Archive for March, 2011

Most days . . .

. . . its Dilbert that gets it right for me. But today the non-sequitur is spot on.
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OK, I am starting to have some questions of my own

No news may be good news for a bit, but after a while if there is no news (information) you start to wonder if people are keeping bad things from you. Certainly that is what the Japanese people are expressing on TV and with their feet as they start to proactively evacuate totally. TEPCO does not have a great record about being open and forthright in it communications about incidents. The ominous sign is the still the evacuation of the plants, with only 50 staff remaining, where 1000 once worked, and perhaps this is why the people in Tokyo who can are voting with their feet.

Yesterday, US Energy Secretary, Steven Chu (a real smart guy with tons of credibility) told Congress: “If workers have to be permanently evacuated from the site it is unclear if the damage can be effectively contained.” Unfortunately, that is true. I know that if I was managing an emergency situation at an industrial facility during a persistent fire and chemical spill, I would need a lot more than 50 guys to regain control of the situation.

So, significant questions need to be directly asked by journalists now. The first has got to be cooling. What precisely are they doing with the cores of these three reactors? Do all three have a continuous flow of water, what is the temperature down to at present, and are they ensuring capacity and supply of coolant in redundant forms yet on each reactor. Is #4 at cold shutdown? The spent fuel rods in #4 reactor building have also clearly lost their cooling bath, as fires re-ignite there daily, and steam is almost always coming out of the building. How much and how long were these spent fuel rods dry, what is their temperature at present, and are we supplying coolant flow to them yet?

Clearly, reactors that have triple redundant cooling systems that can lose pumping and liquid supply lines at every line of defence during earthquakes and the resulting tsunamis have got to go. I mean if they can build an earthquake proof container for a little patch of sun on earth, then surely we can build water-proof containment systems for our backup pumps, earthquake-proof piping as much as possible (segmenting in solid sections?, flexible connections?) and provide quick reconnection facilities on standby for re-establishing cooling, monitoring, and electrical and mechanical control?

And if we can’t make these plants catastrophe proof, then we can’t build more. Let’s completely convert over to electricity supply bridging only with gas and fuel we can grow (but not eat) on the way to solar, wind, wave, geothermal (I mean fuck, the world ain’t running out of that on the ring of fire) as fast as possible, regardless of the cost. And I don’t say that lightly. I don’t mean regardless of the cost, so let’s let the big corporations rip off the whole program of conversion over to renewables, and control the energy game at the end of the transition.

I mean that whatever it costs to convert over to renewables on a macroeconomic scale, let’s pay it, and the sooner the better. You need research money to finish up the conversion of a useful scientific invention into a renewable power source at the home or industrial level? You got it. You need capital to take your electric plant off coal and onto gas? Here’s a low interest loan. Are you a massive power user (steel) that if given enough capital at low cost could become a power producer, and make your business carbon-proof from dirty international competition? I’ve got some cash for you too. However, each of you had better spend the money on what you said you will, and stay out of corruption and theft with my money, because I will be watching. In fact, your project accountant will actually be employed by me. Work for you, take all instructions from you, but I pay the salary, and get monthly reports form him/her. That’s all the oversight I need.

But there is a decision to be made, and it is as old as democracy itself. What is government’s role? Because only government’s (and maybe Warren Buffett) have the money and credit to accomplish a massive conversion to renewables. If you don’t want to do that, by doing the kind of things I outline above, then I guess we have to head back to find out if there is anything more I can do to make the nuclear plants safe from incident, and the waste safe for eternity.

And finally, I have a long-term question. As time goes on, I am wondering if there is no way to catalyse chemically a nuclear reaction, and is there such a thing as an intrinsically safe nuclear reactor?

Update on yesterday

As this drama still plays out in Japan, I have continued to do research on the subject, and the information available from actual experts supports the facts presented by me yesterday. The IAEA provides more support for what I provided.

That the nuclear incident is still occurring, and not abating as yet also supports my evaluation on what a complete loser Dolt is.

