Saturday 29 April 2006

Earth’s “biggest heat bucket.”

Coral reefs, octopi, eels, offshore oil rigs, El Niño, La Niña, the birthplace of life, tasty seafood, even assorted bottom feeders.

All these things come to mind when we think of the world’s ocean. Researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Goddard Institute for Space Studies have learned to think of the ocean as something else, something that might not occur to the rest of us.

The ocean, they say, is Earth’s “biggest heat bucket.” And like a bucket placed under an overflowing sink, the ocean is filling up with the heat that increasing levels of greenhouse gases are preventing from escaping to space.


Friday 28 April 2006

Wind farm fight on two fronts

The Age, Page: 3
Friday, 28 April 2006

THE Federal Government faces two court challenges over its controversial decision to veto a $220 million wind farm in South Gippsland. Victorian Planning Minister Rob Hulls said yesterday the State Government would lodge an appeal against that decision in the Federal Court on Monday, vowing to spend ''whatever it costs'' on the battle. The Age believes the company proposing the Bald Hills wind farm, Wind Power, will lodge a separate Federal Court appeal on Monday. The Federal Government halted the project to protect the endangered orange-bellied parrot from harm by wind turbines despite its own consultants saying the wind farm was not a high risk to the birds.

Environment Minister Ian Campbell invoked a rarely used environmental law to block the wind farm, saying there was too great a risk to the parrot. There are only about 200 left. Mr Hulls said the State Government's lawyers would argue that Senator Campbell had made a biased decision to placate antiwind farm campaigners. ''We think it's important to appeal this decision because we don't believe any company that wants to invest in infrastructure anywhere in Australia, let alone Victoria, can have certainty while this decision stands, '' he said.

But even if the State Government wins its appeal, the Federal Court has no power to overturn Senator Campbell's decision and allow the wind farm to be built, and could only order the minister to reconsider his decision. Yesterday, Senator Campbell dismissed the court action as a political stunt, maintaining his decision was justified by a consultant's report on the risk to migratory birds from wind farms across south-eastern Australia. ''I have published onmy website the detail of my report that was the basis ofmy decision, and I am happy for people to read that and to debate it, '' Senator Campbell said. Yet, according to the government-commissioned report by Biosis Research, the risk of parrots being killed at Bald Hills was extremely low, because the parrots usually migrate over south-western Victoria rather than South Gippsland, and there have been no recorded sightings of the parrots at the site.

According to the report's risk analysis - which the Federal Government has not disputed - even if parrots did migrate past Bald Hills, the predicted worst-case scenario would result in one being killed every 667 years. In the best-case scenario, that would fall to one being killed every 1097 years. Speaking publicly about the report for the first time, Biosis Research chief executive Charles Meredith stressed that the report was mainly about the combined risk from all the wind farms, but stood by its analysis for the Bald Hills site. ''It's clear in the report that Bald Hills didn't have a high collision risk, '' he said.

But Dr Meredith refused to comment on whether the report's findings justified Senator Campbell's decision: ''We did the report for the Federal Government and it's for them to interpret it. ''

• A rare wedge-tailed eagle has died after hitting a wind turbine at the Woolnorth wind farm in Tasmania.

Court call on parrot

Herald Sun, Page: 15
Friday, 28 April 2006

A JUDGE will decide if Canberra must rethink a ban imposed on a South Gippsland wind farm over the orange-bellied parrot. The State Government will lodge an appeal in the Federal Court next week, which could force Federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell to reconsider. State Planning Minister Rob Hulls said Senator Campbell had made a biased decision by blocking the 52-turbine Bald Hills wind farm. ''The orange-bellied parrot was a really a pretext for what was clearly a political decision, '' Mr Hulls said.

The report says there have been few sightings of the orange-bellied parrot in the area in recent years. A win for the State Government would mean Senator Campbell would have to make a decision again. The State Government argues that Senator Campbell made the decision to bolster the Coalition's position in McMillan, the local federal electorate. Senator Campbell yesterday stood by his decision and said the State Government's action was a stunt.

Thursday 27 April 2006

Environment: Sweden to be Oil Free

The Ballan News, Page: 8
Thursday, 20 April 2006

SWEDEN has moved to the forefront of the world's 'green' nations by setting an ambitious goal to achieve a completely oil-free economy by 2020 - all without building more nuclear power plants. Motivated by global warming and rising oil prices, the Swedish government says it intends to replace all fossil fuels with renewable alternatives before climate change undermines national economies worldwide and diminishing oil supplies force astronomical price increases. They probably don't have any orange bellied parrots and yellow bellied pathetic Liberal politicians. "Our dependency on oil should be broken by 2020," said Mona Sahlin, minister of sustainable development, in an interview with The Guardian newspaper.

