Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Major resource agencies invasion of the Dampier Peninsula


  1. via Wilderness Society :

    Climate change: Dear grandchildren, I can only say sorry

    Date November 20, 2013

    Ross Gittins

    I don't have grandchildren but I'm hoping for some, someday, so this column is for them. I want you to know that although, in the mid-teens of this century, Australians elected a government that wasn't genuine in its commitment to combating the effects of climate change, and that even abolished the main instrument economists invented for that purpose, I never accepted this complacency.

    Partly because that government's predecessors had done such a poor job of introducing effective measures - and even a party known as the Greens played its cards all wrong - the nation lost its resolve and allowed its original bipartisan commitment to decisive action to be lost.

    The minority of people who doubted the scientists' advice that the globe was warming combined with libertarians - who, as a matter of principle, oppose almost all arguments for intervention by government - to persuade the Liberals to break with bipartisanship.

    If the Liberals under their new leader, Tony Abbott, had opposed action against climate change outright, Liberal voters who accepted the need for action would have been forced to choose between the party and their beliefs.


    Instead, Abbott focused his opposition on the Labor government's main instrument for gradually bringing about a reduction in emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses, an emissions trading scheme whose price would be fixed by the government for the first year or two.

    Abbott insisted the Coalition remained committed to Australia's international undertaking to reduce emissions by at least 5 per cent below 2000 levels by 2020, and by 15 per cent or 25 per cent provided other countries were taking comparable action.

    The big difference was that, rather than using Labor's ''carbon tax'' to achieve the target, the Coalition would rely on ''direct action'', such as offering monetary incentives to farmers and others to reduce emissions.

    This left Abbott free to run an almighty scare campaign about how Labor's ''great big new tax on everything'' would greatly increase the cost of living for ordinary Australian families and impose big costs on Australian businesses, which would impair their ability to compete.

    Abbott associated with outright climate-change deniers and said things that seemed to brand him as one of them, while always adding, sotto voce, that he accepted human-caused climate change and the need to do something about it.

    Apart from attracting voters away from Labor and its frightening carbon tax, the result of making climate change an issue of party dispute was to give Liberal supporters a licence to stop worrying about climate change - if the leaders of my party aren't worrying, why should I? - while providing a fig leaf for those Liberals who retained their concern.

    The business lobby groups' initial position had been: if it's inevitable we do something, let's get on with it and make future arrangements as certain as possible. But with their side of politics inviting them to put their short-term interests ahead of the economy's long-term health, most business people found it too tempting to resist.

    To be fair, some businesses stuck with their schemes to reduce their own emissions and some pressed on with repositioning their business for a world where the use of fossil fuels had become prohibitively expensive as well as socially disapproved of.

  2. Climate change: Dear grandchildren, I can only say sorry

    You will find this hard to believe, but in the mid-teens, it was still common to think about ''the economy'' in isolation from the natural environment which sustained it. Economists, business people and politicians had gone for two centuries largely ignoring the damage economic activity did to the environment.

    The idea that, eventually, the environment would hit back and do great damage to the economy was one most people preferred not to think about. At the time, it was fashionable to bewail the lack of action to increase the economy's productivity. Few people joined dots to realise the climate was in the process of dealing a blow to our productivity, one that would significantly reduce the next generation's living standards.

    At the time, we rationalised our selfishness - our willingness to avoid a tiny drop in our standard of living at the expense of a big drop in our offspring's - by telling ourselves half-truths and untruths about the global nature of climate change.

    We told ourselves there was nothing Australia could do by itself to affect climate change (true), that at the Copenhagen conference in 2009, countries had failed to reach a binding agreement on action to reduce emissions (true) and that the world's two biggest polluters, China and the US, were doing nothing much to reduce their emissions.

    We had no excuse for not knowing this was untrue because successive government reports told us the contrary. One we got just before the carbon tax was abolished, from the Climate Change Authority, said the two superpowers were stepping up their actions to reduce emissions. ''These measures could have a significant impact on global emissions reductions,'' it concluded.

    I recount this history to explain how my generation's dereliction occurred, not to defend or justify it. We knew what we should have done; we chose not to do it. I never fell for any of these spurious arguments.

    Did I ever doubt that climate change represented by far the greatest threat to Australia's future economic prosperity? Never. Should I have said this more often, rather than chasing a thousand economic will-o'-the-wisps? Yes.

