The Carbon Tax: Modesty Ablaze?

We all became a part of Australian history on July 1st, 2012, the date that the Carbon Tax was implemented.

The sky didn’t fall, and the economy didn’t grind to a halt, Jesus didn’t come back, although Liberal Party leader Tony Abbott has sworn a ‘pledge in blood’ to repeal the Carbon Tax should he ever hold the reigns of power.

Abbott’s own ‘direct-action carbon reduction scheme’ is, on paper, said to cost double the currently rolling out ‘Clean Energy Plan’, and is so dodgy, no serious economist has offered to touch it with a ten foot pole.

For all the rhetoric on the floors of Parliament, talk-back radio and the reams of bluster online and in print, Australia’s Carbon Tax is modest, perhaps too modest to even warrant such reactions.

Any and all mainstream media outlets in Australia have offered up pieces on how the Carbon Tax will affect people’s lives, from the increase in weekly grocery bills, to higher electricity costs (which haven’t needed an ‘evil’ carbon tax to help drive up prices 50% in the last 3 years), to tax breaks and compensation paid out by the government to effectively cancel out these costs to the average Australian.

Some, they claim, will even be better off by $1 or two a week. A small amount it seems, but a dollar more is a dollar more.

With the seemingly small impact on every day Australians, and the non-stop talk about the Carbon Tax in the media, The Labour Government has also backed itself into an ideological corner.

One of the keenest arguments set forth by Climate Change Deniers, is that the tax does too little. Returning our carbon emissions to year 2000 levels by 2020, while the rest of the world does nothing makes the tax itself seem pointless. At the same time this point of view gives ammunition to a small but vocal minority, and makes the rest barely feel a pinch in their lives, all the while they are being told they are helping to save the planet. This runs the danger of increasing public complacency and adding fuel to the ‘Denier’ fire.

But Australia is not the only country in the world implementing a carbon price, something a lot of the local media tends to leave out.

Chief Climate Change Commissioner Tim Flannery recently told the Australian Associated Press that the Australian public had been ‘misled’ about the carbon tax, in that we were acting alone.

According to the just released ‘The Critical Decade: International Action On Climate Change’, 33 countries will have a carbon tax by the middle of next year, with a view to be moving towards a carbon trading scheme, much like Australia.

From the report:

“These schemes could be expected to cover around 850 million people, around 30% of the global economy and around 20% of global emissions.”

And though our Carbon tax may seem modest at the moment, it is the first building block towards a less carbon dependent economy, one which even the big boys (Shell, BHP Billiton, Caltex), are excited to come and play in.

But that doesn’t mean we can sit back and watch the world change around us. Try some steps to reduce ecological foot print; buy local, plant a garden, try to be less reliant on technology, walk, ride a bike, get involved with your community and encourage others to do so.


By Chard Core





solar panels

Solar in Australia set to stall, while Germany soars

2012 has been one of the best years for the renewable energy sector, with massive price drops in solar technology leading the charge.
According to reports from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IREA), the cost of crystalline solar panels has fallen by 60% in the past 2 years, while capacity for solar PV has grown 70%.
This hasn’t exactly been great news for the solar panel industry in Australia, with many local manufacturers closing in the last year, thanks to a flood of affordable solar tech coming out of China.
The U.S.A has increased tariff limits to help stall these affects on its own solar industry, but international companies have found ways around this, such as manufacturing solar panel in their own factories in the US with imported materials not subject to such tariffs.
Some of these tariffs run as high as 250%.
The Australian Government is also paring down its commitment to the solar rebate scheme, with feed-in tariff rates falling over the next few years, thereby limiting incentives for small scale solar generation.
Solar Credits generated from feed-in tariffs are set to lose their multiplying factor come July 2013, the factor sat at 5 in 2009 (meaning the government would match your solar credits from your output by 5 times). But this of course is adjusted in relation to improvements and the cost of the technology.
The payment of the feed-in tariffs via Solar Credits was introduced in order to help the economy adjust to the upcoming Carbon Tax, but has also made the scheme almost deliberately obtuse.
Also, fear mongering from the Mining sector, the recent promise from the Australian Coal Sector to provide ‘affordable coal for the next 100 years’, as well as continuing subsidies for fossil fuel plant development in Australia (keep any eye out for ‘coal gasification’), has not been helping the push towards our flimsy carbon reduction targets.
According to a white paper from the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) published late 2011, we won’t see accelerated growth of solar output in Australia till 2018, when solar generation is expected to jump to 620MW a year on average, compared to the current 320MW per year.
Australia, it seems, is having trouble committing to long term renewable energy plans.
But that doesn’t mean the world is at a stand still, not if you read the latest reports from the IREA.
Some of the findings of the last organizations last council meeting, energy from renewable sources now accounts for half of all new energy generation capacity additions, thanks mainly to the proliferation of cheap solar panel technology.
Wind turbine generation has found traction in North America, where it now runs at the same price or cheaper than natural-gas fired generation.
Perhaps the biggest news in solar tech this year was Germany announcing massive increases in solar power generation, up to 30% of national output over a few days in spring.
But this big news has a back story. Germany has had feed-in tariffs in the early 90’s, so incentives have been in place for a long time compared to Australia. The closing of half the nation’s nuclear plants and the promise to close the rest by 2022 after the Fukishima disaster, and the announcement of working towards every building being zero-carbon by 2050, the solar industry and the renewable energy sector at large has found a best friend in Germany.

