Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Why does Australian PM Tony Abbott support fossil fuel subsidies? | Alexander White | Environment |

Why does Australian PM Tony Abbott support fossil fuel subsidies? | Alexander White | Environment |

Why are massive $10 billion subsidies for one industry acceptable, but a relatively modest aid package for SPC-Ardmona unacceptable?
No doubt there are many answers to these questions.
One possible answer can be found in the work of Drew Westen, professor in the Departments of Psychology and Psychiatry at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. The author of The Political Brain, Westen describes the neurological differences in the brains of conservatives and (in US terms) liberals.
Westen, and the likes of liberal neuro-linguist George Lakoff, posited that the way that conservatives viewed money was tied to morality.
To very briefly summarise, if a person is rich, it is proof that they are a good and moral person. It demonstrates that they must be hard-workers, wise investors, who are self sufficient and possess personal discipline.
The corollary of this is that poor people, who lack money, also lack morality. To a conservative, lack of money proves that you must be lazy, ill-disciplined, self-indulgent, deviant and dependent on others.
The role of government is to support morality and punish immorality. Thus, people on welfare are immoral and thus should be penalised, while rich people should be further rewarded and incentivised to continue to be moral.
This moral system, in my view, underpins the Abbott's government's approach to corporate welfare, and especially to the environment.
In the conservative world-view, companies like Holden and Ford, or SPC-Ardmona are unworthy of government support because they lose money. By definition, because they need government aid, they're immoral, dependent, ill-disciplined and lazy.
Meanwhile, companies like hugely profitable fossil fuel companies and coal miners like Clive Palmer, are good, moral companies. Their enormous profits are proof of their morality.
What does this have to do with climate change?
The conservative world view is threatened by the very existence of climate change and global warming.
If making money and profits through mining and burning fossil fuels are moral behaviours, but those activities cause dangerous climate change which threatens you and your loved ones, then can it be moral? Any suggestion that fossil fuel extraction is harmful therefore threatens the basis of conservative morality.
If nature and natural resources exist as things to be conquered, exploited or used to make moral profits, then regulation that prevents this by definition is immoral. When it comes to conservation, environmental protection and climate change mitigation, the conservative morality of Abbott sees laws that protect biodiversity and our natural heritage as illegitimate hindrances to the moral activity of making profits.
Regulation is a form of interference in moral activities, and at worst, creates dependency. Renewable energy subsidies and targets distorts the profit-meritocracy.
Tony Abbott will always support subsidies for fossil fuel companies because they are moral companies, although at times his political instincts have made him a weather-vane on the issue.
Support for renewable energy, assistance for disadvantaged people, foreign aid, or industry packages for Holden, Ford and Australian manufacturing should be opposed because it is the role of government to punish immorality, and lack of money is proof of that immorality.


  1. Is Tony Abbott's Australian administration the most hostile to his nation's environment in history?

    In Western Australia, endangered great white sharks are being slaughtered. In Queensland, dredging spoil is to be dumped on the Great Barrier Reef. In Tasmania, ancient forests – harbouring some of the planet’s tallest trees – are in danger of being stripped of their World Heritage listing.

    Australians could be forgiven for wondering if the federal government they elected last September is the most conservation-hostile in living memory.

    Critics warn that moves by Tony Abbott and his Environment Minister, Greg Hunt, will not only degrade the country’s most outstanding natural assets, but make Australia an international laughing-stock. The UN has already threatened to list the Great Barrier Reef as “in danger” when its World Heritage watchdog committee meets in Qatar in June.

    Compounding the right-wing government’s apparent disregard for Australia’s unique environment, say conservationists and scientists, is its resistance to any meaningful action to tackle climate change.

    Mr Abbott has axed three key agencies, including one which supported private investment in renewable energy. So contemptuous is he of the science behind climate change – of any science, for that matter – that he has not even bothered appointing a science minister.


    In Queensland, the health of what is widely considered Earth’s greatest reef is being risked so that Australia can ship yet more coal to China and India, and fuel greenhouse gas-emitting industries. In Tasmania, the prize is timber. Precious wilderness and rainforest areas will be logged if the government convinces the UN committee to remove their World Heritage protection.

    In Western Australia, Mr Hunt has exempted the state government from federal laws protecting great whites, so that it can go ahead with a cull. That was despite marine scientists saying there is no evidence that such measures reduce the number of attacks, and warning that apex predators are essential to the ocean ecosystem.

    The cull, which prompted mass protests around the country last weekend, was announced in response to seven fatal shark attacks in Western Australian waters in the past three years. Baited drum lines have been set up a kilometre off popular beaches; any great white, tiger or bull shark bigger than 3 metres which is caught there is killed.