    Ross Gittins is the economics editor.


    1. Marshall Islands hits out at Australia and Japan over carbon target cuts

      The Marshall Islands' Climate Change Minister has lashed out at Australia and Japan for cutting their carbon reduction targets at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Warsaw.

      Tony de Brum says his country will be one of those that suffers the most from global warming and says Australia and Japan are setting a bad example.

      The Australian delegation has already faced criticism from pressure groups for not taking the Warsaw negotiations seriously and attempting to derail the conference.

      Mr de Brum has also hit out at Japan's plans to lower carbon reduction targets following the shutdown of many of its nuclear reactors.

      Japan has been forced to revert to coal power in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear crisis and high public mistrust of nuclear power in the country.

      "Japan is trying to justify its actions on the basis of Fukushima. We think that's a very lame excuse." Mr dr Brum said.

      "Japan's announcement saying 'from 25 [per cent] to 3.1 is tantamount to saying 'from 25 to nothing' because 3.1 doesn't do anything."

      Lack of leadership on climate change

      Australia's plans to scrap the carbon price has won praise from the Canadian Government, but Mr de Brum has criticised Australia as a rogue nation.

      "At a big conference like the UN you might expect one or two rogues to emerge, but never in our wildest dreams did we expect that those rogues might be our own big brother neighbours of Canada, Australia and Japan." he said.

      Many of the world's smaller economies staged a walk-out of the Warsaw conference this week, after the US, Australia and the EU deferred talk of who should pay compensation for extreme climatic events until after 2015.

      Mr de Brum says there is a lack of leadership and responsibility from many of the world's major polluters.

      "When the Pacific Rim is responsible for more than its share of world pollution it should be the Pacific countries that take the leadership vision in making sure the rest of the world follows.

      "Instead we have Japan, Canada and Australia doing this number on us,"

      Mr de Brum says he has issued an open invitation to Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to visit the Marshall Islands to see the impacts of climate change first-hand, but she has not yet set a date for the trip.

  3. Victoria puts brakes on unconventional gas decision

    The Victorian government has effectively delayed until after the next state election any consideration of the development of unconventional gas reserves, amid concerns of an electoral backlash over the issue.

    Former Federal minister Peter Reith has completed a report for the Victorian government on the role of unconventional gas and with the report in hand, Victorian premier Denis Napthine said on radio this morning there will now be a public consultation of the issue, which has effectively pushed consideration of raising the existing exploration moratorium beyond the November 2014 Victorian state election.

    Unconventional gas is being tapped in Queensland to supply a number of gas export projects which are in the process of being developed, with oil companies now expanding their hunt to both the Cooper Basin in central Australia, along with areas in the Northern Territory.

    In NSW, after an effective moratorium since the 2011 state election, a limited amount of exploration and development work is getting underway for unconventional gas by Santos near Gunnedah in the north west of the state, and also near Scone, north of Newcastle.

    The debate over tapping unconventional gas reserves comes amid surging domestic gas prices due to rising demand for gas to supply the Queensland export projects.

    "The only sensible course of action is for the Victorian Government and other eastern states to promote production of additional gas supply," the Reith Taskforce told the Victorian government in its report, which has now been released.

    "Government reservations or subsidies will not address the essence of the issue."

    An onshore gas industry can provide economic benefits, the report noted, while calling for "rigorous environmental processes" surrounding any developments.

    1. Peter Reith sprung for gas lies.


      Fighting back on gas claims

      By Matt Grudnoff

      The report from the Victorian government's Gas Taskforce, released today, is not surprising, given a recent article by its chair, writes Matt Grudnoff.

      In his recent article, Fighting false claims in the gas debate, Peter Reith got an impressive amount of things wrong. In fact, it would seem that the only thing he got right was when he referred to "false claims". Unfortunately for him, he seems to be at the centre of some of those claims.

      The government has released the report of the Victorian Gas Taskforce, which Reith chaired. With Reith getting so much wrong in his article, it is not surprising that the report recommended that the moratorium on fracking be removed. But let's have a close look at the claims he has made to see why CSG is not going to benefit the people of Victoria.

