visited  times since 14 11 06

OPEN LETTER to the PRIME MINISTER

rmc@adelaide.on.net
08 8255 9508
12 November 2006

Hon. John Howard M.P.
Parliament House,
Canberra,
ACT 2600

Combating Climate Change

 

Dear Prime Minister,

Most scientists, many ordinary people including myself, are very concerned about the problems facing the world and I don't doubt you are too. Part of the problem is that people look at only one problem at a time whereas there are many problems including climate change, price and supply of oil, water shortages, world overpopulation, pollution, an inadequate and far from stable money system, all of which interact with each other and require global solutions and a comprehensive plan if our civilization is to survive.

Climate Change: Most scientists agree that man-made CO2 is causing climate change including the drought in Australia and threatens rising sea levels. If we were able to cut oil and coal consumption today this would not be a solution as the CO2 does not come out of the atmosphere for a long time unless it is absorbed by trees. Global warming would continue. The Kyoto Agreement provides for a trading scheme to offset fossil fuels emissions against tree growth; however it is likely that the amount of CO2 absorbed will only take care of the current emissions while the CO2 already there will continue to warm the planet. To reduce CO2 levels to the peak levels that have existed for 420,000 years we need to reduce consumption of all fossil fuels, including oil and coal and grow more trees. Your rejection of Kyoto is understandable but your support of the coal industry is dangerous if sequestration proves to be inefficient and expensive. Coal production should be capped and they should be required to invest in alternative sources of energy.

CO2 is also absorbed by the oceans, given time, but recent reports shows that this forms carbonic acid, not good for fish. Peak of the world fish catch took place in the late 1980's but this was due to over fishing. - The modern fishing trawler is indeed a weapon of mass destruction. Fishermen have come to accept restrictions and we will have to accept the need to substitute alternative fuels.

Peak Oil: Dr Ali Samsam Bakhtiari gave evidence to a Senate Committee on Tuesday 11th July. He is a retired planning expert with the National Iranian Oil Company, who says the world has reached the peak oil production of 81 million barrels a day and this will slowly reduce so that by 2020 the world supply will be 32% down. Examination of recent web pages shows this to be true, some graphs show a peak in 2005. Australia's peak occurred in 2000. New wells coming on stream are few and far between. Those who claim there is a lot more oil down there are beginning to look ridiculous. 32% down means that we must replace at least one third of all vehicles and plant using oil and petrol during the next 14 years. Indeed we should do more than that because while projects started now could be successfully completed, it may be too expensive in 14 years time.

If oil output is reduced by 32% in 14 years this would exceed the targets adopted by many greenhouse proposals but would expose us to the danger that many might turn to coal. If the prediction is wrong and more oil is found, we would promptly use it, making it impossible to restore the atmosphere and climate change would be permanent.

There is still a lot of oil down there but the price is bound to increase. It will rise and fall as many will stop using it when the price rises, causing it to fall again. Overall there will be a serious increase in price, the supply will be more erratic. Aircraft fares will become prohibitive for most people. Air services will go bankrupt, fewer people will travel and our hospitality industry will suffer high unemployment. As prices rise, unemployment will become general - industry will not be able to sell their product and will have to curtail production. In short our economy will be tipped into depression. We have no alternative than to build entirely new transport and energy systems run on alternative energy.

Water Shortage: There is no doubt that we have a serious drought with most of the rain which we used to get now falling on the Southern Ocean. There is no indication that this will change next year or even for several years. Wetlands and reclamation of water, as now practiced by many Councils, should be encouraged. But the increasing population will require several large solar distillation plants each having a capacity of several gigalitres, solar steam pumps will pump the water to the reservoir and the plants must be carefully sited so that the brine is carried away by currents or fed to salt pans..