    One letter-writer lamented in the Sydney Morning Herald this week: “This crowd [the government] have been in office for less than six months. Imagine the damage they can do in three years [the parliamentary term].”

    The Great Barrier Reef already faces multiple threats: storms, warmer water, agricultural run-off and poisonous crown-of-thorns starfish. Now Mr Hunt has approved the expansion of a nearby coal terminal into the biggest port of its kind in the world – and the dumping in the reef’s waters of millions of tonnes of sludge from the massive dredging operation that requires.

    Scientists had urged him to veto the plans for Abbot Point, because of the risk to a host of marine life including endangered turtles and dugongs [sea cows]. Tourism operators fear the impact on their business, and on Australia’s image abroad. But the country intends to triple its coal exports by 2030 – and Abbot Point, along with Gladstone, another port near the reef, are key to that vision.

    At the opposite end of the country – in a move which the leader of the Australian Greens, Christine Milne, says will make Australia “a global laughing-stock” – the government has asked the UN’s World Heritage Committee to de-list 74,000 hectares of the wilderness and rainforest for which Tasmania is internationally renowned.

  2. Is Tony Abbott's Australian administration the most hostile to his nation's environment in history?

    Mr Hunt claims the area – among 170,000 hectares listed only last year, at the request of the previous Labor government – is degraded as a result of being logged, and should not have been listed. But that is disputed by, among others, Peter Hitchcock, an international consultant on world heritage values, who says about 90 per cent of it is pristine.

    Mr Hitchcock told The Australian that the forests in question were “outstanding by any stretch of the imagination”. According to Environment Tasmania, a leading conservation group, they are part of a unique tall eucalypt ecosystem – the southern hemisphere’s equivalent of California’s redwoods, with some trees more than 400 years old and up to 100 metres high.

    Even Tasmania’s timber industry opposes the move, because the 170,000-hectare listing was the centrepiece of a “peace deal” struck between the industry, unions and green groups in 2011 after decades of warring over the forests.

    If the UN committee does brand the reef as “in danger”, Australia will join 32 other countries with World Heritage sites in that category, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Syria, Afghanistan and the Central African Republic. But while conservationists are tearing their hair out, the government seems to care little about the international embarrassment.


    It ought to care about the impact on tourism, which adds more than $42bn (£23bn) a year to Australia’s Gross Domestic Product. Like the reef, Tasmania’s forests are a major draw.

    In Western Australia, killing sharks is supposed to persuade tourists that it’s safe to visit the state and swim off its beaches. However, Richard Branson – one of a number of high-profile figures to criticise the cull – believes it will have the opposite effect.

    Interviewed on Australian radio last week, he said: “You’re advertising a problem that doesn’t exist, in a major way, and you’re deterring people from wanting to come to Perth and your beautiful countryside around it.”

  3. Shark cull feeds into broader fear that Australia's treasures are under assault

    Backlash has engulfed WA's premier Colin Barnett and now threatens to cause a headache for the federal government

    It takes a very special set of circumstances for the Western Australian premier, Colin Barnett, to clash with Ricky Gervais over a policy matter. A $20m policy to track, trap and shoot sharks that venture near popular WA beaches, to be precise.

    It’s unlikely Barnett envisioned his plan to set 72 baited drumlines to ensnare large sharks and provide reassurance to an electorate spooked by a spate of attacks – seven in three years – would garner such international opprobrium, including from the likes of Gervais and Sir Richard Branson.

    But a hefty backlash to the shark cull – 15 protest rallies were held from Perth to Sydney on Saturday – has not only engulfed Barnett but also threatens to cause a headache for the federal government.

    About 6,000 people gathered on the deep sand and grassy steps of Cottesloe to protest – a crowd that shows the cull is succeeding in drawing people back to the beach, as one passing onlooker sardonically noted.


    ....... the cull is feeding into a broader, increasingly bitter narrative that Australia’s natural treasures are under assault from Canberra, after its backing for Barnett’s shark strategy. At the Cottesloe rally a laundry list of separate grievances – from the defunding of Environmental Defenders offices to the expansion of coal seam gas – were enthusiastically jeered by the crowd.

    Some conservation groups already see little point in dialogue and diplomatic entreaties such as petitions as a way to engage with the federal government, less than six months into its term.

    Money tins rattled at the rally will fund a legal challenge to the cull, with the courts now being used as a primary tool – rather than a last resort – by environmental groups aghast at decisions that threaten sharks and whales in WA, nature reserves in Queensland and the Tasmanian devil in its home state.

    Sporadic bursts of outrage at various environmental decisions have yet to coalesce to become an electoral liability for the Coalition. But the shark cull has again exposed the tension faced by the environment minister, Greg Hunt, in balancing the protection of the natural world with political expediency.


