Greenhouse Submission

The South Australian Government issued a draft greenhouse strategy in December 2005. Submissions invited with the closing date being 28th April 2006. The following has been submitted:

                     Submission on South Australia’s draft greenhouse strategy

This draft greenhouse strategy is probably one of the most comprehensive documents (hereinafter referred to as the Strategy) issued by any government on the subject of climate change, with the possible exception of Sweden.

The Introduction gives a good case for action and gives good reasons why we should act now, unfortunately many of the targets given later in the document might suggest to some people that there is no great urgency.

Neither the Strategy nor general articles in the media express any concern at the fact that business is booming, and therefore using more fuel and resources. Thus we are exporting more coal and gas which will be burnt in other countries but the resulting CO2 spreads throughout the world. True, we are manufacturing photo voltaic and other greenhouse equipment but more emphasis is required on insisting that companies operating in boom conditions should make greater contributions to greenhouse strategies.

The Strategy gives many recommendations which are general in nature. This submission gives very specific recommendations because this will be better understood by all. Some of my recommendations may be applicable to the Federal government rather than the State. As this is a world wide problem that is inevitable and it is implied that such recommendations will be taken up by the State and directed to Canberra, and that other nations and the UN will be informed.

POPULATION

On page 8 the Strategy quite correctly refers to the targets in the South Australian Strategic Plan which are designed to grow prosperity, improve well being, attain sustainability, foster creativity etc., all of which is very understandable, however the suggestion that SA’s population should be increased to 2 million by 2050 is very concerning when our current population is approx. 1.5 million and falling. This is an increase of 25% and means that in 45 years our housing, roads, transport, schools, water and food supplies must also increase by 25% resulting in a serious increase in fossil fuel consumption. Has this increase been taken into account when fixing targets? The fact is that population growth is unsustainable. In the long term we should not emulate China or India. However, there are reasons to suppose that a large increase is almost inevitable but first I want to draw your attention to Professor Albert Bartlett, who will convince you that population growth is unsustainable.

Last December at Urrbrae, I heard Professor Bartlett (retired - University of Colorado), give his celebrated lecture in which he proves, that population growth is unsustainable. Professor Bartlett has concentrated on public education, using simple mathematics, about the problems relating to population growth since the late 1960s. He has a web page from which you can down load his talks, even a video of his main presentations - simply type "Albert Bartlett" into google search to meet one of the great men of our times.

It follows that in the long run we must reduce population as must the world, and as this means negative growth our economic system must be reformed. However there is a more immediate problem. World Population will increase from 6.5 billion to 9 billion people by 2050, a large increase which will cause starvation and insurrection in many parts of the world. Australia will be placed under enormous pressure to accept large numbers of immigrants. There will be little difficulty in finding the extra half million immigrants but their suitability needs to be assessed.

In these circumstances I recommend the following:

(1) That Baxter and other detention centres have their barbed wire removed and be remodelled along the lines of an Australian version of a Butlin’s Holiday camp. In addition to fun and games a crash course in English, Australiana, the law, politics, local government and climate change to be made available. Immigrants would be free to come and go but they would not be able to take a job without a certificate to say they had undertaken the course.

REGIONAL AREAS

The twin forces of greenhouse temperature rise and the increasing cost of oil will force us to use sustainable energy for transport. This means reduced vehicle range, carrying capacity and increased cost particularly for long distance journeys. It will become difficult to supply large metropolitan areas. This means that regional areas must be developed, over time, to become independent cities with all services, health and education, local factories and repair stations. These areas should be connected by rail being the most economical form of long distance transport.

(2) The policy for regional areas (T5.8, T5.11) should be expanded further so that a large shift from metropolitan to regional areas can take place.

(3) The optimal size for a greenhouse town must be fully researched.

WATER

The Strategy envisages increased environmental flows in the Murray by 500 GL by 2009. An agreement was reached to this effect some 2 years ago, Little progress has been made and it is now estimated that any increase will be less than 250GL by 2009. (The 500GL has been criticised as being inadequate to save the Murray.)

The demand for water will be increasing in the Eastern States and in drought conditions they won’t be keen on prosecuting their constituents for using too much.

South Australia must therefore look for a new water supply, especially if the population rises by 500,000.

Fortunately the BHP proposals to build a desalination plant near Whyalla capable of feeding both the Olympic Dam extension project and also supply sufficient water to supply northern Towns will reduce the amount pumped from the Murray. The Government is to be congratulated on this agreement but there is still much to be done:

(4) The proposed desalination plant must be solar, some of the type that produces steam to drive the pumps. The plant should consist of many units to allow cleaning and repairs of one unit at a time.

(5) A competition should be run to find the best design. The winning design could be exported and used in other places in South Australia.