      Reith claims that greater use of coal seam gas (CSG) could significantly reduce carbon emissions. This is a claim that the industry regularly makes. It is also a claim that it simply can't substantiate. It involves the half-truth that, when consumed, gas produces less carbon emissions than burning coal. What it ignores is the other emissions that are involved with the extraction of CSG, including methane leaking because of CSG extractions, known as "fugitive emissions".

      Methane is an incredibly potent greenhouse gas, up to 86 times more potent than carbon dioxide. There has been very little study done on the actual rates of fugitive emissions in Australia but it is likely to be significantly higher than what the industry has been claiming. Studies in the US have shown that fugitive emissions from unconventional gas are significant, with some studies showing that it is high enough to mean that its emissions are similar to that of coal.

      Another claim that Reith made was that the response to rising prices or an imagined shortage was to boost gas supply. This myth has been debunked many times before. The idea that more CSG will stop gas prices from rising completely misunderstands what is causing gas prices to go up.

      Gas prices are going to rise because the gas industry is building export facilities. The gas industry is building export facilities because the gas price it can get overseas is far higher than what it's currently getting in Australia. The rise in price is not an unfortunate by-product but it is an industry objective.

      The gas industry is within its rights to try and sell to consumers that are going to pay it the highest price but for the gas industry to effectively claim that Australians should ignore the health and environmental concerns they have about CSG because that will stop the price rise is simply nonsense.

      With the gas price about to skyrocket, it might be far more profitable to produce gas, but that is not going to convince people to put aside their concerns. The industry knows this and that is why it has invented this gas crisis and is desperate to sell its non-solution.

    2. Fighting back on gas claims

      Finally Reith raised the prospect that the opposition to CSG is coming from "greenies".

      Whereas most Victorians are concerned about the rising cost of living, the greenies are campaigning to shut down the use of all fossil fuels.

      A significant part of the protest against the expansion of the CSG industry is coming from the farming community. Groups such as Lock The Gate are made up of landholders who will be most affected by CSG. They are people who make their living from the land and are worried about the environmental and health impacts that CSG poses.

      You only need to look at the political reaction to CSG to know that concerns are widespread and not just centred on a fringe group. With the release of the report, the Victorian Coalition government is clearly in no rush to lift the moratorium. It has announced 18 months of consultation. Even before the report, the government showed a reluctance to lift the ban on CSG. The NSW Coalition government has introduced new restrictions on CSG including a two kilometre exclusion zone around residential areas and, more recently, the banning of CSG in the Sydney water catchment area.

      These Coalition governments would not be introducing restrictions on CSG if the only group that was against it were "greenies". The political reality is that it is National party voters who are very concerned about CSG and this is why there are new restrictions on CSG.

      The fact that one article from the chairman of the Victorian government's Gas Taskforce had so many things wrong helps explain the Taskforce's recommendations. But the response of the government is to wait and consult which shows it has not swallowed the gas industry's propaganda that invents and exaggerates CSG benefits and does nothing to address people's concerns.

      Matt Grudnoff is the Senior Economist at the Australia Institute

  4. Mark Textor's succumbing to Twitter ego-fest has deeply damaged Tony Abbott

    Just as the automobile is known for adducing an impoliteness in people they would rarely display in personal dealings, social media is often anti-social with people writing things they wouldn't dream of saying face-to-face.

    It is a paradox really because while talk is confronting, it is also fleeting.

    The ego-fest that is Twitter is the forum of choice for these inveterate opionados proving irresistible despite virtually all the risks being on the downside.

    Obviously frustrated at the mealy-mouthed diplo-speak issuing from Tony Abbott as he attempted to soothe bruised Indonesian feelings over the spying allegations, Mark Textor, the Liberal Party's wunderkind pollster couldn't help himself.

    How else to explain a stream of infantile and racially dubious references likening Indonesia's foreign minister to a 1970s ''Pilipino porn star'', suggesting President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono uses a ''weird-ass calendar'' (''FFS SBY''), and publishing pictures of the Bali bombers?

    The fact that some of this material was tweeted and then deleted is probably instructive.

    In damage control mode, the pollster with a penchant for poison, argued after the fact on Thursday that he had not been referring to anyone in particular with his porn star reference? Seriously? Why did it refer to ''a bloke'' and why, for that matter, was it deleted?