    The New South Wales bushfires in October forced Hunt to tread an awkward tightrope on whether climate change was a factor, given the starkly differing views expressed by, on one hand, the prime minister and, on the other, Hunt’s own department.

    The WA shark cull has caused him to perform further unhappy contortions. His letter to Barnett allowing the exemption of great white sharks from federal protection hinted at what may be his true feelings towards the strategy, stating: “One does not have to agree with a policy to accept that a national interest exemption is warranted to protect against imminent threat to life, economic damage and public safety more generally.”

    Ultimately, while he knocked back Barnett’s desire to hunt down sharks in the open water, he gave the go-ahead to the drumlines, using exemption powers originally envisioned for use in times of national crisis.

    In an unfortunate juxtaposition, Hunt used an ABC radio interview on Monday to defend the shooting of sharks in WA before criticising Japan for its so-called scientific whaling, saying “I personally despise, reject [and] condemn” it. Japanese officials may be forgiven for joining the likes of Branson and Gervais in thinking Australia has a rather muddled logic when it comes to protecting the ocean’s most awe-inspiring creatures.

  4. West Virginia Spill Revealed Striking Lack Of Water Supply Regulations, Lawmakers Say

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Members of Congress and West Virginia officials say patchwork federal regulations are inadequate to protect the public from spills such as the one last month that contaminated drinking water for 300,000 people in the Charleston area.

    Democrats and Republicans on a Senate Environment and Public Works subcommittee agreed at a hearing Tuesday that the federal government needs to do more to protect the water supply from toxic chemicals.

    Committee leaders are pushing a bill from West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin that would require states to inspect chemical facilities that could threaten a public water system every three years.

    Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin says he thinks the bill has a "pretty good" chance of passing. But House Speaker John Boehner has said there are enough regulations on the books.

  5. How the U.S. Exports Global Warming

    While Obama talks of putting America on the path to a clean, green future, we're flooding world markets with cheap, high carbon fuels

    Tim Dickinson
    February 3, 2014 11:00 AM ET

    The greening of American energy is both real and profound. Since President Obama took office, the nation's solar capacity has increased more than tenfold. Wind power has more than doubled, to 60,000 megawatts – enough to power nearly 20 million homes. Thanks to aggressive new fuel-efficiency standards, the nation's drivers are burning nearly 5 billion fewer gallons of gasoline a year than in 2008. The boom in cheap natural gas, meanwhile, has disrupted the coal industry. Coal-power generation, though still the nation's top source of electricity, is off nearly 20 percent since 2008. More than 150 coal plants have already been shuttered, and the EPA is expected to issue regulations in June that will limit emissions from existing coal facilities. These rules should accelerate the shift to natural gas, which – fracking's risks to groundwater aside – generates half the greenhouse pollution of coal.

    But there's a flip side to this American success story. Even as our nation is pivoting toward a more sustainable energy future, America's oil and coal corporations are racing to position the country as the planet's dirty-energy dealer – supplying the developing world with cut-rate, high-polluting, climate-damaging fuels. Much like tobacco companies did in the 1990s – when new taxes, regulations and rising consumer awareness undercut domestic demand – Big Carbon is turning to lucrative new markets in booming Asian economies where regulations are looser. Worse, the White House has quietly championed this dirty-energy trade.


    "The Obama administration wants to be seen as a climate leader, but there is no source of fossil fuel that it is prepared to leave in the ground," says Lorne Stockman, research director for Oil Change International. "Coal, gas, refinery products – crude oil is the last frontier on this. You want it? We're going to export it."

    When the winds kicked up over the Detroit river last spring, city residents confronted a new toxic hazard: swirling clouds of soot taking flight from a mysterious black dune piled high along the city's industrial waterfront. By fall, similar dark clouds were settling over Chicago's South Side – this time from heaping piles along the Calumet River. The pollution in both cities made national headlines – and created a dubious coming-out party for petroleum coke, or "petcoke," a filthy byproduct of refining gasoline and diesel from Canadian tar-sands crude. Despite the controversy over Keystone XL – the stalled pipeline project that would move diluted tar-sands bitumen to refineries on the Gulf Coast – the Canadian crude is already a large and growing part of our energy mix. American refineries, primarily in the Midwest, processed 1.65 million barrels a day in 2012 – up 40 percent from 2010.


    Converting tar-sands oil into usable fuels requires a huge amount of energy, and much of the black gunk that's refined out of the crude in this process ends up as petroleum coke. Petcoke is like concentrated coal – denser and dirtier than anything that comes out of a mine. It can be burned just like coal to produce power, but petcoke emits up to 15 percent more climate pollution. (It also contains up to 12 times as much sulfur, not to mention a slew of heavy metals.) In Canada, the stuff is largely treated like a waste product; the country has stockpiled nearly 80 million tons of it. Here in the U.S., petcoke is sometimes burned in coal plants, but it's so filthy that the EPA has stopped issuing any new licenses for its use as fuel. "Literally, in terms of climate change," says Stockman, "it's the dirtiest fuel on the planet."