ELECTRICITY

To maintain a civilised society a good electricity supply is essential. The current supply is barely adequate and we will need a larger supply in future, because of the extra 500,000 people. As the supply of oil diminishes more power will be needed by people who want to charge up their electric cars or citicats, and will also be needed for the electrification of railways. While the many proposals in the Strategy such as solar photovoltaic, wind power, solar water heating etc. will result in reduced peak demand in daylight hours, the diminishing supply of oil will cause more people to heat and cool their homes by electricity.

Part of our electricity supply is generated from brown coal, one of the worst polluters, we should take steps to replace or convert these generators as soon as possible.

Electricity from hot rocks at Innamincka could solve many problems for the next 75 years. This will give us time to build large solar collectors, which will be expensive.

Many people will take advantage of the Strategy proposals to install home solar collectors etc. but these only work in daylight hours. More rechargeable batteries will be required and encouragement should be given to South Australian designers and manufacturers to produce them.

(6) Give priority support to the Hot Rocks project at Innamincka, including roads and transmission lines to Port Augusta, NSW and Victorian borders.

(7) Convert existing coal burners to gas (in preference to items 6,7 and 8 on page 30)

(8) Increase the capacity of transmission lines throughout, especially to regional areas.

(9) Use the media to give up to date progress reports on these projects.

OTHER ENERGY SOURCES

It will be realised that the problem is not climate change only, nor overpopulation, but includes the question of "Peak Oil". Since 1983 the world has been using more oil than has been discovered in the same period. Cyclone Katrina and insurrection in Nigeria have not improved the position. Australia is one of many countries experiencing diminishing oil production. One missing tanker can have disastrous results for Adelaide. Even if a huge well was discovered tomorrow, the world would use it within months, producing more CO2 and tipping the climate permanently.

There are many predictions as to when Peak Oil will take place. Some say it already has (2004), others say we have another 20 years before the position becomes clear. The uncertainty is largely due to the devious information put out by the oil companies. It is clear that the price of oil will rise, causing a reduction in demand which will balance the supply, sometimes at a lower price, but that will only be temporary.

The ordinary motorist will soon be priced out of the market and will have to look for more economic modes of transport. The Government may have to ration fuel to ensure supplies to essential services.

There can be no doubt that if we take "remedial action" now by using alternative fuels and reducing oil consumption we will be much better placed to overcome the problems when oil finally runs out in 50 to 100 years time.

Bio Fuels:

Agriculture is an essential service which uses heavy diesel machinery. This should be converted to use Bio Diesel which Farmers could manufacture from organic wastes. Farmers should be assisted to buy the plant. Excess production could be sold to Public Transport. However it may be insufficient to supply commercial transport as the 500,000 extra population will require more food to be grown.

However your attention is drawn to the recent report "Which Energy?" from the Institute of Science in Society - 15 pages of essential reading. They point out that "(1) Bioethanol and biodiesel from energy crops in Europe and the United States compete with land to grow food, when subject to realistic life-cycle analysis are shown to return less energy than the fossil fuel squandered in producing them. They deplete the soil, necessitating fossil-fuel intensive fertilisers and pesticides that pollute the environment......." They proceed with 4 more points showing energy crops have very negative results particularly in third world countries.

The ISIS report has, however, a comprehensive section on organic wastes, including food processing and slaughter house wastes, even green algae can potentially be used. Such wastes do seem to have many advantages in the production of energy.

Hydrogen:

Much research has gone into this source and some busses and experimental cars do run on it. Storing the hydrogen is the main problem, also leakage of hydrogen may have deleterious effects in the stratosphere. While it is not immediately viable, developments should be watched.

Nuclear Energy:

While a case may be made out to build nuclear reactors in countries that have few fuel sources, it is regrettable that so many advocate nuclear power without regard to the many serious problems. Water cooled reactors are inefficient, produce excessive waste, are very costly, only last 22 years. Breeder reactors are more efficient and have less dangerous wastes but hot sodium cooling gives trouble and there are only 2 plants in operation at present. Pebble bed reactors, while safer in operation, have dangerous wastes which are difficult to process. The problem of dealing with radioactive wastes has not been solved and the amount of waste in temporary storage is alarming. Sweden is tackling the problems (see article in the New Scientist 4/3/06).

TRANSPORT

Throughout the Strategy, reference is made to the importance of cooperating with industry, however, when industry does not cooperate or appears to be blind then it at least deserves a rap on the knuckles. I refer to the larger manufacturers of cars in Australia who are continually bringing out new models which are bigger, more powerful, faster than the previous model. Those that do claim a reduced fuel consumption often only show a marginal reduction. Above all people, their management should know about Peak Oil and rising prices and should therefore be designing smaller, lighter cars with more efficient engines. Their latest sales figures show that the public are not falling for their blandishments.