Over Population: Right now business is booming, we are building more houses, roads, shops and transport, all dictated by the needs of an increasing population. We also export increasing quantities of coal and gas overseas to countries who need it to supply their increasing populations. The rising CO2 in the atmosphere is recorded by the observatories in Mauna Loa and Cape Grim in Tasmania. These readings continue to rise at the same rate, proving that Kyoto is ineffective, as well as whatever you claim to have done in place of Kyoto.

While we should in the long term recommend the importance of the one child family and family planning, the immediate future is grim. It is likely that some nations will be unable to cope with climate change or peak oil and may get involved in wars, or other insurrections causing massive immigration. Some will come to Australia and we will accept them either for humanitarian reasons or because we need trained workers, (having failed to train our own). This means that we will have to provide more water, build more houses and infrastructure. But in the long run, as Professor Albert Bartlett says "Population growth is unsustainable"

Pollution: Mankind pours his waste into the ocean often without treatment, large quantities of pesticide, fertilizers, and other chemicals are spread around. As the population increases, so does the pollution, spreading out over wider areas and reducing the area available to wildlife, more species face extinction. Diseases become more difficult to handle, higher population makes the transmission of germs easier, old diseases like Tuberculosis, are making a comeback.

The Financial System: We are all pressured to make money, the system requires us to go for maximum growth, encourages us to indulge in gambling. Only a small proportion of the circulating money is used for trade, many are concerned about the increasing amount of debt held by both rich and poor countries. These and more are reasons why the monetary system needs reform. However, a comparatively simple reform is needed now to ensure that there is sufficient money to build the enormous amount of infrastructure we will require in the next 20 years. Infrastructure is not very profitable but is very essential. It will be necessary to provide debt free and interest-free funding created by the reserve bank as an alternative to the exclusive use of funds obtained by taxation revenue in order to adequately cope with this situation.

Plan to Control Emissions and Use Alternative Energy Sources.

(1) Set up a Department with teeth having powers to enforce its decisions as well as using persuasion to set out the main targets and specify time limits for completion in five year stages.

(2) Set up an Information Section to investigate all aspects of emissions and alternative energy, create a rating table for all forms of energy production, including the energy used and costs involved in production. Require all industries to supply statistical information. Publish all results on the web. We are all in this together - we need to be informed.

(3) Send a strong team to New York to lobby the United Nations and the United States Government and Public about our program and why they should adopt similar methods.

To show what this means I will give the following details of a plan to control emissions which might be prepared and instituted by the proposed Department.

Overall Plan. To reduce consumption of oil and coal by 50% by 2020. To build vehicles (50% of existing stock) to run on electricity by 2020. To build electric generating plant having double the existing capacity by 2020. To build solar desalination plants to be working by 2010. To set intermediate targets for 2010, 2015, and future targets at 5 year intervals. To require all those who cut down a tree to plant and grow 2 in their place and ensure that all importers of wood use the same principle in the country of origin (effective immediately).

Transport: It is expected that future cars and vans will be electricity driven and have a somewhat limited range and speed. Garages could become charging stations where you can exchange your discharged battery for a fully charged one and continue your journey. Cars could be designed so batteries would be slid in and out on trolleys with automatic contactors. Car manufacturers could produce a "value added package" consisting of the car, two sets of batteries with trolleys, a charging unit and a set of solar panels to be fixed to your garage/house roofs and walls, supplied by specialists employed by the Motor company. They could also feed power back to the mains.

Vehicle registration should be amended to charge more on vehicles over 2 litres capacity and less on electric or other cars not using fossil fuels. Australian design rules on small slow cars need to be re-examined and made clear. Road laws should be examined to allow for reduced speeds by all users. We should not be expected to act as racing drivers.

Public and Heavy transport: could continue to use oil up to 2015 after which time one might expect hybrid vehicles and/or fuel cells to be fully developed.

Railways: are the most fuel economical of all land transport. They should be overhauled, extended, converted entirely to electricity and improved goods handling with delivery to all stations should be organized.

Shipping: is even more economical than railways. The demise of air travel leads to a resurgence of shipping provided they are strongly built to withstand storms and are built now before the price rises.