    Read more: http://www.rollingstone

  6. How the U.S. Exports Global Warming

    No surprise: The Koch brothers are in the middle of this market. Koch Carbon, a subsidiary of Koch Industries, was the owner of the Detroit dune, since sold off to an international buyer. But it's a third Koch brother, Billy, who is the petcoke king. William Koch is the CEO of Oxbow Carbon, which describes itself as "the worldwide leader in fuel-grade petcoke sourcing and sales" – trading 11 million tons per year.


    With dirty Canadian crude imports on the rise, U.S. refineries have been retooling to produce even more petcoke. A BP refinery on the outskirts of Chicago just tripled its coking capacity and is now the world's second-largest source of the black gunk. But the Promised Land of petcoke refining is on the Gulf Coast – which is part of why Big Oil is so hot to complete the Keystone XL pipeline. The Texas and Louisiana refineries that would process Keystone crude can produce a petcoke pile the size of the Great Pyramid of Giza every year, which, when burned, would produce more than 18 million tons of carbon pollution.

    Despite the dangers of petcoke, the Obama administration has turned a blind eye to its proliferation. A 2011 State Department environmental-impact study of Keystone XL, commissioned under then-Secretary Hillary Clinton, treated petcoke as if it were an inert byproduct, and failed to consider its end use as a fuel when calculating the greenhouse impacts of the pipeline. According to the EPA, that decision led State to lowball the pipeline's associated emissions by as much as 30 percent.


    A joint letter by Rep. Henry Waxman and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, chairs of the Bicameral Task Force on Climate Change, blasted State's conclusion as "fundamentally flawed" and "contrary to basic economics" – noting that it would take a new forest the size of West Virginia to fully offset the carbon emissions Keystone XL would bring to market.


    The tar-sands boom has the united states poised to become a top player in the global-export market for gasoline and diesel. And Obama's top trade ambassador has been working behind the scenes to make sure that our climate-conscious European allies don't shutter their markets to fuels refined from the filthy Canadian crude.

    The U.S. trade representative, Ambassador Michael Froman, is a protégé of former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin and a top member of the president's inner circle. Froman was confirmed last June to his current trade post, where he's under direct orders from the president to "open new markets for American businesses." His nomination was opposed by only four senators – chiefly Massachusetts Democrat Elizabeth Warren, who faulted Froman for refusing to commit to even the paltry standard for transparency in trade talks set by the George W. Bush administration. Warren was right to be concerned. In backroom negotiations, Froman has worked to undermine new European Union fuel standards intended to lower the continent's carbon emissions. The European standards would work, in part, by grading the carbon toxicity of various crude oils. They logically propose placing polluting tar-sands oil in a carbon class all by itself; on its path from a pit mine to the filling station, a gallon of tar-sands gas is responsible for 81 percent more climate pollution than the average gallon of regular. But instead of respecting the EU's commitment to slow global warming, Froman has worked to force North America's dirtiest petrol into the tanks of Europe's Volkswagens, Peugeots and lorries.

    Read more: http://www.rollingstone.

  7. How the U.S. Exports Global Warming

    The greatest success story in the greening of American energy is the market-driven collapse of coal. Last year, American power plants burned 181 million fewer tons of coal than in the final year of the Bush administration, as power companies shifted to burning cheaper natural gas. And after years of delay, the administration finally appears to be committed to driving some regulatory nails into Big Coal's coffin: In January, the EPA published a draft rule that's likely to end the construction of new coal plants by requiring cost-prohibitive carbon-capture technology. This summer, the agency is expected to introduce climate-pollution rules for existing plants that should hasten the adoption of natural gas.

    With the freefall in domestic demand, industry giants like Peabody are desperate to turn American coal into a global export – targeting booming Asian economies that are powering their growth with dirty fuel. China now consumes nearly as much coal as the rest of the world combined, and its demand is projected to grow by nearly 40 percent by the end of the decade. "China's demand," according to William Durbin, head of global markets for the energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie, "will almost single-handedly propel the growth of coal."

    Since Obama took office, American coal exports are up more than 50 percent. And Big Coal has designs to more than double that tonnage by opening a direct export route to Asia, shipping coal strip-mined from the Powder River Basin, in Wyoming and Montana, by rail to a network of planned export terminals in the Pacific Northwest, and then by sea to China. These new coal exports have received far less attention than Keystone XL, but would unleash a carbon bomb nearly identical to the greenhouse pollution attributed to the pipeline.