The final update I want to make is that it is highly inappropriate to compare this incident to the incident at Chernobyl. They are completely different reactor designs, have completely different containment systems and were managed completely differently. So it will be very seldom when a comparison to Chernobyl will be appropriate to the situation in Japan.

In the washup of all this, we may decide to reduce or eliminate the use of nuclear power worldwide. But let’s do it on a reasoned evaluation of the facts, and not emotionally.

He has got to be paid a lot to be such an arsehole

Andrew Bolt* gave a performance so untruthful and offensive on the weekend Insiders, that I really think he has got to be having this shit fed to him and rehearsed beforehand. No one could honestly hold this many stupid views in one head. His positions on the weekend once again included his greenhouse denial schtick, along with saying that the Coalition actually believes his view on the subject and are just faking it with a token effort to allow for a change of subject. He also used the current lie-attack approach with respect to Ross Garnaut. I hesitate to tell you about it, but will risk spreading its use, as I think it is important to be able to identify it when you see it, as it fits into a wider ploy by cultural conservatives and shills of big business. The lies that Dolt was allowed to share included:

• The lie is that there is zero risk to Australia due to the nuclear accidents in Japan caused by the earthquake, and then tsunami.

• The lie that the Greens will just use this as a beat up so they can stymie the development of nuclear power

• The lie is that Ross Garnaut is not credible to listen to for any reason on the climate change issue, as he is only an economist, and not a climate scientist, and he is paid by the government for his views.

The lies fit into a broader tactic by the cultural conservatives of doing something really shitty, then accusing you of it, falsely and in a pre-emtory manner, to hide their “crime”. They did it to Tim Flannery a couple weeks ago on Q&A, and I’ve heard it from another Coalition climate change denier a week before that.

And Dolt does it here again. Because this time, he used one lie to sell another. While attacking Ross Garnaut’s credibility on one issue, he used Ziggy Switkowski, who has not worked in the nuclear power industry ever to my knowledge, and while very involved with ANSTO as a director, his degree in nuclear physics has got to be 35 years old. After getting his business degree at Harvard, he served in series of company management roles, including Telstra. There is also the fact that he is a big proponent of nuclear power in Australia. Why shouldnt he be, as he was appointed by the Howard Government to look into the nuclear power issue. But hey, not that it is such a bad thing. As I have said before, there is a role for nuclear power in getting us off the magic dirt. Ziggy isn’t a bad guy, and I think he is smart and does have credibility on his issues.

Just like Ross Garnaut does. But Dolt smears Ross as a paid government lackey, and treats a distinguished, professor, diplomat, researcher and company chairman as if he was a one trick pony. And the funny thing about this smear is that it exposes the stupidity of Dolt. Having an economist study climate change and report on its effects is precisely the person to have do it on behalf of the government. You want to have a dispassionate and non-partisan person evaluate the cause and effects that can also apply the scientific method.

But the deniers first act these days is to now say that any scientist on your side of an argument has no credibility, as his field is not exactly climate science. This is a vile and disingenuous strawman of an argument and needs to be exposed. They have no basis upon which to be supported by a consistent theory and evidence in science, so they attack all science itself. Tim Flannery is just a geologist. By that measure, we have no reason to believe Isaac Newton, a farmer who was trained as a mathematician.

But then the bastard went on. Dolt also downplayed the significance of a nuclear incident on the 200,000 evacuated, in the hundreds of those exposed to heightened radiation, some needing treatment, and the potential future risk (at the time on Sunday morning) by saying we should be worrying about the missing. How about we worry about them all, you fucking moron. How about we make a serious effort to address the probable meltdown of two nuclear reactors at about 8 effected by the quakes and tsunami while we also mobilise in the millions people to find the wounded, bury the dead and start to rebuild their lives. Andrew Bolt abused the suffering of one effected people to make his point (a lie, I remind you) about another. He is the worst of humans and should be forced to go work on the recovery and containment effort directly at the site of the nuclear plant where the hydrogen explosion took place on Sunday morning, with his wife and kids (if he has any) living in a nice camp trailer across the street.

