it appears carbon looks like a secondary issue here. It's becoming apparent CSG is THE "clean" energy governments have in mind, just like PM Cameron recently admitted in the UK.

Are you wondering why support for other renewables is being rapidly cut back in recent months? I dare say it is not just the costs, which have been dropping and will continue to fall rapidly in coming years.

"There is no solution to a problem that we cannot in any case evaluate, let alone solve."

Agreed. Hence, I throw out the proposition of taking decisions based purely on that clear and odourless gas called carbon dioxide.

I'm sorry Calligula, this time I think you've jumped the gun. I also state that with the likes of the recent nuclear (3 core meltdowns and suddenly radiation's good for you…) and fossil fuel environmental disasters as mentioned above, current methods of boiling water are far from ideal. The imperative is designing systems robustly that don't have a massive human cost on catastrophic failure should be elevated to a much higher standing than they presently are.

You make some valid points on minerals processing, although this is somewhat dependent on the processes (and reprocessing) employed by individual operations and can vary massively.

Nowhere above am I prescriptive about what the energy pathway should be. The intent is to consider just what side issues come into play beyond 'carbon' and whether clean energy (sources with a lifecycle deemed much cleaner and safer) is justifiable for additional reasons. On balance it appears likely to be so.

I do note you make a few assumptions about pathways on my behalf. Have you been taking lessons from Dooley?

Comment from Calligula
Time June 2, 2011 at 2:52 pm

Tony –
I stand admonished for frothing at the mouth too much but please don’t punish me by suggesting I’m anything to do with Dooley.
I have no idea what Dooley is except he appeared on John’s pages, that is I noticed his name there the first time not too many days after I mentioned a certain future premier of NSW, one ‘Delia Dooley’.

Coincidence?
I don’t know about that, but I DO swear on a stack of bibles that I didn’t invent that noxious Gra-Gra., am not related to him and I look nothing like Heinrich Himmler.
Tell you what, (but would require Mr Passant’s permission) I could write you a Dooley comment my way. You’d notice the difference immediately for the simple reason that my brain (such as it is) works differently to that sadists.

To business –
Coal seam gas fracking is ( to be honest, I’m lost for words) unconscionable.
Here try this. If you want to eat an orange you could pick it from the tree, carefully peel it and eat the contents. We might throw the peel and seeds away in the garden for convenience but also to recycle what we don’t want.
In a reverse sort of way that’s how we mine for coal and other goodies by removing what we want and leaving the rest.
Now with fracking style orange eating we pick a dozen oranges – bash ‘em with a baulk of timber, cut out a hole in each and squirt the juice of those dozen oranges into our greedy mouth.
Then we carefully gather up the other 90% of our dozen oranges, wrap them up really tight in several layers of non-biodegradable plastic then bury them – thus ensuring that no-one or no thing gets to ever utilize that other 90% of goodness.

Please don’t pick on the other obvious elements in my argument about making marmalade, invisible ink, even growing new trees, or the thousands of other things that can be done with the oranges.
Not only is fracking itself disruptive and detrimental to the environment – the other brews, goos and slurries being pumped in directions that may only be guessed at are often toxic in their own right.
But once used in that process, pumped underground to invade, destroy then casually leach out of some, once compressed, now disintegrated, forest primeval – then, hoo-boy, the fun really begins.
Nearby inhabitants can have the fun of having to strike a match to burn off the gas that’ll come out of their kitchen tap before their water will run.
They get to wear a radiological dosimeter 24×7 to keep a check on the radon gas leaking out of their water bore and flooding low lying ground.
The list is endless but not the least amusing.

Messy destructive and stupid and even after all that the biggest crime is that the process only makes use of less than 10% of the orange.
It isn’t even the best part of the orange since the gas simply contains less calorific value to the coal left underground – coal left underground and wasted ‘cos it’ll never be extracted.
What did you say about nuclear?
Not entirely sure what you meant.
However regard what I said about fracking and the release of leached pollutants including radioactive.
From now on in you don’t need a reactor in Queensland to become irradiated.

Renewables ?
Go figure.
What’s happening with infrastructure? Zilch
Why?
Uncertainty – no money
Same with renewables.
That and internecine squabbling over priority and funding among the numerous insular ‘stakeholders’.

To summarise – to liberate chemical energy a precise given number of atoms of oxygen must combine with a precise given number of atoms of a fuel.
Hydrogen oxidizes to form water but is not much good at releasing energy.
Carbon works well but is getting rare.
Other little asterisks in the chemist’s text book tend to be either expensive, difficult to handle or are noxious/poisonous.

But how about an ammonia powered skateboard?

Comment from Tony
Time June 2, 2011 at 11:51 pm

Calligula: I apologise about the Dooley wind up, it was irresistable.

On your CSG comments, I certainly agree.

On nuclear, the seriousness of the Fukushima situation has not been well reported or timely in most sections of the international media. Strange hey? A good site for accurate information has been http://www.fairewinds.com

Agreed, it beggars belief how little infrastructure (particularly non-road) has been undertaken in the past 20 years of conditions with terms of trade as good as in an awful long time.

Comment from Hasbeen
Time June 3, 2011 at 9:24 am

Wow John, that was a pretty sweeping statement, “The technology currently exists to shift to renewable energy in Australia by 2020. The political and economic will to do that doesn’t”, thrown in with no justification, or qualification.

I don’t know what you have been reading, but it can’t be the reports coming in from Europe regarding the continual failure of renewables to live up to the hype.

If you want to be taken seriously, you will have to do a bit better than that.

Comment from John
Time June 3, 2011 at 10:24 am

Hasbeen, see the beyond zero website.

Comment from John
Time June 3, 2011 at 2:41 pm

Hasbeen, they fail to live up to the hype because they are ‘inefficient’ compared to dirty energy, not because we couldn’t do it. The problem is an economic one, not a technological one.

Comment from CFDs
Time June 4, 2011 at 5:26 pm

I still don’t get why they have been chosen the tax to compensate the problem in pollution. How about the sheeples? Are they going to do something about it? I have also the heart to save the poor, especially those who reside near the coal plants, but I guess the fact of having the tax as a right to make their lives more better is not only the option. Government must try to discuss this things and to sort out unnecessary options like this. I have pity to those working hard to earn around $80,000.00 you know!
Thanks for the post anyway!

~ Lanceus