    After inking a 2011 deal to export 24 million tons of Powder River Basin coal through the planned Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point in Washington, Peabody Coal CEO Gregory Boyce gushed, "We're opening the door to a new era of U.S. exports from the nation's largest and most productive coal region to the world's best market for coal."

    Last March, John Kitzhaber and Jay Inslee, the governors of Oregon and Washington, respectively, wrote to the White House expressing near disbelief that the administration seemed prepared to let Big Coal's dreams come true. "It is hard to conceive that the federal government would ignore the inevitable consequences of coal leasing and coal export," they wrote. Coal passing through Pacific Northwest terminals would produce, they argued, "climate impacts in the United States that dwarf those of almost any other action the federal government could take in the foreseeable future."

    But the administration refused to intervene.


    Appearing before Congress last June, the acting regulatory chief of the Army Corps of Engineers announced that climate pollution would not factor in the evaluation of permits for the export terminals. The burning of American coal in Asia, she testified, was "too far removed" to be considered.

    Even more troubling, the administration opened up more than 300 million tons of coal in the Powder River Basin to bidding by the coal companies last year. The coal is on government land; it belongs to the public. Yet the leasing practices of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) are so flawed that one independent study estimates that taxpayers have been fleeced of $30 billion over the past three decades. In the past, that stealth subsidy to Big Coal at least helped create cheap power for American homes and businesses. Today, the administration has put American taxpayers in the position of subsidizing coal destined to fuel the growth of our nation's fiercest, and carbon-filthiest, economic rival.

    Read more: http://www.rollingstone.

  8. How the U.S. Exports Global Warming

    In the battle to prevent the United States from fueling the developing world's global-warming binge, the deck is stacked against climate hawks. The fossil-fuel industry remains the single most powerful special interest in Washington, having successfully ball-gagged the entire Republican Party on global warming. More insidiously, the macroeconomic indicators by which the economy – and any presidency – are measured can be cheaply inflated through dirty-energy exports, which boost GDP and narrow the trade deficit.

    But here's the surprise: Climate activists are more than holding their own. Keystone XL is on an indefinite hold, and Whitehouse says he's "optimistic" that the pipeline won't gain approval on the watch of new Secretary of State John Kerry. Likewise, Obama's Powder River Basin initiatives seem to be going nowhere in the face of strong regional and national opposition. Even Wall Street is getting cold feet on coal. In January, Goldman Sachs dumped its stake in the Cherry Point, Washington, terminal once celebrated by Peabody Coal's CEO as emblematic of his industry's future. And with no clear path to China, coal companies themselves are pulling back. In two BLM auctions last summer, one failed to solicit any bids by coal companies; the other received a single bid – and it was too low for even the famously coal-friendly BLM to accept.

    But preventing America from morphing into the world's dirty-energy hub will likely require something more: a competitive Democratic primary for 2016. By all outward indications, the Clinton regime-in-waiting is even more supportive of the dirty-energy trade than the Obama White House. Bill Clinton is a vocal proponent of the Keystone XL pipeline, calling on America to "embrace it." During Hillary Clinton's reign as secretary of state, the department outsourced its flawed environmental assessment of Keystone XL to a longtime contractor for the pipeline's builder, TransCanada – whose top lobbyist just happened to have served as a deputy manager for Clinton's 2008 presidential run. Clinton herself, in a 2010 appearance at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, sounded fatalistic about bringing tar sands to market: "We're either going to be dependent on dirty oil from the Gulf, or dependent on dirty oil from Canada," she said.

    In a contested primary, the issue of constraining the nation's polluting exports is likely to emerge as a significant fault line between Clinton and whomever emerges to represent the Elizabeth Warren wing of the Democratic Party.

    A credible challenger need not derail Clinton to make the difference. Recall that both Clinton and Obama began as reticent climate hawks in 2008 – even talking up the prospects of refining coal into a liquid for use as auto fuel – before the threat of John Edwards forced both candidates to commit to the ambitious goal of reducing climate pollution by 80 percent by 2050. On the other hand, if Hillary Clinton simply cruises through the primaries, it's a safe bet that the corporate center will hold – and that North America's fossil exports are going to flow. That's a state of affairs from which the world as we know it will not soon recover.

    Read more: http://www.rollingstone.

  9. Fracking is depleting water supplies in America's driest areas, report shows

    From Texas to California, drilling for oil and gas is using billions of gallons of water in the country's most drought-prone areas

    America's oil and gas rush is depleting water supplies in the driest and most drought-prone areas of the country, from Texas to California, new research has found.

    Of the nearly 40,000 oil and gas wells drilled since 2011, three-quarters were located in areas where water is scarce, and 55% were in areas experiencing drought, the report by the Ceres investor network found.

    Fracking those wells used 97bn gallons of water, raising new concerns about unforeseen costs of America's energy rush.