By Chard Core


Renewables Half Of New Power Generation Globally

Australia’s Solar Power’s ‘Pizza Wars’

Old energy: the renaissance of fossil fuels under the carbon tax
Phillip Rosskopf
May 25, 2012

In Depth: The Real Story Behind Germany’s 22GW Solar Record
Giles Parkinson

coal seam gas

Coal Seam Gas – Part 2

We are barely a 3rd into the year 2012 and the Coal Seam Gas (CSG) issue is bigger than ever.
The year started off with a bang, or rather a leak. In February, Energy giant Santos reported 3 spills from their operations in eastern NSW. The spills consisted of water contaminated with heavy metals after being used in the gas extraction process.
CSG extraction uses vast amounts of water, forces it under pressure into deep coal seams and cracks them open, releasing valuable methane which is extracted. The water used is then supposed to also be extracted and put through a reverse osmosis process which clears it of any chemicals etc, that were used.
More often than not, the water is either left down there to seep even deeper into the earth, or left untreated on the surface in massive ponds where, you guessed it, the water seeps deeper into the earth, potentially polluting groundwater.
The spills occurred in November 2011, immediately after the acquisition of the facilities previously owned and operated by Eastern Star Gas.
Independent tests of the sites have shown high levels of arsenic, chromium and lead, Santos has not disputed these findings.
March 15 may very well be a date that shall live in infamy, as Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham moved to place a moratorium on all CSG projects across the state of NSW.
Thanks to the Coalition, Christian Democrats and the Shooters and Fishers parties, the motion was defeated 16-19.
According to Lock the Gate president, Drew Hutton, this move has allowed the government to ‘literally sell the farm to the coal and gas companies.’
A lot of focus has been given by the government to what it calls the ‘gateway process’, which aims to bring in independent panels to assess the potential for CSG mining in certain agricultural areas. If the independent panel is for a site, this swings the gate wide open and ‘the miners can drive right through’, according to Hutton.
The NSW Farmers Association have pointed out that nearly 100% of NSW is covered by applications and titles for mineral, coal or CSG exploration, and that Wollemi and Yengo National Parks have been earmarked as having ‘high and moderate CSG potential’.
All this is on top of increasing public backlash towards the CSG industry. In the past month alone, we have seen protests all over the country, with up to 1000 people protesting in Brisbane on March 15.
A petition of 20,000 signatures calling for a moratorium on CSG exploration, a Royal Commission to investigate the affects of CSG and an immediate ban on fracking, was also handed in along with Jeremy Buckingham’s motion. Sadly, this came across as a futile gesture.
The Coalition was of course, against the proposed moratorium, calling it irresponsible and that the government needed more facts before attempting a move such as that.
Perhaps they should look at the increasing number of studies coming out of the US, which show that gas leakages around shale gas wells are almost double the amount the of industries own figures.
CSG is also being sold to us as a cheap, low-polluting energy source, and to a world obsessed with Carbon Dioxide emissions, it may very well appear to be. But lest we forget that the gas extracted is methane, which contributes much more to climate change than carbon dioxide.
Also, the Australian Governments Carbon Tax come in later this year, and given the environmental cost CSG seems to be having across the world, it may very well prove to be too costly in the long term to maintain.

By Chard Core


Coal seam gas: People’s power can stop it!
Paul Benedek
Green Left Weekly
Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Santos confirms three spills from former Eastern Star Gas operations
Rebekah Kebede
Friday, Feb 10, 2012
Government fails the people of NSW on coal seam gas
Green Left Weekly
Friday, March 16, 2012