The Bullroarer - Friday 20th February 2009

The Australian - Crashing oil price nearly wipes out Caltex profit

CALTEX Australia today reported a 95 per cent plunge in annual profit and declared no final dividend for 2008.

The Australian - Clough focuses on lucrative oil and gas sector

Mr Smith said the outlook for Clough remained positive.

"Demand for energy is driven by population growth and therefore well-funded oil and gas projects, and OPEX (operating expenditure) spend will proceed even in this difficult economic time," Mr Smith said.

Guide2 NZ - MPs Hear That Climate Change Deadline Won't Be Met

Wellington, Feb 19 NZPA - A new international treaty on climate change is unlikely to be completed by the end of this year, MPs were told today.

New Zealand's climate change ambassador Adrian Macey told the parliamentary inquiry into the emissions trading scheme that the ongoing negotiations were complex and involved political compromises that had yet to be reached.

Mr Macey believed there would be no comprehensive agreement reached at a conference scheduled for the end of the year in Copenhagen.

ABC - Hockey, Swan trade blows on economy, climate change

Greens Senator Christine Milne also weighed into the fear discussion, saying environmental factors also contributed to peoples' uncertainty.

"One of the underlying areas of anxiety is people are worrying about climate change and peak oil, and whether or not we're using this opportunity to transform the Australian economy," she said.

"I actually think people would feel really buoyed if they saw the Government investing heavily in renewables, in efficiency, in new public transport systems.

"People would feel like this investment was actually real investment in transforming the economy so that we're not going to be washed over with the crisis that is going to be climate change."

Carbon News - Mission sparks high-level interest in marine energy
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A recent UK mission on renewable energy has prompted the government take another look at New Zealand’s marine energy potential.

Aotearoa Wave and Tidal Energy Association (Awatea) executive member Dr John Huckerby says that some government departments hadn’t realised how much overseas interest there is in New Zealand’s marine energy potential.

The Australian Let's not pick renewable energy winners, says Ferguson

SOLAR feed-in tariffs inflate power costs and crowd out potentially cheaper forms of renewable energy, according to Energy Minister Martin Ferguson, contradicting Rudd government support for nationally consistent feed-in tariffs and criticising schemes already legislated by most state governments.

Launching the Government's $435 million renewable energy demonstration fund in Perth today, Mr Ferguson will say feed-in tariffs are an inferior way to promote renewable energy and Australia should instead use only its mandatory renewable energy target

ABC - Government insists emissions trading timetable won't change

ELEANOR HALL: To the confusion in the Federal Government this morning over when it will introduce its emissions trading scheme.

It was sparked by the Labor chairman of the parliamentary committee investigating the scheme who contradicted his ministerial colleagues by saying that his inquiry would report back before the legislation reaches Parliament.

The Opposition and minor parties leapt on the admission as a clear sign that the Government is now moving to delay the introduction of carbon trading. But the Climate Change Minister says that's not the case.

Voxy - City Continues To Lead Renewable Energy

Work has begun on a project that will again see the Palmerston North City Council at the forefront of sustainable power initiatives.

Foundations are being prepared and gas feeder pipes laid to install the City Council's second landfill gas engine, this time at the Totara Road Wastewater Treatment Plant. The gas engine is being located there to generate electricity from methane gas biogas which is produced by the plant's sludge digesters.

As the existing plant which generates power from methane gas at the former landfill will reduce over time, this electricity produced from sludge will take its place.

Business Day NZ - Solid Energy to close Ohai mine

Mrs Cardno said there was about 1.5 million tonnes of coal still in the mine but the cost of getting it out was huge.

"The news couldn't have come at a worse time and our hearts go out to those affected," she said.

The Australian - Santos ripe for alliance or merger

DAVID Knox says Santos is ready to "dance" in the great consolidation game that continues to bubble around Gladstone and Queensland's coal seam methane wealth.

And, if the annual result Knox delivered yesterday is any guide, it seems Santos may well be preparing to rock 'n' roll in what could be a much more exciting game.

3News - DOC cleared over its handling of wind farm negotiations

The Department of Conservation has been cleared over the way it handled sensitive wind farm negotiations with Meridian Energy, but it needs to be more open about resource consent deals, says Acting Conservation Minister Nick Smith.

The Government ordered an urgent report on Monday into DOC's deal with Meridian, which would see the energy company pay out $175,000 to mitigate the conservation impacts of the proposed Project Hayes wind farm in Central Otago.

Otago Daily Times - Methane system tested

The $1 million system designed to burn off methane gas from the Dunedin City Council's Green Island landfill was fired up, briefly, for the first time on Friday.

Otago Daily Times - Wind best energy option, Meridian concludes

"Energy is needed and wind is the best option."

Meridian Energy had the final say during closing submissions of an Environment Court appeal hearing for its proposed $2 billion Project Hayes wind farm development yesterday.

Meridian counsel Hugh Rennie QC told the court why Project Hayes should get consent, highlighting the country's need for more electricity, and the appropriateness of a proposed 92sq km area on the Lammermoor Range for wind-energy generation.

The Australian - Coal and iron ore prices to fall as Japan slumps

JAPANESE monthly steel production has plummeted almost 40 per cent in the past four months, an ominous indication for Australian iron ore and coking coal producers in the midst of annual contract talks.

ABC - NSW extends solar and rainwater rebates

The New South Wales Government has extended rebates for solar hot water systems and rainwater tanks until 2011.

The Age - Climate change caused bushfires: group
I find it sad that the real explanation is too complex. They need a "sound bite" so they can't talk about increased probabilities of outlier events - they feel that they need to say "A caused B".... even if they know that the truth is never that simple.

The devastating Victorian bushfires were the "fires of climate change," a conservation group has warned. - Tackling climate change

Wanaka, Nelson and Tasman are among the latest New Zealand places to join the Earth Hour event.