    "Hydraulic fracturing is increasing competitive pressures for water in some of the country's most water-stressed and drought-ridden regions," said Mindy Lubber, president of the Ceres green investors' network.

    Without new tougher regulations on water use, she warned industry could be on a "collision course" with other water users.

    "It's a wake-up call," said Prof James Famiglietti, a hydrologist at the University of California, Irvine. "We understand as a country that we need more energy but it is time to have a conversation about what impacts there are, and do our best to try to minimise any damage."

    It can take millions of gallons of fresh water to frack a single well, and much of the drilling is tightly concentrated in areas where water is in chronically short supply, or where there have been multi-year droughts.

    Half of the 97bn gallons of water was used to frack wells in Texas, which has experienced severe drought for years – and where production is expected to double over the next five years.


    Local aquifer levels in the Eagle Ford formation have dropped by up to 300ft over the last few years.

    A number of small communities in Texas oil and gas country have already run out of water or are in danger of running out of water in days, pushed to the brink by a combination of drought and high demand for water for fracking.

    Twenty-nine communities across Texas could run out of water in 90 days, according to the Texas commission on environmental quality. Many reservoirs in west Texas are at only 25% capacity.

    Nearly all of the wells in Colorado (97%) were located in areas where most of the ground and surface water is already stretched between farming and cities, the report said. It said water demand for fracking in the state was expected to double to 6bn gallons by 2015 – or about twice as much as the entire city of Boulder uses in a year.

    In California, where a drought emergency was declared last month, 96% of new oil and gas wells were located in areas where there was already fierce competition for water.

    The pattern holds for other regions caught up in the oil and gas rush. Most of the wells in New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming were also located in areas of high water stress, the report said.


    Some oil and gas producers were beginning to recycle water, especially in the Marcellus shale in Pennsylvania, the report said. But it said those savings were too little to offset the huge demand for water for fracking in the coming years.

  10. 2013 was sixth warmest year on record, UN says

    13 of the 14 warmest years on record occurred in the 21st century, says the World Meteorological Organisation

    2013 was the sixth warmest year since records began more than 160 years ago, tying with 2007, the UN's weather agency said on Wednesday.

    The World Metereological Organisation analysed the three main global records of surface temperatures, from the UK's Met Office and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA in the US, and said last year was 0.5C above the 1961-1990 average.

    2010 was the warmest year on record, and 13 of the 14 warmest years on record have occurred in the 21st century. Some parts of the globe were exceptionally hot in 2013, however – Australia experienced its warmest year ever.

    Michel Jarraud, secretary general of the WMO, said: “The global temperature for the year 2013 is consistent with the long term warming trend. The rate of warming is not uniform but the underlying trend is undeniable. Given the record amounts of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere, global temperatures will continue to rise for generations to come."

    He added: “Our action – or inaction – to curb emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases will shape the state of our planet for our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren."

    Noaa's temperature data earlier pegged 2013 at the fourth warmest on record.


    Coalition’s direct action climate plan 'could undermine global efforts'

    Australia's 5% emissions reduction target 'too low and inflexible' to contribute to 2015 climate talks in Paris

    In a round of submissions to a Senate committee held in Melbourne on Wednesday, business and conservation organisations questioned whether the direct action plan, in its current form, could achieve its aim of a 5% reduction in emissions by 2020, from 2000 levels.

    The Australian Conservation Foundation said a key flaw is that while there is no cap on emissions under the plan, there is a $1.5bn cap on the emissions reduction fund, which will be used to incentivise businesses to lower emissions.

    “We simply can’t support direct action in its current form as it has major structural problems,” said Jamie Hanson, climate change campaigner at the ACF.

    “It’ll be very difficult to scale up to achieve the higher pollution cuts that will be essential to hit the targets agreed in international forums.

    “We are talking about a major policy shift from acting in concert with other nations to avoid a world that is 2C warmer to a policy that will make it very difficult to achieve a 2C warming limit.”

    Hanson said Australia’s new climate policy could damage international talks convened by the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-Moon, for later this year, as a precursor to key 2015 climate talks in Paris, where a new accord is expected on emissions reduction.

    “At the moment, Australia won’t be able to contribute to that process,” he said. “The 5% target is too inflexible, too low and it may even actively undermine negotiations internationally. I haven’t seen any independent modelling that shows direct action will achieve the 5% goal.

    “Australia is at the bottom of the class, internationally. We are a serious drag on global efforts and we need to do much, much better.”

    In its submission, the ACF said Australia should reduce emissions by 40% below 1990 levels by 2020, 60% by 2030, with net zero pollution achieved by 2050.

  11. European parliament votes for stronger climate targets

    MEPs respond to earlier commission proposal with call for binding 2030 targets on renewables, emissions and energy efficiency

    The European parliament voted on Wednesday to require member states to meet binding national targets on renewable energy, energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions.