So basically, let’s leave this idiot behind, and work into some facts about the reactors in Japan, figure out where we are at, and put together evidence for the future. How about that? Right, well the first thing we want to do is understand what we are dealing with here through some research. Then we will put some facts into context and see where to go from there.

The first thing to understand is that the reactors that have released radioactive caesium and have had to have radioactive steam vented from them (indicators of a probable meltdown) are boiling water reactors (BWR) from the 1970s. Wiki says:

“The family of nuclear reactors known as light water reactors (LWR), cooled and moderated using ordinary water, tend to be simpler and cheaper to build than other types of nuclear reactor; due to these factors, they make up the vast majority of civil nuclear reactors and naval propulsion reactors in service throughout the world as of 2009. LWRs can be subdivided into three categories – pressurized water reactors (PWRs), boiling water reactors (BWRs), and supercritical water reactors (SWRs). Various agencies of the United States Federal Government were responsible for the initial development of the PWR and BWR.”

So as not to confuse anyone, radioactive caesium (Caesium-137) has a half-life of about 30 years, decays by beta emission to barium-137, which is also radioactive (gamma ray emitter) with a half-life of 2.55 minutes. Beta emitters aren’t as big a deal as far as health goes immediately, provided you aren’t too close to a concentrated emission source, but they area chronic health problem generator (cancer) if you consume them. However, gamma radiation is real bad in an acute sense, and this is the radiation that kills people in nuclear blasts and through radiation sickness in months after one. So, once again, the risk posed is an additional cancer causing element that you might be exposed to by ingesting or inhaling radioactive particles from a burning or venting nuclear plant. We have a definite chronic health problem, and a vector by which it is getting into the environment. So, the risk is not zero here in Australia, or anywhere.

Now, how close are we to real real bad in Japan. For that, we have to go back to the engineering of the plants. We now need to know how bad the meltdown is, and whether secondary containment has been broken. I have to get a bit techy again for a moment, so bear with me. In the BWR, the nuclear reaction is used to directly produce steam to run a turbine to make electricity. The nuclear reactor runs on the fission reaction of radioactive uranium, and the control rods used in the reactor control the rate at which the uranium decay reaction occurs. Pull the control rods back – faster. Push them all the way in – very slow. Lose control of the rods, and you lose control of the reaction, and things get as hot as the sun on that little patch of earth. BWR also use a lot of circulating water to control the reaction rate and keep the temperature down while the steam is generated. Lose control of the cooling water, and you can get too hot and lose control of the control rods, and then you go down that bad chain of events again. So, plants like in Japan have double and triple duplicate systems to move cooling water around in a reactor in an emergency. They also have containment systems, with the reactor itself being contained within a 2 metre thick pre-stressed, steel-reinforced, air-tight concrete dome. This is inside a building that also serves as containment. Hydrogen that got broken down from water in the reactor in Japan during this current incident leaked into and then exploded inside the second building that we all saw on tv. You know it is a hydrogen explosion because of the fast shock wave that proceeded the debris of the building being ejected and the lack of fire afterwards.

What we now need to do is find out how the core is. If it’s a melted ball of fuel and rods that doesn’t function at all, then the cleanup may require entombment. If the core was shut down well enough that it still operates as a functioning unit, but was only seriously overheated, the cleanup may be “only” recovering it, cooling it down as far as possible, and salvaging the bits that can be reused. It all depends on the state in which the shutdown got to prior to emergency cooling water loss, how hot the core got, and how much nuclear material melted and where it was finally contained as a solid mass again. We shall see, based on the facts that emerge.

Then, at that time, we will start to debate what the root causes were that led us to this point, whether we knew we might get here before in the evaluation of this plant from 1971 over the years, and the soundness of the logic of having 53 of these facilities in Japan, right on the edge of the ring of fire in seismic terms. Certainly looking at the photos already, we can see that the nuclear plant at Fukushima took the earthquake and tsunami better than the surrounding infrastructure.

