a place to rant about energy, environment and all things John Howard

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Essential reading and viewing


Some essential reading and viewing this weekend. First up is "The Resurrection of Al Gore" in the Good Weekend magazine. The article by John Heilemann (which is not online) talks up the prospect of Gore running for President in 2008 which is hugely encouraging. There is no politician in the world more committed to the issue of climate change than Al Gore, and IMO it is critical for the future of the planet that he runs and wins in 2008.

It was a tragedy of epic proportions that Gore did not become President in 2000. Gore says of that infamous 'victory'...
"The principal source of disappointment was not the dashed expectations for me or my family," he explains, "but the consequences for the country" of Bush's victory. "What the country has subsequently gone through was much worse than I ever thought, but I expected it to be bad."
Indeed. Few of us could have imagined just how bad George W. Bush would be. Iraq, Katrina ... need I say more. On the prospects of Gore running in 2008 Heilemann writes:
What's clear is that Gore would love to be president, but the thought of the whole awful business of getting there makes him nearly nauseous.
Please run Al. One man's nausea is a small price to pay to give the planet some hope. I'm nauseous every time I see Bush on TV, and there millions (billions?) who feel the same.

The article concludes with this:
When Gore ran in 2000, he did so from a position of entitlement: the vice-presidency. But the story he could tell in 2008 would be infinitely more compelling: how he suffered the harshest defeat imaginable and pulled himself back up. As his former vice-presidential chief of staff Ron Klain observes, "Americans love a comeback. We're a comeback-crazed country. And this would be a comeback beyond all comebacks."
Next up is When oil dries up a story by Nick Galvin in the SMH about Richard Heinberg who is in Australia at the moment. Galvin writes...
Heinberg, who is embarking on an Australia-wide speaking tour, is a leading proponent of the "peak oil" theory.

Peak oil is shorthand for the premise that the amount of oil left for us to use has "peaked" (or is just about to peak). Once worldwide production begins to fall and with no corresponding decrease in demand, oil prices will skyrocket, leading to widespread chaos.

How bad will it be? If Heinberg is to be believed, the impending dislocation caused by the end of the oil era will be about as bad as it gets.

From global resource wars as oil-dependent economies battle for control of remaining resources to widespread famine caused by the slowdown in oil-dependent agribusiness, the picture he paints is nothing short of cataclysmic.

Familiar stuff for regular readers of The Oil Drum but it might come as a bit of a shock for the average suburbanite living in a McMansion 40kms from the CBD with two-tonne SUV in the garage. Heinberg continues with this forecast:

Overall population levels will also have to shrink worldwide. On the back of oil's one-time energy dividend the world's population has increased sixfold, creating an unsustainable, self-perpetuating cycle needing more and more oil.

Manufacturing will again become a local business in the post-oil era as the interdependencies of global trade are unwound. International trade will continue but it will be restricted to luxuries and exotic items. People will work and shop close to home and even grow some food in their own backyards - just as many of our parents did.

Is there any hope in Richard Heinberg's post peak world? Well not much, he sounds like a pretty hard-core doomer to me, but he does urge "positive changes" in the face of the inevitable collapse of civilisation...
"If I had a bet on what the state of the world would be in 50 years I think I'd say it's not going to be a very happy place but the more we do the better off we will be," he says. "I think it's more important to be making whatever positive changes we can than just wailing and gnashing our teeth and bemoaning our collective fate."
Continuing the Peak Oil theme 60 Minutes will be giving us their take on the issue tonight. No doubt it will be usual sensationalist tabloid journalism we have come to expect from 60 Minutes, (and not a patch on the recent 4 Corners effort) but the audience will be bigger and broader, and hopefully it will give the aforementioned McMansionites some food for thought.
Running on empty
August 27, 2006
Reporter: Tara Brown

You're about to hear two of the scariest words in the English language — "peak oil".

Effectively, they mean the end of the world as we know it. The point where oil production reaches its absolute peak; the point when supplies start running out. And the doomsayers are convinced we're almost there.

So, if you think paying $100 to fill your tank is painful, I hate to tell you, this is as good as it gets. It'll get worse, much worse.

Two dollars plus per litre by Christmas for a start. Naturally, the oil companies say stay calm. We'll be right for a 100 years at least. But then they would, wouldn't they?
Last but not least 4 Corners is showing yet another story on global warming this Monday. Too much global warming news is barely enough IMO, so kudos to the ABC for continuing to report on this most important of issues. The reporter is Jonathan Holmes who was also responsible for the Peak Oil story in July.
What Price Global Warming?
Reporter: Jonathan Holmes
Broadcast: 28/08/2006

Heat waves and cyclones; droughts ravaging farmland; rising seas swamping beach havens; forests drying up and species dying out; the Barrier Reef and Kakadu, icons of nature, doomed.

This is Australia’s future if nothing is done to tackle global warming, scientists warn - though exactly what will happen, and how soon, remain uncertain.

Is there still time for the world to avert these dire consequences? How can Australians – per person the biggest greenhouse gas polluters on the globe – do more to curb their own emissions?

The biggest single source of global greenhouse gas emissions is the burning of coal to produce electricity – and Australia is the world’s biggest coal exporter. The best way for Australia to help, the Howard Government believes, is to invest in the search for technologies that will drastically reduce the emissions that come from burning coal.

Meanwhile, says John Howard, it’s pointless for Australia to take expensive steps to curb its own emissions: "If we stopped them tomorrow, it would take all of nine months for China’s additional emissions to equal what we’ve withdrawn by stopping ours," the Prime Minister tells Four Corners.

But a growing cast of business leaders is calling for the Government to engage the power of the market in the fight against global warming. They say Australia needs a "carbon price signal" – either a tax on carbon dioxide, or better still an emissions trading system, which will give business a real economic incentive to save energy, cut emissions and invest in clean technology.

The European Union has an emissions trading regime; Labor state governments are proposing one; but the Federal Government says any such system, unless it’s applied globally, will mean excessive job losses, electricity price hikes and lifestyle sacrifices for Australians.

Which way forward: technology or tax? Four Corners reporter Jonathan Holmes looks at clean coal technologies in the laboratory – and at the efforts of entrepreneurs responding to New South Wales’s trial emissions trading system. And he asks – why not have both?
It will be interesting what conclusions Holmes reaches about 'clean coal' aka CCS or geosequestration. As I've said a few times here, I reckon money spent on 'clean coal' is an expensive folly and is just pandering to the coal lobby, but I'm open to convincing evidence to the contrary.

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