The Bullroarer - Monday 14 April 2008

Brisbane Times - Oilers engage in a polite Perth affair

Many of those attending the APPEA conference, which has just been held in Perth, work for international supermajors such as ExxonMobil and Shell, which have incredibly strict rules on disclosing non-public information. But as with nearly any industry, the scuttlebutt somehow always manages to do the rounds anyway.

There was plenty of talk about liquefied natural gas developments in Western Australia and the Northern Territory. Delegates were particularly curious about whose gas would fill up Woodside Petroleum's second production train at Pluto and ConocoPhillips's second train at Darwin. Floating LNG and the West Australian Government's proposed LNG hub in the Kimberley also attracted interest, along with the perennially delayed Gorgon project.

Friendly desperado Since the resignation of Santos's managing director, John Ellice-Flint, a few weeks back, everyone has been wondering about the company's strategic direction. Ellice-Flint was at the conference in his consulting capacity for Santos, but it was the acting chief executive, David Knox, who talked publicly about its $7 billion Gladstone LNG project.

Courier Mail - Gloom about how we consume

QUEENSLANDERS are driving twice as far, guzzling more energy and our farms and mines are degrading our landscape, the latest snapshot of the state's environment has found. In fact, if the rest of the world consumed resources like the average Queenslander, then we would need four planets to cope with demand. But amid all the gloom there were some signs of hope – two plant species thought to have died out have been rediscovered, pollution levels are down and fish stocks are under less pressure. But overall the 2007 State of the Environment Report found were are all consuming too much.

SMH - Unique Chance To Restore Budget Balance

Some good starting points were enumerated by the executive director of the Australian Conservation Foundation, Don Henry, in a speech to the National Press Club last week and in an article in the latest Dissent magazine released last week by Richard Dennis, who is associate professor at the Crawford School of Economics and Government at the Australian National University.

According to Henry, the Rudd Government has unparalleled opportunity to take big strides in tackling climate change and at the same time improving both the equity and efficiency of the economy by reversing a range of massive tax breaks that promote greenhouse pollution and benefit mainly the rich. Henry makes three specific recommendations.

1 - Remove the fringe benefits tax for the personal use of motor cars costing $2 billion a year.
2 - Remove the fossil fuel subsidy in the form of the fuel tax credits scheme costing $5 billion a year.
3 - Remove the tax breaks on aviation fuel costing $900 million a year.

Hansard (via Energy Bulletin) - Contraction & Convergence proposed in Australian Senate

People who are thinking about climate change all the time are now reaching the position that we should be moving to contraction and convergence, whereby we contract our emissions so that developing countries have some leeway to develop-albeit by decoupling economic growth from energy use. That is our main challenge and that is the way in which Australia could not only do it but assist other countries to do it. I am certainly a supporter of contraction and convergence and of deep cuts, and I certainly understand the impact of climate change on Australia. To suggest that, because Australia’s emissions are a small percentage of total global emissions, we should therefore not worry about it so much and should not look at our transport emissions is an unethical and immoral position.”

NZ Herald - The Great Black Hope

It is the sleeping giant of New Zealand's energy resources, the billions of tonnes of lignite beneath the verdant downs of Southland. Solid Energy, the state-owned coal miner, wants to build a plant to convert that low-grade coal to diesel. Transforming coal into a liquid consumes a lot of the energy in the lignite mined, in order to upgrade the rest into a more valuable fuel.

So the plant would produce a lot of carbon dioxide, over and above what would come out of the exhaust pipes of vehicles it supplied. In a warming world, where the costs of greenhouse gas emissions are increasingly being sheeted home to those responsible for them, the viability of the project is likely to depend on a technology still in its infancy: carbon capture and storage.

SMH - AWE and ARC Energy in merger talks

OIL and gas producer Australian Worldwide Exploration is in talks about a friendly takeover of ARC Energy which could create a mid-tier petroleum company worth more than $2 billion.

SMH - Qld still drought affected: AgForce

Some Queensland farmers are still struggling financially because of the drought, despite their properties being drenched by rain earlier this year, a rural lobby group says.

STCWA - Sustainable Housing – what does it look like?- 23 Apr

Getting housing design right will make a huge difference to WA’s future energy and water use. From an environmental, social and economic perspective energy and water efficiency are critical. Bad housing design puts an enormous cost on home owners and the environment.

STCWA - Newsletter 13 April 2008

The Daily Reckoning - Food, Fuel, and Finance: The Crisis of the Three Fs

While the share market digests the news of collapsing brokers and falling financial profits, the grand poobahs of the world's economy are wringing their hands in worry. What's keeping them up at night? The three Fs, each its own kind of crisis: food, fuel, and finance.

"The World Bank met on Sunday faced with a mounting food price crisis that has sparked deadly unrest in developing countries, underscoring the urgency of fighting hunger and poverty," reports Channel News Asia. How urgent, you ask? The Prime Minister of Haiti was sent packing this weekend by crowds protesting soaring food and fuel prices. We don't even know who the man is but reckon he won't be the last public official to be ridden out of town on a rail before this current crisis is over (and it may not be any time soon).

As usual, it's the people at the margin (whether lending or with food) that are affected first when surplus turns to scarcity. Despite all the daily signs of abundance here in Australia, let us not forget that there are about four and half billion people on the planet who have little margin for error in their daily lives. If food prices go up, many of these people go hungry.

Wall Street Journal - Higher Food Prices Are Here To Stay

For all the economists and consumers who hope high food prices are temporary, here's one reason why they probably won't be: Farm costs are skyrocketing, making permanently higher prices essential for farmers to keep expanding production.

Inflation is biting farmers world-wide. In New Zealand, farm wages are up as much as 20% this year, and the average price of a dairy cow has jumped to more than $1,900 -- almost double last year's average of about $1,000. In Thailand and Indonesia, farmers are complaining about sharp increases in the price of fertilizer and diesel fuel.