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The problem appears to be that while the civil infrastructure held up well, the electrics, piping and backup generation capacities were knocked out by the duel disaster. In most likelihood, the core concrete containment structure was not cracked by the earthquake. But as I said we shall see.

I hear as I upload this that there is another 3 m tsunami headed for NE Japan, and there has been another explosion at Fukushima just now, meaning we now have 2 reactors where this has occurred.

Lets hope those civil engineers got their shit very right, and the cooling water is not lost this time.

But don’t take my word for it, do some research of your own, as I am just a chemical engineer.

* – I am just going to call him Dolt for short now, since it sums him up accurately, and he doesn’t deserve a full human name in my world.

Participation Changed

Well, the spammers figured out how to get bots to do it, so I might as well let those with an opinion chip in as well. I have opened up the site to being found by googling, rather than me needing to send you an address. To keep the numbers down, registry is required (name and a valid email addy), but I will not use any details provided for registration for any commercial purpose whatsoever, and you retain ownership of what you post.

A bit of balance, please

A simple search this morning using the words “carbon tax Australia” leads to pretty much all negative positions on this tax. Virtually nothing on the other side (but thank you Wikipedia).

But the real problem is not the tax, or the ETS, or even the alternative direct action approach, but that once again the deniers* have been allowed to sneak back in and present their flawed case along with those who disagree on the proposed way forward on a solution. If you go to the no carbon tax websites that headline a simple search, you will be linked through to the bunko artists, who appear to be a large and reasonable group. But they are not. The reality is that the vast majority of the people who believe in the scientific method, who work in the area of climate science, ocean science, thermodynamics or other related scientific and engineering fields, where the scientific method and the evidence that supports it, believe that anthropogenic climate change is real, and that it will not be positive for humans or the earth. Furthermore, the scientific organisations that they make up, and the peak organisations that represent those organisations, publish peer reviewed findings and recommendations through the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).

This is the report that you would have heard all the hyped up controversy about a while back, and that a couple figures and a couple paragraphs in a two 800-page reports were incorrect in. Pity they weren’t perfect, but they state the heavily considered opinion of the 99.99%.

Unfortunately, what you get as “balance” in the news coverage remains what I identified above. Bunko artists given 50% of the time to make their case.

Ross Garnaut today said that he believes that public education is the most important thing that has to happen, and that “If there was a deal to limit carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to 450 parts per million – required to limit warming to 2 degrees – Australia’s ”fair share” would be a reduction target of 25 per cent.”

So, while we should be discussing the merits of whether the renewable energy targets should be eliminated (no) and whether Australian companies should be able to buy cheaper international permits to meet their obligations (yes), we are still talking about the science as if there is a real debate. Other than this article by Ross in the SMH, and his appearance on ABC2 today, the coverage of the major papers and news has been balanced at least equally to the climate change deniers, and several of the major Newscorp and Fairfax columnists (Piers Ackerman, Miranda Devine, Paul Sheehan and Andrew Bolt) are all active climate change deniers.

Those supported by the scientific method are left to the occasional story by Ross Garnaut or Tim Flannery. Hardly balance where it matters, in swaying public opinion.

Charismatic, reasonable appearing liars get away with it all the time. I lived through Ronald Reagan’s presidency. We all lived through W. The basis of their ideologies have been found to be either wilful misrepresentations, or grossly incorrect. Wealth doesn’t trickle down from the rich, they concentrate it, and war is a lie. But one is viewed as a hero still, and the other isn’t in jail when by all rights he should be. The charismatic people who are playing this lie out again are the same folks who have a vested interest in delay, and who own the media to a large extent.

It is not a fair fight, and as I have said before, the correct argument is falling on deaf ears in a public that has been conditioned by the media that is supporting the lie to have tuned out already. Climate change is so last year’s story. Facts are boring, details are too taxing on the attention span, and the truth requires all of us to modify our behaviour a bit. So fuck that, right?

But in the interest of supporting Ross Garnaut’s call for more education, I will keep on providing my view on the topic. I’d feel guilty otherwise.