Manufacturers should not rely on their parent companies which are testing Hydrogen cars, but should seek out and assist South Australians working on the problem.

Sadly there is no fuel which provides the same power as petrol, hence the car of the future will be a small light weight, plastic car operating from batteries or air pressure. Many will use bicycles or tricycles, some will be boosted with an electric motor to get up those hills. Roads and road rules will have to be redesigned to allow for slower speeds and allow greater consideration for cyclists.

All railways should be electrified and be reorganised so they are capable of carrying freight as well as passengers. It is anticipated that large road transports will become uneconomic, so it may be more economic to move goods by rail and use smaller vans from rail head to shopping centres.

(10) Revise vehicle taxation to be proportional to fuel consumption with reduced rates for cars using biofuel and for cars not using fossil fuels.

(11) Electrify Railways and check out discontinued lines that may be suitable for goods.

(12) Run competitions for practical car designs which use alternate fuels.

(13) Persuade Editors to insist that their car reviewers always quote the vehicles fuel consumption.

THE NEED FOR RESEARCH IN DEPTH

There are many competing solutions to the problem of alternate energy. Which solution is the most economical, sustainable, practicable is a matter of dispute. Which solution have side effects unfavourable to the environment is often ignored. We must avoid systems that are so expensive that we have no resources left for simpler solutions. We must adopt several solutions so as not to have all our eggs in one basket.

We need a web page which discusses home, transport, agricultural etc. solutions and has provision for public feedback. Companies like The BHP and Innamincka mines, would be called on to provide regular reports on their progress also with feedback facilities.

(14) Revue the ISIS "Which Energy?" (See above) for applicability in Australian conditions and place it on the web page as the initial discussion item.

THE NEED TO REFORM OUR LIVES

Climate Change, overpopulation and scarce oil all represent challenges which must cause us all to reform our lives in quite drastic ways if we are to retain any semblance of civilisation.

Everybody must examine Tim Flannery’s 10 points (see his book "The Weather Makers") and adopt as many as possible.

Motorists must say goodbye to high powered cars. Few of us are racing drivers, but we must all get used to travelling slower to conserve fuel and to give consideration to cyclists.

Business must examine all their processes to reduce fossil fuel consumption and work out schemes to assist their workers to live close to their place of work.

Religions must re-examine their teaching on birth control because there are limits to growth.

Bankers and Financiers must reform the economic system so as to provide money for more infrastructure. They must come to realise that with higher costs due to climate change and restricted oil supply, the outcome is negative growth.

This will be more than sufficient to cause an economic crash unless sufficient infrastructure is built to offset the negative growth.

The current method of obtaining a bank loan and paying interest leads to an excessive interest bill on government and local councils. One remedy is to pass a bill which allows the Reserve Bank to make loans to government without interest for the purpose of building infrastructure. The Bill should have other clauses to provide against fraud, to limit the total loan to prevent inflation, and for the capital to be paid back from taxation. This would be capable of providing three times as much infrastructure as is currently provided.

The financial sector is likely to scream against such a proposal. We should realise that the present system could not be better designed to make the rich richer and the poor worse off. The current system cannot last forever. So it is up to all of us to constantly ask our Bankers and Financiers, "We are likely to have a crash due to negative growth, what reform do you recommend to cope with this problem?"

(15) The State government to prepare a Bill for the Reserve Bank to provide loans to State and Local Government for the purposes of providing infrastructure (including power supply, rail electrification, distillation plants, roads and transmission lines etc.) at nil rate of interest to be paid back over a period not exceeding 30 years.

The Bill to be presented to SA MHR’s and Senators for action in Canberra.

Dick Clifford

Vice President

Humanist Society of South Australia

March 2006

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Help Liberian refugee Children at Buduburam, Ghana.
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Addendum:  Premier Mike Rann, (who is also the Minister for Sustainability and Climate Change) issued a News Release on the 3rd April 2006. The main points raised were:

Welcomed the new Opposition Leader, Ian Evans, who is preparing to support environmental issues.

Will be introducing laws requiring reduction of greenhouse gasses by 60% by 2050.

By 2008 we should be second only to Denmark in the amount of wind generation installed.

Electricity to be sourced from renewable energy - 15% by end of 2006 and by 20% within 10 years.

Make 50% of State Government cars use more environmentally friendly fuels.

Schools and public buildings are being fitted with solar power.

All new houses will be five-star energy rated.

RANN also welcomed Californian based Professor STEPHEN SCHNEIDER - a leading expert in climate change - as ADELAIDE'S  latest THINKER IN RESIDENCE.

Prof. Schneider will live and work in Adelaide in three four week periods between now and August. He will hold a public lecture and advise the government on climate change legislation.

The SA Government intends to establish a Climate Change and Sustainability Research Centre at Adelaide University with annual funding of $250,000.

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