Thirty-seven cities, towns and regional bodies across New Zealand have now committed to this year's environmental event at 8.30pm on March 28, joining almost 500 partner cities across 74 countries.

TV NZ - Meridian given go-ahead for wind farm

The Wellington and Porirua City Councils have given Meridian Energy the green light to establish a wind farm at Mill Creek, west of Wellington.

Wellington City Council spokesman Dougal List says Meridian wanted to build 31 wind turbines but has been given approval to install 29. - Status quo at IWC must end - Garrett

Mr Garrett said the commission must broaden its "narrow focus" on hunting whales to take in other environmental threats to the mammals.

"This includes current and emerging threats like climate change, marine pollution, ship strikes and habitat disturbance," he said.

The Australian - Cutbacks loom despite Woodside profit jump

WOODSIDE has bucked the trend this reporting season, showing few symptoms of the global financial malaise or the ailing oil price by unveiling a 73percent increase in annual profit to $1.79 billion.

However, in a sign that the worst may be yet to come, the company revealed that it had kicked off a cost cutting campaign by slashing $500 million from its budget to cope with lower oil prices over the coming year.

Woodside chief financial officer Mark Chatterji said the company was considering the sale of "non-core assets" outside Australia and the Timor Sea and might further reduce budgeted spending of several hundred million dollars.

There was an interesting panel discussion on the ABC's Q&A last night, they had a Greens Senator, the Treasurer, Shadow Treasurer, some union guy and some corporate flunky. They were there to talk about the stimulus package, but halfway through it got turned into a discussion about climate change, the Emissions Trading Scheme, and so on.

You can see the episode here, and there's a transcript there, too. Some ISPs don't count it towards your bandwidth use if you get it from ABC iview.

What I found interesting was that the Greens were the only ones who had any view of Australia as actually making stuff, rather than just digging it up and selling it overseas.

I mean...

woodchips for pulp = $30/tonne
paper = $1,500/tonne

aluminium = $2,000/tonne
aluminium pots and pans = $20,000/tonne

iron = $80/tonne
iron rails for railways = $300/tonne

and so on. The prices are just off the top of my head, those commodities prices leap about all over the place. Which of course is an argument for not relying on commodities exports for income over manufacturing exports - the price of manufactures is a lot more stable, while oil (for example) goes from $65 to $150 in 12 months and then down to $35 in the next 12 months, we don't find that (for example) a Camry goes from $6,500 to $15,000 and then down to $3,500. Manufactured goods give us a more steady and reliable income than do commodities.

And of course, making a tonne of any manufactured goods employs more people than making a tonne of raw materials - and if we make things here, jobs are created here, and money stays here, which since we have a huge trade deficit and a recession surely is good?

So what we see is that we could be mining one-tenth as much stuff yet making more money from the stuff than we do today. So overall about a fifth of the emissions - 80% reduction in carbon emissions, and make more money. We wouldn't want that, would we? It's unAustralian or something.

So there was the Greens Senator suggesting that we should make things instead of just digging stuff up and selling it overseas, and the Treasurer was rolling his eyes, the Shadow Treasurer looked a bit lost, the union guy was getting angry, "what about the miners?!" and so on. Utterly clueless.

A bunch of commie hippies are the biggest patriots in our Parliament, how crazy is that?

Senator Milne: "we do not want to remain Asia's quarry. We need to diversify the economy and build resilience."

Swan rolled his eyes, Hockey looked lost, and the union bloke got angry.

Dig up one tenth as much stuff, but make stuff so that we earn more money? That sounds like crazy talk.

But making stuff is hard. Governments would need to foster the industries, State and Federal governments would need to cooperate, we would need to be competitive against unregulated sweatshops, industry leaders would need to have some vision, entrepeneurs would need to invest, someone would need to market the stuff, etc, etc..... way too hard. Digging stuff up is easy. Especially when it is stuff that everybody else is running out of.

Quick, everybody else is running out of this stuff, we gotta get rid of it before everybody runs out... hmmmm, it seemed to make sense before..... tell me again about this whacky "making stuff" idea. It's crazy, but it may just work.

Well, apparently this "making stuff" is something we once did. We used to make shirts, pots and pans, tractors, all sorts of stuff.

We even used to make trains and buses. Of course we're not as advanced as we were then. When we expand public transport, for example, we buy trains, trams and buses from Sweden and Germany. We could make our own vehicles, too, if only we had a peaceful and prosperous country with millions of highly-educated people like Sweden and Germany, or like... um... Ivory Coast.


So you are hoping we can one day be the "Ivory Coast of Asia" ?

How we got here is fairly easy to understand - free market economics says you should do what you are good at (or have a comparative advantage at) and trade for the stuff you aren't good at, but want.

So we get to dig stuff up (as we have lots of good dirt) and other people make things.

The downside is our prosperity is now at the whim of the global marketplace...

Well, at least they can make their own buses, that's one up on us.

We've tried a free market, it's given us a global recession. My theory of comparative advantage is that con-men have a comparative advantage over gullible and greedy people.

The problem with comparative advantage is that being good or bad at this or that isn't anything inherent, nine times out of ten. It's just a choice. Nothing prevents Australia from making its own buses or wind turbines or whatever, except a decision not to do it.

For reasons of lack of imagination and a bizarro self-image, Aussies choose to be the country that digs stuff up and sells it overseas.

"A caused B".... even if they know that the truth is never that simple.

You're quite right. It reminds me of that "Chaos Theory" joke where the scientist mentions that even the flapping of a butterfly's wings in the Amazon may cause a hurricane in the Carribean, and then George W. Bush decides to "Guarantee America freedom from hurricanes" by wiping out all the butterflies in the Amazon!