* – Unfortunately, when 99.99% of all peer reviewed scientists do not agree with you, you can no longer be called a sceptic, but rather something closer to a person with a mental disease.

How do you reach those who are wilfully ignorant

So, it’s been about a week and the Coalition scare mongering campaign over the carbon tax introduction has apparently started to do its expected damage, with the announcement of the Newspoll today that show Labor as being less popular than leaving your kids alone with a Catholic priest at 30% primary support. Nothing much else has happened federally in the last week, so the drop must be mostly due to people who were polled believing the Coalition’s spin, or they believe that if ignored long enough, the climate change issue will go away. In either case, the only way you could believe either of these alternatives to the carbon tax is to be wilfully ignorant.

If you believe that the issue of climate change is going to just go away, then I hope you don’t have any kids. Not because you shouldn’t be allowed to breed, but because I am a nice guy and don’t wish to see the results of your ignorance to be manifested on anyone’s kids.

The other option also requires wilful ignorance, because the detail has been out there for quite a while. You can have a look a the Coalitions direct action policy and my analysis of it from more than a year ago (!), and it clearly shows more than $700 million in spending per year.

This week, Tony Abbott has been out demonising the carbon tax proposal as something that will kill the economy (a lie that I will deal with separately), and putting forward the contention that the direct action policy is (1) better; (2) that no one’s costs will rise; and (3) that it can be implemented with no additional taxes. It’s the life is all ice cream and no pain approach to climate change.

This is where wilful ignorance comes in, because you don’t need to be Paul Krugman to recognise that if a government is going to spend more than $700 million a year in picking winners in the emissions reduction area through paying for the abatement out of the federal budget, and they aren’y going to raise taxes to fund that spending, then clearly budget cuts in other areas are going to have to pay for them. The cuts are likely to come in areas that the Coalition does not approve of, so expect to see funding for things like public schools, public transport, public health care and pretty much anything with a public in it to get a cut in the next Coalition-prepared budget. And if you rely on any of those public things that get cut, your costs to replace them will go up.

Its a pity that honesty doesn’t poll well, because a carbon tax is simple, direct and honest (even if I let people lie and call it a tax). Once again, here is how it works:

• Government makes anyone who is a major emitter of CO2-equivalent (CO2-e) gases pay for each ton of those emissions annually;
• They eat those costs, or pass them on to the buyers of their goods or services (probably the latter);
• The government uses some of the money raised to support long term shifts to alternative energy sources through research, low interest loans and other incentive programs; and
• The government returns any left over money to the taxpayers to offset their rise in cost (if any).

You may not like it, but a carbon tax is at least honest and will do what it says it will.

If I had any control over the situation, I would also apply the tax to all significant imports to the country that have high CO2-e intensity to address issues of major industries here that face significantly rising costs that large polluters elsewhere do not have to pay. That way, I can use local law to also influence behaviours of foreigners who want to sell their stuff in my market. Now that’s what I call effective tax policy.

The real enemy

So, I am talking to my buddy Otto the other day, and he’s got a libertarian streak significantly wider than my own, and we are talking about the public service (PS) union issue in Wisconsin, USA. And during the conversation, I conceded that it might be the case that the unions had been given something ‘above and beyond’ by the state over the years and that those in the private sector (union or individual) do not get. That they are the new “welfare queens” of the Republicans and tea-partiers.

So, I went and did some more research, and I found it that this is factually not the case, and more. The fact in Wisconsin is that out of every dollar that funds Wisconsin’ s pension and health insurance plans for state workers, 100 cents comes from the state workers. Union members negotiate a total compensation packages that includes salary, pension contributions, and their health care plan. They could take it all in salary, or defer some salary to get the other two. Either way, it’s their money.

Let’s repeat that: All the so-called “employer contributions” made by the state to pensions come out of an overall compensation package negotiated by the PS employees collectively which includes salary, pension and other benefits. Furthermore, the fact is that overall compensation packages for PS employees are the same or lower than those in the private sector. The salary portion of their compensation, in particular, is about 25% below, on average, comparable positions in the private sector. That’s where, at other times, we get the impression that people in the PS don’t get paid that much, but they have easier jobs (a misconception that can be addressed elsewhere).