    After Fairfax Media reported his tweets, some fellow travellers of the voluble Mr Textor defended his comments, which of course is their right, but they went further, slamming this company for publishing them.

    This is a curious response given that Textor's observations were intended precisely to be published. That was the point. Entirely. And the views were volunteered as well.

    Mr Textor can have had no other intention than to publish his opinions for the consumption of all and sundry.

    The idea of others complaining about them being noticed surely misses the point.

    Or rather, it reveals another point.

    That the comments are in fact distinctly embarrassing – especially for the Coalition government with which he is so intimately connected.

    The challenge now for Prime Minister Abbott is what to do about them.

    The fact of an Abbott insider being so blatantly offensive to the Indonesian leadership while Abbott himself is going out of his way to remain respectful and salve an inflamed situation, is big news in Indonesia.

    The Fairfax story, or more accurately, the subject of it, was front page news on the leading Indonesian website, Kompas.com on Thursday and other Indonesian media have covered it also. Outrage in Indonesia appears to be growing, which could be a real problem for Abbott.

    A senior Liberal source said Textor had been ''sat on'' and told to shut up. Who knows?

    In the midst of the biggest crisis in the relationship since 1999, Abbott is being criticised from the left for not apologising directly to SBY for the personal insult of Australia having bugged the phones of he and his wife among others.

    The still new PM has correctly resisted such calls, despite the short-term comfort this kind of acknowledgement and contrition might bring.

    But it is of no help to Abbott whatsoever to have abusive public commentary from the extreme right – especially if it is seen to be coming from within the councils of his own party.

    1. Liberal strategist Mark Textor apologises after apparently comparing Indonesian foreign minister to porn star on Twitter

      .............The Liberal Party advisor also said yesterday that no Indonesian had been bombed in Australia, and posted the comment with photos of the Bali bombers.

      Prime Minister Tony Abbott described the racially-loaded statements posted by Mr Textor as "tacky".

      In Question Time Today, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten asked Mr Abbott why no one from the Government had spoken to Mr Textor about the "offensive" remarks.

      "And will the Prime Minister now review all the contracts between the Government and Mr Textor's company?" Mr Shorten said.

      But Mr Abbott answered only that "they were tacky comments and they have been withdrawn and apologised for".

      Mr Textor touts himself as being in the Prime Minister's "inner circle", and his market research firm CrosbyTextor has been associated with the Liberal Party for many years.

      .....................Mr Textor's initial comments, which came as the damaging standoff between Australia and Indonesia dragged on, made the front page of Indonesian news website Kompas.

      Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek says they do nothing to repair relations with Indonesia.

      "Frankly, I was quite shocked," she said.

      "They're highly inappropriate comments, I'm pleased to be told they've now been taken off the Twitter feed."

      Greens leader Christine Milne has also condemned the statements as "appalling".

      "Clearly he's a close confidante of the Liberal Party and it says quite a lot about what they think in those back rooms," she said.

      "This sort of tweet will be seen as just further inflaming the situation, particularly because of the close relationship between Mark Textor and the Prime Minister and the Liberal Party in general.

      "That's why it is essential Tony Abbott engages in this personally."

  5. Climate talks: Polish environment minister sacked to accelerate shale gas operations

    Marcin Korolec dismissed by prime minister in reshuffle but will continue chairing climate negotiations in Warsaw

    Poland's prime minister Donald Tusk dismissed environment minister Marcin Korolec on Wednesday as part of a government reshuffle, but said the latter would continue to represent the country in ongoing UN climate talks.

    Korolec will be replaced by Maciej Grabowski, former deputy finance minister responsible for preparing shale gas taxation.

    "It is about radical acceleration of shale gas operations. Mr Korolec will remain the government's plenipotentiary for the climate negotiations," Tusk told a news conference.

    Warsaw is hosting this year's UN climate talks, at which almost 200 countries are trying to make progress on a global climate deal that should be agreed by 2015.

    Korolec, as Poland's environment minister, assumed the presidency of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change process on November 11, the first day of the two-week conference, and was to hold it throughout 2014.

    His dismissal raised questions over Poland's position in the negotiations.

    Some delegates complained about the timing of the reshuffle, saying it indicated that Poland was not interested in ensuring tougher global action to combat global warming.

