The Bullroarer - Wednesday 24 October 2007

There was a surprisingly large (and high quality) number of names suggested for the daily news roundup here, so deciding on a name has been difficult. While "The Walkabout" won the poll, a few Kiwi readers pointed out this name has no NZ aspect to it, so we've gone with the second most popular option - "The Bullroarer". Bullroarers were (and presumably still are) used in both Australian Aboriginal and Maori culture as "ritual musical instrument and means of communicating over extended distances" which seems appropriate enough...

The Australian - BHP weighs $3.4bn Congo smelter. Interesting to see companies that depend heavily on cheap energy starting to move towards large renewable power sources (similar to the move of petrochemical companies to the middle east).

MINING giant BHP Billiton is considering spending $US3 billion ($3.365 billion) on building an aluminium smelter in the once war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo to take advantage of cheap and green hydro-electric power in the country.

Under a memorandum of understanding with the DRC Government, BHP will spend $US20 million on a feasibility study for the smelter and an associated expansion of the Inga hydro power station on the Congo River.

BHP could source alumina for the refinery from its $3 billion alumina and bauxite project in Guinea, and the move will stoke speculation that BHP is stalking its Canadian-based partner in the Guinea project, Global Alumina, which is valued at more than $US500 million.

The Congo project is the latest sign that miners are having to go into riskier geographies to find key assets - the key asset in this case being hydro power.

Aluminium is often referred to as "congealed electricity" because of the large amount of power needed to smelt alumina. Aluminium producers are scouring the world for sources of so-called stranded power that can guarantee low costs, and the inevitability of a price on carbon means green power is high on the list. Rio Tinto's $43 billion takeover of Canadian aluminium giant Alcan is largely driven by Alcan's large sources of hydro-electric power in Canada.

While aluminium producers including Rio increasingly see the Middle East as an attractive site for smelters, given the region's surplus natural gas reserves, BHP is believed to be wary of the area, given the potential for the gas to be exported as liquefied natural gas.

WorldChanging - New Zealand Aims to be World’s First Carbon Neutral Nation

New Zealand has declared its aim to be carbon neutral in electrical energy by 2025, in stationary manufacturing energy in 2030 and in transport energy by 2040.

The New Zealand government has a history of leadership in sustainable energy planning already signaled its intention to be a leader in carbon neutrality when it announced its Emissions Trading Scheme in September. The October launch of the New Zealand Energy Strategy to 2050, titled Powering our Future: Towards a sustainable low emissions energy system, has provided further detail of the steps.

The strategy includes plans for substantial reductions in emissions, along with carbon offsetting projects such as increasing national forest area by 250,000 hectares by 2020. By 2025, the goal is to obtain 90 percent of all electricity from renewable sources. Is this achievable? We think so: Provision of renewable electricity is cheaper in New Zealand compared to other countries due to abundant renewable energy resources. Around 70 percent of New Zealand energy production is already from renewable sources, and a number of large scale wind farm proposals have recently been approved.

SMH - Fears oil decline could spark social unrest. The weekend Guardian article printed locally.

SMH - Oil Search shelves one of its PNG gas projects

The Australian - Exxon firms to lead PNG gas deal

The Australian - Virgin Blue may raise fuel surcharge

ABC - Diesel fuel shortage in Victoria worsening

The Age - Ziggy firm on Nuclear energy

Crikey - 25 little bombshells

Crikey - The Seats of Nuclear Power

The Age - Olympic Dam shortfalls nuke BHP

The Age - Dutch in control of solar race

The Age - Top companies skip carbon call

Scoop - Don't Trash NZ Brand With Climate Change Go Slow

Newstalk - NZ will honour Kyoto Protocol

The Age - Sydney train ticket prices may rise soon

ABC - GPS to allow Sydney buses to 'prioritise' traffic lights. [BG: Hmmm - how do I get hold one one of these for my infrequent car trips ?]

ABC - Inflation rise puts pressure on rates

SMH - Greens MP slams Costas looney tirade

Crikey - Greens show up Howard on energy subsidies

It's a bizarre election campaign when the economic flat-earthers in the Greens make more sense than the Government. But their attack on the Liberals' proposal to subsidise low income earners for higher energy bills as a consequence of emissions trading is exactly right.

As the Prime Minister noted on Sunday night, addressing climate change will actually entail costs for consumers. That's exactly the point, really, because only costs, not good intentions, will cause consumers to make decisions with lower carbon impacts. You can't stop a runaway greenhouse effect with a few fluoro light bulbs and the occasional bike ride to work.

But Howard promptly undermined this by announcing a climate change fund, sourced from proceeds from emissions trading, to subsidise low income earners' power bills, which an emissions trading scheme will – or should, if it actually works - increase. Of course, we are talking here about a proper emissions trading scheme, not Morris Iemma's version that exempts the biggest carbon producers because they're mates of the government.

Quite how you encourage people to reduce their carbon emissions when you're subsidising their power usage isn't clear. It's like subsidising a smoker's cigarette costs because of all the taxes you've imposed on tobacco.

Greens senator Christine Milne has pointed this out, arguing that funding energy efficiency measures in low income households will provide a more permanent and effective guarantee against higher power bills. Even better, she calls the Liberals' proposal "a bandaid cheque", which is the best entry so far in the "Mixed Metaphor of the Campaign" competition.

Perhaps the Government has had its preferred inventor of greenhouse fictions, ABARE, produce some evidence that carbon emissions from low income earners have less of a greenhouse impact than those from everyone else. But on that basis, the Government wouldn't justify its refusal to sign on to the Kyoto Protocol because it leaves out China and India. Clearly carbon emissions from foreign low income earners have to be addressed, even if ours don't.