The lie that is being spun is that these PS employees are getting a “gift” of public money by those who want to rouse your basal tea-party sentiment. The truth is the money in the PS pensions is THEIR money as deferred payment. Of course we all know that saving salary money for the future as deferred payments is evil, right? Those public employees and their unions are so evil and irresponsible, I bet they caused the whole global financial crisis.

To be honest, from my perspective, the only mistake the people in the unions made is taking deferred salary that is not identified as such by an employer that guarantees it – you can’t get it back if no one knows it’s yours.

As Paul Krugman puts it, “Public sector workers are not, on average, grossly overpaid compared with the private sector — period. You can fiddle at the edges of this conclusion, but it’s just not possible to conclude, based on any honest assessment of the data, that schoolteachers are the new welfare queens.”

But there is actually more to the story, as there always is with Krugman, and why I have gone back to read so much of his old stuff. The real problem we aren’t being told from the media in the US is worse, The current problem with public (and possibly private) pensions is that they are all pretty much all “at risk” these days as well. Gone are the days when pensions were put in rock solid low interest things like government bonds. No, today those funds are in the stock market. Yeah, that same stock market that crashed when the greedy bankers sold really bad collateralised debt to unwary or greedy investors who were also mostly bankers. Have a look at this graph from Krugman that shows what pension funds would be worth with simple interest, and what they are actually worth as a result of the GFC.

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In a perfect world, the folks at Goldman, Citi, BofA and Wells Fargo that caused the whole fucking problem in the first place should be made the fund managers at these public pensions as indentured servants until such time as the pensions are back to where they would be if they made nothing more than the long term bond rate.

The most amazing thing to me of all, looking from the outside in at the US at present, is that the media seems to be characterising the issue relating to the fiscal crises in the states (and federally) as a battle of priority between the unions and the regular taxpayers, with their newly installed tea party inspired paymasters. The middle class (every one of the people in the union in this story) is not ripping off the state. The banks and rich arseholes that brought the global financial crisis on, then got government support to get through it, and are now paying massive bonuses to those same arseholes are the problem. So, the poor and middle class ought to quit being pitted against one another, and start making the rich see some consequences of their failure.

Facts about the carbon tax

Right, so I have heard a lot of the political hubbub following the announcement, and I have heard the opposition’s position on it, and I have even done some informal polling of my own to canvas views, so I had better make a comment on the carbon tax. It’s my preferred option, if you have been checking in regularly, and if it goes through, also possibly the first time I have ever predicted the future where it wasn’t something bad.

The Coalition’s position, put forward formally by Malcolm Turnbull (who has just got to be loving life having to carry this bag of shit), is that their proposed direct action proposal will be better, but that he personally favours the ETS. So, basically, they got nothing. And all they want to do is scream about the election lie of not having a carbon tax prior to the last election. A furphy.

Here’s the facts. Three blockages by the Coalition with the assistance of the Greens in the last parliament meant that labour wasn’t going to get its ETS up without a pound of flesh to the Greens, and that cost is a fixed price sooner, hence the carbon tax. Julia Gillard made the promise of no carbon tax prior to the last election, based on a Labor government ruling in its own right, not as a minority government. So, while we all like to call all politicians liars, the truth is that promise was null and void when she didn’t win the election outright.

So take that as a lesson Coalition (including you Malcolm): If you go too far to the right (climate change denial) and block something by any means (roll your leader and renege on a deal), then you sometimes end up getting something you like even less when your previous conspirator joins your enemy.

My position on a carbon tax has been stated before. To summarise, its far less elegant a solution that an ETS, but also more transparent and less easy to corrupt. The Coalition’s only substantive complaint so far has been that the proposed carbon tax is low on detail, so here are some more boring facts about the carbon tax, functionally.