    In a decisive vote, 341 to 263 MEPs called for three binding targets for 2030: a 40% cut in greenhouse gases, compared with 1990 levels; at least 30% of energy to come from renewable sources; and a 40% improvement in energy efficiency.

    This was stronger than the proposal from the European commission last month, that called for 27% of energy to come from renewable sources by the same date. Under the commission's plan, there was no target for energy efficiency, and – crucially – the UK was successful in ensuring that the renewables target would be binding only at the bloc level.

    That would mean that individual member states need not have their own national target, as there is now for 2020. The UK government is strongly against having a national renewable energy target, arguing that a greenhouse gas reduction target is sufficient.

    But the MEPs voted to require binding national renewable energy targets, though by a slightly slimmer margin at 347 to 308. That vote will be taken into account when member states meet again on the subject in March. However, if member states prefer to stick to the settlement made last month, without binding national targets, the parliament has no power to reverse that.

    Ed Davey, secretary of state for energy and climate change said: "The right 2030 package will unlock low carbon investment, while keeping consumers' energy bills down. The vote in the European Parliament is one stage in the process and we are pleased that MEPs have come out in favour of an ambitious climate package for 2030.

    "I am leading the argument for the right package through the Green Growth Group, which fifteen countries are now part of. Over the last two days I have been talking to my colleagues in Berlin and in Paris to ensure we can get agreement to a progressive plan that will reduce emissions without unnecessary costs."


    The EWEA estimates that a renewables target of 30% by 2030, binding at a national level, could provide 570,000 new jobs and save €500bn in imports of fossil fuels, with lower energy costs for energy-intensive industries.

    Jason Anderson, head of climate and energy at WWF, said: "MEPs reacted to the commission's weak climate and energy proposals with a much-needed reality check. Energy efficiency and renewables are integral to achieving a low-carbon future and can't be downgraded to afterthoughts. A comprehensive package of binding targets for 2030 will reduce Europe's dependence on volatile energy imports, create employment in low-carbon sectors, deliver health benefits for EU citizens and help ensure the avoidance of dangerous climate change."

    The MEPs also voted for a continuation of the fuel quality directive beyond 2020, which would affect the import of high-carbon fuels such as those from tar sands.

    But they declined amendments for stronger targets, including a proposed 50% reduction in emissions and 40% renewables target.

  12. David Cameron takes personal control as flooding crisis worsens

    Prime minister leads meeting of Cobra emergency committee after criticism of official response to floods

    David Cameron has taken personal control of emergency efforts to help households stricken by floods and promised "no restrictions" on help, as Labour accused the government of leaving people isolated and unable to cope with homes under water.

    The prime minister led a meeting of Cobra, the government crisis response committee, moving aside Owen Paterson, the environment secretary, amid criticism of the official response to weeks of flooding, power outages and transport chaos.

    The Environment Agency now has nine severe flood warnings in place, covering much of the south coast from Cornwall to Dorset, as well as the Somerset Levels. A further 65 flood warnings are in place across southern England, the Midlands and Wales.

    With more than 300 properties under water and 8,000 homes without power, the army has been drafted in to offer planning advice and stands ready to provide troops. Police have used megaphone warnings from a helicopter to urge residents in the flood-stricken Somerset Levels to leave their homes.

    In Devon, a 30 metre stretch of the seawall in Dawlish has been swept away leaving the main south-west rail line dangling over the sea. Rail services west of Exeter are likely to face weeks of disruption and Exeter MP and former Labour environment minister Ben Bradshaw has called for the line to be rerouted.


    There have already been 21 emergency Cobra meetings of government departments, including representatives from the Environment Agency, Ministry of Defence and Met Office, to respond to the threat of floods since before Christmas.

  13. Gas prices force switch to coal for power stations

    The Australian |
    February 06, 2014 12:00AM

    QUEENSLAND'S largest power generator will today declare that Australia is one of the world's most expensive countries for energy and warn that the electricity market is being distorted by the carbon tax, mandatory renewables target and solar-rooftop subsidies.

    After Stanwell took the extraordinary step yesterday of announcing it would mothball its biggest gas-fired power station and resurrect a coal facility built in the 1980s - sparking predictions that gas-fired power plants would be withdrawn in other states - it will today call for a scaling back of the renewable energy target.

    Before the introduction of the carbon tax, the RET scheme and solar feed-in tariffs, the abundance of coal had made Australia a source of low-cost electricity, the company will say.

    "These policies appear to have been implemented for ideological reasons with little analysis of the impact on electricity prices and economic growth," Stanwell chief executive officer Richard Van Breda will say.