    "This is nuts. Changing the minister leading the climate negotiations after a race to the bottom by parties of the convention shows Prime Minister Tusk is not sincere about the need for an ambitious climate deal," said Maciej Muskat, director of Greenpeace Poland.

    "Furthermore, justifying the change of minister by the need to push the exploitation of another fossil fuel in Poland is beyond words," he said.

    One delegate added: "Poland hosted a conference to promote coal earlier this week and now this. You have to question how serious they are."

    The country, which generates 90% of its electricity from coal, has been one of the most reluctant European Union members to toughen the existing goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 20% below 1990 levels by 2020.

    The environment ministry under Korolec was criticised for hampering work on new shale gas legislation, which, together with red tape and poor results, forced a number of global players to quit Poland.

  6. New drill technology unveiled in Adelaide

    New drilling technology that can slash costs has the potential to revolutionise mineral exploration around the world.

    The prototype of the coiled tubing drill rig was unveiled on Thursday by the Deep Exploration Technologies Cooperative Research Centre, based in Adelaide.

    Chief executive Richard Hillis says the rig promises to significantly reduce the time and expense associated with drilling operations to find new deposits.

    "More than ever, we need to find cost-effective methods of minerals exploration," Mr Hillis said.

    "Currently 80 per cent Australia's mineral production comes from mines that were discovered more than 30 years ago.

    "Based on current rates of exploitation, half of Australia's existing major non-bulk commodity mines could close down within seven to 18 years.

    "The economic risks for Australia are enormous unless new mineral deposits are discovered."

    The new rig uses a continuous reel of tubing instead of separate drill rods to eliminate manual handling and maximise the amount of time the drill bit is in the ground.

    It is much smaller and lighter than conventional drill rigs and uses a motor at the bottom of the shaft rather than at the surface.

    "The rig has the potential to significantly lower the cost per metre drilled, which will enable companies to be more aggressive with their drilling programs," Mr Hillis said.
    "By significantly reducing the time and expense to find mineral deposits hidden under deep rock, it will encourage more mineral exploration both in Australia and worldwide."

  7. Santos to start drilling Pilliga CSG pilot well

    Santos will begin drilling its first pilot coal seam gas well in the Pilliga State Forest in north-west NSW this weekend.

    Dewhurst 22 will be the site of one of 12 pilot wells drilled as part of the Santos coal seam gas program within Petroleum Exploration Licence Area 238.

    The company will also re-enter three existing wells, drilled by Eastern Star Gas several years ago, to allow lateral drilling.

    The drilling of a nearby exploration well, Dewhurst 8A, was completed yesterday.

    Santos started drilling the exploration well, on the northern side of the Pilliga State Forest, on November 2, 2013.

    It has been used to collect data from the coal seam and the overlying rock formations.

    Santos' Rohan Richardson, who is responsible for the design and construction of the CSG wells in the Pilliga State Forest, says the data is collected in three ways.

    "While we're drilling down, we take core samples so that allows us to extract rock from sub-surface formations. We bring that rock to the surface and analyse it.

    "We do various tests which allows us to determine permeability and pressure of the various formations we encounter.

    "We do what's called various logging runs, that allow us to analyse all the formations in terms of lithology, type and make-up. "

    While no water or gas is extracted via an exploration well, Mr Richardson says the drilling process does include the use of drilling fluid or 'muds'.

    These are put into the well bore to lift rock from the bottom of the hole to the well's surface. It also prevents clays and various rock formations from swelling within the hole.

    "It's a potassium sulphate based system so we've removed the chlorides (salts) from our 'muds' and removed all the dangerous additives.

    "Any rock removed is classified under the EPA waste guidelines and can be reused on site.

    "The drilling fluid is then recycled and reused.

    "We rebuild its properties so we add more potassium sulphate and make sure it's got the right design properties for the next well and then it's used on the next well."

    The recycled drilling fluid doesn't have to travel far.

    Dewhurst 22, the site of the pilot well, is a short drive away along red, dirt roads.

    Confusingly, the well at site Dewhurst 22 is known as the Dewhurst 6 pilot.

    Rohan Richardson says drilling there could begin as early as Saturday.

    "A pilot well is used to extract water and gas and prove the economic recovery of the gas from the coal seam to the surface.

    "An exploration well is purely there to gain data and then we fill it full of cement or use it as a monitoring bore."