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Publisher's Letter

Letter to the
Australian government

By the time you read this, the new Australian government should already have had its first sitting in parliament. And whether you voted Labor or otherwise, it is likely you will be watching the results in the hope that they don’t have the same farcical initiatives as in the first term. We don’t want another roof insulation debacle – that one will take many years before all the hitherto unforeseen consequences have occurred.

Nor do we want radical legislation to address the effects of global warming which are becoming less certain as time passes. Regardless of which argument you believe, there seems little reason for Australia to take expensive measures to make very small reductions in our national carbon dioxide emissions.

Of course, there are many people who believe that we should “give the planet the benefit of the doubt” and take action before it is too late (some climate scientists already think it is too late!). But rather than “putting a price on carbon” or establishling an emissions trading scheme (ETS), there are practical initiatives which the government could promote, particularly with an eye to reducing our long-term dependence on coal and petroleum. These would have the effect of providing significant benefits while also reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

First of these is to provide significant backing for research and development of Australia’s potential geothermal (hot rocks) resources. Admittedly, some development is likely because of recently announced changes to the Renewable Energy Target Scheme (RETS) but it needs a much bigger push if we are going to get viable commercial development within the next 10 years. At the moment, while there are a number of listed companies which are working in this field, no-one really knows whether it will work.

Second, and nothing to do with electricity generation, there should be concerted action to move Australia’s transport industry away from its dependence on diesel and petrol fuels, to compressed natural gas. As each year goes by, Australia has to import increasingly greater quantities of diesel and petrol and it is already a major import cost. By contrast, we have truly abundant reserves of natural gas and we should be looking to use much more of this to run cars, trucks, buses etc. Not only would this have the effect of securing Australia’s transport fuel needs far into the future but it would also lead to very substantial reductions in our carbon dioxide emissions.

This would be far more efficient than the current promotion of very expensive so-called renewables such as wind and solar power. Nor, on present developments, are electric and hybrid electric vehicles likely to make much of a dint in our carbon emissions. So rather than providing substantial subsidies to the production of hybrid electric vehicles, as in the case of the Toyota Camry hybrid, the government should realise that we are going to continue driving our petrol and diesel vehicles for many years to come. Compressed natural gas should be the answer – cheaper fuel in the long run, less pollution and less carbon dioxide emissions.

What are we waiting for?

Leo Simpson


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