    Stanwell will issue its warnings as part of its submission to the federal government's energy white paper, being developed by Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane.

    The submission will caution that a raft of energy policies is eroding Australia's competitiveness in manufacturing, which is a sensitive issue for the government amid internal tensions over taxpayer handouts to businesses, including SPC Ardmona.

    Yesterday, Stanwell revealed it would withdraw its Swanbank E power station, near Ipswich west of Brisbane, from service for up to three years from October so it could sell the gas rather than use it in electricity generation.

    Mr Van Breda said with "subdued" conditions on the wholesale market and increasing gas prices set to continue, Stanwell could make more money selling the gas.

    A unit at the Tarong coal power station - in cold storage since late 2012 - will be returned to service later this year.

    In some parts of the world, cheap coal has pushed out gas, which is considered "cleaner".

    Germany is shifting back to more coal-fired electricity generation, reopening some of its dirtiest brown-coalmines that have been closed since reunification, despite having spearheaded Europe's push into renewable energy. China has plans to add another 860 million tonnes of coal production by 2015.


  14. Gas prices force switch to coal for power stations

    Labor said the development at Stanwell did not cast doubt on its climate change policies, which had prompted Wayne Swan to declare in 2011 that gas-fired electricity was projected to increase by between 150 per cent and 300 per cent over the period to 2050.

    "This example of one company returning to coal-sourced energy says more about the Coalition's Direct Action policy than Labor's climate change policy," said

    a spokeswoman for Labor's climate change spokesman, Mark Butler.

    "Stanwell Corporation may very well be anticipating a transition to the Direct Action policy, where they will be free to pollute as much as they like, without fear of penalty."

    Environment Minister Greg Hunt hit back, saying Labor would use anything to justify higher electricity prices and Stanwell had made a commercial decision based on infrastructure refits that began some time ago.

    "Clearly there is a shortage of low-priced gas, which has been made worse by the carbon tax," Mr Hunt said.

    "The test for Labor in the coming weeks is whether they will block repeal of the carbon tax and continue to increase the pressure on family electricity bills, or whether they will listen to the Australian people and how they voted at the last election."

    Origin Energy managing director Grant King has previously said it would take a carbon price of $40-$60 to create "fuel switching" -- to make it more economical to build a gas-fired power station than a coal-fired plant for baseload generation.

    National Generators Forum executive director Tim Reardon said that "as the gas prices increase trickles down into other states, we would expect to see other gas plant withdrawn".

    "The carbon price would need to be much closer to $100 a tonne before it changes the economics of electricity generation," he said.

    Mr Van Breda said it would be more lucrative for the state-owned Stanwell to sell its gas, given the high prices on the east coast, which are driven by the boom in liquefied natural gas projects.

    He briefed affected staff yesterday at the 385-megawatt Swanbank E power station on a voluntary redundancy program.

    Mr Van Breda insisted he would be making the decision regardless of the carbon tax. "We see gas prices increasing and it makes more sense for us to sell our gas rather than burn it," he said.

    He predicted that others could also sell gas instead of using it in their own operations. "People are going to sell their gas if there is a better price for it," he said.


  15. Gas prices force switch to coal for power stations

    Mr Van Breda said he was concerned about the oversupplied nature of the energy market.

    Demand for electricity had fallen due to a slew of factors, including the decline in manufacturing and falling demand from households stung by higher power bills.

    The Australian has learned that analysis by the National Generators Forum finds that if electricity consumption continues to decline at the same rate as it has over the past four years, the electricity sector could achieve a 5 per cent reduction on 2000 emissions levels as early as 2017-18 without government intervention through the RET or Direct Action Plan.

    Pointing to yesterday's new figures on greenhouse gas emissions that showed a 5.5 per cent decline in emissions from power generation, Mr Reardon said it was important that Direct Action removed taxes on electricity and led to a revival of industrial activity.

    The electricity industry has cited chronic oversupply in the market as part of its push for reform of the RET, which mandates that 20 per cent of electricity will come from renewable sources by 2020.

    The government will renew the RET this year, with Tony Abbott's comments in December that it was causing "pretty significant price pressures" being seen as opening the way for the RET to be wound back in the review.

    Stanwell's energy white paper submission will raise concerns that the surge in rooftop solar panels has increased the capacity of the market, making cheaper coal-fired power stations run less efficiently. It says solar feed-in tariffs (state government schemes) have resulted in high ongoing costs for network infrastructure.

    Stanwell wants the RET scaled back to a "true" 20 per cent of electricity consumption.

    It is set for a fixed 45,000 gigawatt hours by 2020, including a mandated 41,000GWh for large-scale generators such as wind farms. But falling energy demand means that the 20 per cent target will be overshot.


    Well there you go.....................ban solar panels to make coal more profitable....................

    Direct Action...........???????