The Australian - Tokyo baulks at higher Australian coal price

JAPANESE utilities are deadlocked with Australian coal producers in talks over coal prices, with supplies limited and global demand rising. The utilities have traditionally been a pushover in price negotiations because they can easily pass on higher costs to retail customers in their quarterly electricity price revisions.

This time, "the offered prices are so high that they thought it was hard to accept", an official at a company with stakes in several Australian mines said yesterday. The Australian producers have offered Japanese utilities $77 to $78 a tonne for thermal coal under one-year term contracts starting in October, said the official, who asked not to be named.

Japan faces mounting competition for Australian coal - its main supplier - from South Korea, China and India. At the same time, supplies are capped from other regional exporters such as Indonesia and Vietnam because of their own rising needs for the fuel.

The Australian - Port capacity constraints hurt Gloucester coal sales

Public Opinion - Climate change: rhetoric+reality

Jim Douglas, writing in the Canberra Times on climate change, says that:

You get the feeling, under these circumstances, of being in a luxury car accelerating towards a sheer drop, as its demented driver ignores your shouts of alarm and regales you with enthusiastic details of what a wonderful vehicle it is, and how well he has maintained it.

That's what the Liberal's "Go for Growth "campaign slogan signifies. It means more of the same kind of growth with the economy machine being run with energy produced by dirty coal power.

Some reality is dawning. The Liberals are backtracking on nuclear power as the key solution, due to the unpopularity of nuclear power plants in the electorate. Clean coal is the key. But that's ten years down the track, if not more. In the meantime?

What is lacking is an acknowledgment that any plan for deep cuts in greenhouse emissions entails a major roll-out of renewable energy technologies and the introduction of ambitious renewable energy targets to reduce emissions and to secure Australia’s share in the boom in renewable energy occurring globally. The danger is that Australia is becoming a renewable technology importer and it's losing the chance to move to a clean energy economy.

Public Opinion - oil or gas exploration in Antartica

Peak Energy - Solar Power to Reach Parity with Fossil Fuels in Sunny Countries in Five Years, Most Countries by 2020

hmmm...NZ aims to be world's first carbon neutral nation....and yet I really had to dig to find any mention of light rail in the government's strategy. What's more it was more of a nod than anything else, and will quickly be forgotten.

It's a shame really, we're in quite an enviable position in regards to energy, we could make the next 50 years really easy for ourselves. Pity we won't.

Ah, the 'Home Direct' shopping truck has just pulled up outside my house, delivering my neighbours their weekly groceries.


Well - at least your government is making most of the right noises - its a hard political battle to fight, so good on them I say.

As for grocery deliveries, is it possible that batch deliveries using one truck to supply 20 houses in the same suburb in one trip is more efficient than 20 people driving their cars to the supermarket ?


Congratulations to the founders of Bullroarer.Interesting how a few oblique references to Peak Oil are appearing in the media. Heard it mentioned twice on the ABC yesterday.
However there is a very long way to go-one can only hope that unfolding events lead to a more rapid wake-up by the public (us) and our Revered Leaders (?)

There's more chance our leaders will wake up when we have a change of leaders.

Feel free to post links to anything mentioning peak oil that you come across - I don't have the bandwidth to scan every last media source in the region...

The Greens here in Aus know what's happening.

Check out:

The entire inquiry can be found here:

And the recommendations are here:

If anybody is going to lobby poli's the ones who were in attendance for this committee might be a good place to start. Although I suppose we'll have to see what happens at the election...

Here's ASPO Australia's press release in response.

My fear is that this Senate report will be tabled and then gather dust, like the Hirsch report did in the US. There is an interesting quote in the Hansard where Senator Milne states the conundrum that I think all politicians who are aware of the problem have to ponder;

Senator MILNE—This is the crux of the political dilemma: there is hardly a politician alive who is going to go out and say to people with rising oil prices, ‘We’re going to take away the subsidies.’ The popular response is to promise to give more subsidies going into an election—to subsidise more exploration, to subsidise this, to subsidise that, to maintain the diesel fuel rebate, to subsidise petrol prices. Just last year in the Senate there was a proposal to subsidise petrol at the time that the price was going up. Is it an appropriate response to maintain these subsidies? If it is not, what is the appropriate response?

In the Senate Hansard on 8th Feb they do not even bother to count the votes as the legislation goes down in flames on the Senate floor.

ENVIRONMENT.OIL DEPLETION PROTOCOL Senator Milne, pursuant to notice of motion not objected to as a formal motion, moved general business notice of motion no. 700.That the Senate.
(a) notes:
(i) that the Marrickville Council in Sydney has adopted the Oil Depletion Protocol which seeks to address the impact of peak oil by steadily reducing oil usage, and
(ii) the council will reduce its oil usage by 3 per cent per year; and
(b) calls on the Government:
(i) to adopt the Oil Depletion Protocol to reduce Australia.s dependence on oil and ensure an orderly restructure of the economy and society for the post-oil era, and
(ii) encourage state and local governments to adopt the protocol and reduce oil usage.

Question put and negatived.

New Zealand given its natural resources, and renewable energy potential, is in an excellent place to meet this. Its a pity that its the smaller countries like, Sweeden and Norway, that are going for these goals.

Memorial gifts

Yes - it would be good to see NZ adopt the Swedish model - they actually have better renewable resources and thus more ways of achieving those goals if they tried.