Cycles: These are now available with electric motors. It would be a nice gesture to provide some sort of subsidy for Australian manufacturers.

OTHER FUELS

Bio diesel: Farmers co-operatives are said to be making their own bio diesel. This should be encouraged, ie subsidized. They will need it to operate their heavy machinery. Farmers will continue to be essential for life on this earth and must be helped in every way.

Ethanol and Bio diesel for other purposes: It is likely that these will receive a low rating because we will need the land for the production of food and because of the amount of fuel used in planting and reaping the crop.

Electricity

Solar and Wind: Many units have been successfully installed, action must be taken to ensure that the full production is taken up and installed and manufacturing capacity doubled by 2010. Larger solar plants such as the one near Mildura should be started. Solar cell development should be watched and encouraged and every opportunity be taken to establish commercial plants within Australia with sufficient capacity to make export possible.

Coal: Australia has 24 coal fired generators which produce more CO2 than all forms of transport. Where possible these should be converted to operation by gas. Schemes for solving the problem by sequestration are very expensive and have not yet been proven or even started. Two such schemes should be completed and tested by 2010 and only if proved satisfactory should further schemes be proceeded with.

Export Coal: has doubled in the last year. It should be capped immediately and developments to increase capacity stopped. Australia should export solar panels and other renewable technology, not fossil fuels.

Hot Rocks (Geothermal) at Innamincka and elsewhere: You have recently made a substantial grant to a company at Innamincka which is exploring the possibility of generating steam from hot rocks at a considerable depth below the surface, driving turbines which eventually might have sufficient capacity to supply the whole of Australia for 70 years. Unfortunately there is no recent information on the websites I have examined as to their progress or how long it will take before results can be expected. I have been told that this might take 50 years. If this is correct it will take far too long. In 50 years time the price of oil will be so expensive as to prohibit the transport of equipment, generators and transmission lines to Innamincka. Pressure should be brought to bear on these companies to build one test generator of megawatt capacity by 2010. If successful roads, transmission lines, generators should be supplied so that more units can be connected by 2015.

In the case of Coal fired plants which cannot be controlled by sequestration or supplied by gas then the dynamos can be taken out and shipped to Innamincka.

Nuclear Energy: Opinion is divided on building atomic plants in Australia, but export of uranium is in general, agreed to, as some countries might have very inadequate sources of energy. How ever we do have limitations of this policy due to security considerations. I suggest we should also ask questions about the type of reactor to be used. The reactors currently in use, about 440 of them, are water cooled reactors which are inefficient and produce large quantities of dangerous wastes, currently stored in temporary areas. Sweden is constructing a 100,000 year repository. But no one can predict that such a repository in 25,000 years time could not be in a swamp due to climate change, with fatal results. I hold that it is immoral to create such a death trap for future generations. It is like leaving land mines to blow up children. More modern designs claim to have only limited wastes with a half-life of 10 or 20 years but there is only one working example and many have come to grief so it is possible that there is no reactor that can be approved.

Overpopulation: Birthrates in modern industrial countries which have lower unemployment figures have gone down, so population can be controlled by ensuring a good standard of living and a high education. The above program will ensure plenty of work for everyone and I suggest that you should ensure that everyone gets a good wage. (While you are giving advantages to religion you should check to see that they do not advocate "going forth and multiplying!").

Finance: Currently you are making grants from taxation for various projects. These will have to be increased and promises of tax reductions will have to be forgotten. In the case of States and Local Councils, loans without interest should be made for the construction of infrastructure following the principles of a Bill before the United States 108th Congress (2004) known as H.R.4371 entitled "State and Local Governments Economic Empowerment Act". Aborigines could also be included in this Act.

Objections will be raised that these proposals will result in a heavy consumption of fossil fuels when the infrastructure is built. The Department must examine all proposals with this objection in mind. In the final analysis we are dependant on our Engineers, Scientists and workers to find more efficient methods, use alternative fuels and choose suitable materials which require the least fuel to fabricate.