It will have a short-term fixed price to allow the parties who believe in climate change [Multi-Party Climate Change Committee (MCCC)] to defer a final decision on a 2020 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction target for three to five years, in which time they hope to have another international agreement on targets to replace Kyoto, which expires in 2012.

The price will remain fixed for three-to-five years until, and unless, a review recommends moving to an ETS. Once the shift to an ETS occurs, the market will set the price of a ton of CO2. At that time, Australia’s emissions will be capped and controlled by Australia according to the international agreement, through the use of emissions trading in Australia (which will undoubtedly look a lot like the CPRS) or other model like that passed in California late last year, since we failed to get ours up first here in Australia. Barring the achievement of an international agreement, Australia will most likely try to pursue a regional agreement, linked to others already being formed, or start our own closer to home.

Under a carbon tax, business would have some certainty but no comfort. They will not know a limit on how much they can emit, but they will know the exact cost of their emissions for the next 3-5 years.

More importantly, the fixed price carbon tax will give certainty to energy consumers and renewable energy investors, about the exact cost of carbon pollution. Electricity providers, fuel providers and anyone else included in the program will undoubtedly pass on their costs to users, so we can actually see if our electricity bill is going to go up $300 a year.

Then, based on what industries actually do with the cost applied to them, we can then start arguing over what government can do with the actual of tax it will have raised each year, that should amount to about $5 billion, assuming a price of $15/ton CO2e and including the emissions from energy, industrial processes and waste, but excluding land clearing and agriculture (for now).

Depending on what the company (or people) are willing to do to change their emissions profile, we can discuss how are we going to assist losers (coal industry) in moving to the clean energy economy, while avoiding getting the government involved in picking winners and losers and letting market forces set the price over time.

Would I be interested in using some of the tax raised to provide low interest loans to those in the coal industry convert over to gas? Probably. Would I be interested in doing the same for companies that want to invest capital in large scale renewables? Possibly. What about supporting Bluescope Steel in making green steel here, or also applying a carbon tax to competing imports? I’d consider it. But would I be interested in direct funding of projects to capture CO2 from burning coal and see if we can sequester it in the ground or other Rube Goldberg device? No fucking way. But hey, even if there aren’t that many great ideas to assist in the shift to a greener economy, we could just return the tax to the 9 million households in Australia to the tune of $555 per household per year to help them afford the higher costs that will be passed on to them. Households that use more energy (or are wasteful) might not get their costs all covered, but those that are more efficient could be net winners after the tax. The bottom line, let’s not be too scared by the economic horror stories that will be peddled out by the same people who don’t believe climate change is happening.

You can also start to look at the upside. The Climate Institute report released this week also shows that, “Australia has largely untapped energy resources in geothermal, large scale solar, bio-energy, hydro, wind and natural gas.” Work in these areas will create these new employment opportunities out to 2030:

NSW: Close to 7,000 new power sector jobs
Queensland: Close to 6,300 new power sector jobs
Victoria: Over 6,800 new power sector jobs
South Australia: Close to 2,700 new power sector jobs
Western Australia: Over 3,500 new power sector jobs

Now, lets see how that compares to my previous analysis of jobs that would be lost working in the coal industry if we got off burning the magic dirt. Well, not too bad, actually, considering my prediction was based on a 97.5% reduction in coal burning, whereas the Climate Institute only predicted a clean energy usage target of 43%. Anyway, they predicted a growth of 26,100 jobs nationally (many in regional areas) which isn’t that far off half of my prediction (23,500) of the jobs lost by eliminating all burning of coal for electricity.

So, net jobs is about a wash, and the jobs gained are jobs just as good as those they replace, not low paid crappy service work. And as I have said before, don’t try to scare me with job losses. We have just gone through the second worst recession in history with massive job losses, and the world did not collapse. If dirty jobs need to be lost, they should be, even if they aren’t immediately replaced.

We have a winner!

It took a while, by my buddy Otto finally brought in the first of what I expect to see a lot more of in the next 10 years provided I keep compiling them.

Check out this excellent article from Mike Tidwell on his zombie plan. Then look up some of his other very good stuff.