It will be understood that these proposals will require a large change in the relations between Corporations Companies and Governments. It will be no longer be possible to "leave things to the market". Many companies will find that they can no longer make the products they used to make and will have to turn their hands to something different. Bankers and financiers will object strongly, forgetting that it is their policies which require maximum growth under all circumstances which have brought us to this sad condition. In order to put this into perspective I will conclude with an historical note.

200 Years ago, most of our ancestors lived in Europe. Britain was leading the industrial revolution, business was booming, cotton mills and potteries were supplying the world. It did not take long before Europe and America caught up with the new methods, unfortunately they adopted the bad parts of this economy, which were indeed very bad.

Children were expected to work 12 hours a day. Some went down the mine, others up the chimney. Adults worked a 14 hour day. Wages were the minimum possible so several families shared a house. There was overcrowding, malnutrition, insanitary conditions. Many men died between the ages of 20 and 30, leaving wives and children with no support who would likely go to the dreaded workhouse. All this was revealed and documented at Parliamentary Enquiries, and brought alive by Charles Dickens.

Many reforms were made in the 19th century, the abolition of slavery, reforms of Parliament, working hours. It was a long slow process started by non-conformist preachers and then by trade unionists as they slowly grew. This was the time of Laissez Faire. Industrialists claimed that these reforms would ruin business, but it was often proved that shorter working hours resulted in greater output. The 20th Century brought more reforms, including votes for women, but it also brought two world wars and the great depression.

Our inventors, engineers, scientists were improving sanitation, housing, medical services, schools, in fact all those things that make up todays civilized life. Only a few people warned us of the dangers

After WW2 many countries voted for the Welfare State and with the help of the USA Marshall Plan and Keynesian Economics some improvements were noted including free education and health care. Even the poorest countries were getting rid of their debt.

30 years ago thanks to Reagan and Thatcher "Economic Rationalism" was introduced which was really a reversion to the policies of Laissez Faire. Your government started by making cuts to health and education and in almost every act you introduced you have, with small steps at a time, made it a little more difficult for the poor and given concessions to the rich. It is as if we were the frog in the pan which is being heated up slowly so we won't notice until too late.

Today, however the reality of nature is being forced upon us. We have polluted the atmosphere and we have been afflicted with drought. We have used half the oil, the remaining half will be more difficult to extract and much more expensive. Our increasing population causes shortages of essential resources. If we continue to do too little we will be forced back to the conditions of 200 years ago with the high death rates and poverty that this implies. It should also be noted that there are many peoples in this world who never left the conditions of 200 years ago, the forces of charity and economic development have been inadequate to help them.

It should now be clear that to keep our civilization intact we have to use alternative energy even though this may be inefficient, we have to minimize use of oil and coal even though this will mean ditching many vehicles etc. which many have learnt to love. The need to rebuild our power sources and our transport systems will provide employment for all so it is possible to recover from our mistakes but only if our government is prepared to take the strong action necessary and not allow vested interests to interfere. It would also mean that you would have to become a left wing Prime Minister rather than a right wing Prime Minister. There is one ex Prime Minister who has changed his spots and I suggest that you can recognize the necessity of these proposals and change yours.

Yours sincerely,

Dick Clifford,

Vice-President, Humanist Society of South Australia. Inc.

Member of Economic Reform Australia.

 

  Peak Oil is Here and Now! 
  A summary of Dr Ali Samsam Bakhtiari's evidence to a Senate Committee.

Buduburam is a refugee camp for Liberians in Ghana. The conditions are bad and unhygienic. Dick Clifford runs a scholarship fund which puts about 90 children into school who would otherwise be on the streets, playing in the open sewers. For full details and photographs please use this link.  (The refugees have now returned to Liberia, where conditions are just as bad. these pages have links to the new page)

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