"There shall always be better alternatives to oil, which means no house should need oil for heating, and no driver should need to turn solely to gasoline. "Not everyone believes Sweden's goal to free itself from oil by 2020 is achievable, but even critics applaud the country for setting such a compelling and motivating goal. which could also inspire other nations to make dramatic efforts to reduce their dependency on fossil fuels. The Swedish government is serious about the goal.

According to the energy committee of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, there is growing concern among nations worldwide that global oil supplies are peaking and will soon begin to become scarce, causing the price of oil to skyrocket. Committee members predict that a global economic recession could result, and Sweden is taking action to make its economy less vulnerable. According to Sahlin, international oil dependency is one of the world's biggest problems, and she believes Sweden must act now to prepare for the worst. "A Sweden free of fossil fuels would give us enormous advantages, not least by reducing the impact from fluctuations in oil prices," she said.

"The price of oil has tripled since 1996." There is no question the goal is extremely ambitious, but this nation of 9 million people has a track record on energy issues that should inspire confidence. In 1970, 77 percent of Sweden's energy came from oil, but by 2003 that figure had fallen to 32 percent. Renewable sources account for an average 6 percent of energy consumed by nations in the European Union while renewable sources supply 26 percent of Sweden's energy needs.

Roughly a third of Sweden's energy comes from nuclear power, although a 1980 referendum declared that nuclear power should he phased out. Sweden has built wind power and water power plants along its coastlines, including a large new wind farm that is scheduled to start producing energy in 2009. And the country has more forest per capita than any other country in the EU, which provides a steady supply of biomass. Sweden also sponsors innovative programs to promote the use of alternate fuels for everything from home heating to transportation.

Many neighborhoods in Sweden use a central furnace that consumes biological fuels to provide hot water for all of the nearby homes. Thousands of individual homeowners have replaced their oil furnaces with boilers that use wood-based pellets, which has dramatically reduced Sweden's dependence on oil for home heating. According to the Swedish Petroleum Institute, heating oil sales have fallen by 85 percent in recent years, and today only 8 percent of Swedish homes are heated by oil. Sweden uses tax breaks and other financial incentives, such as exemption from tolls and parking fees, to encourage citizens to drive cars that use renewable fuels.

Tax incentives also make it possible for Swedish drivers to fill their tanks with ethanol-based fuel for about a third less money than it would cost for ordinary gasoline, even though ethanol costs about 40 percent more to produce. A Commitment to Environmental Leadership When Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson heard that U. S. President George W.

Bush had declared in his 2006 State of the Union address that America is addicted to oil, he said he was relieved to learn that "at last there's one more who understands the problem." Unfortunately, President Bush's proposed budget, which came out a week after his speech, either underfunded or reduced funding for many conservation and renewable energy programs that could help lessen America's addiction. The people of Sweden not only understand the problem, they are pioneering solutions and setting an example for the rest of the world to follow.

What does Ian Campbell have against wind farms?

The Australian: Editorial
Wed, Apr 26, 2006

WHEN federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell used a vastly overstated threat to a rare parrot to block a Gippsland wind farm, some critics accused him of having been fully co-opted by the greens in his ministry. Others suggested that the real reason behind the spiking of the project was politics: Senator Campbell fulfilled a promise to local voters opposed to the wind farm, who delivered a large Liberal swing in the marginal seat of McMillan at the last election. Now, Senator Campbell is again playing politics with wind farms – and this time, he hasn't even bothered finding an endangered species with which to cover himself. On Monday, Senator Campbell announced he had written to Regional Services Minister Warren Truss, asking him to block any further funding for the Denmark wind farm in Western Australia. This after the wind farm's backers had received a government grant of up to $240,000 to build the renewable energy development.

Last year, Senator Campbell announced his intention to wrest control over wind farms to Canberra, claiming state Labor governments were forcing turbines on an unwilling populace. It's not hard to see why wind farms can be unpopular. Beyond their supposed threat to parrots and other wild animals, local residents often resent their views being blocked by acres of spinning turbines and feel wind farms hurt their property values. The Denmark wind farm was opposed by 60 families, some of whom reportedly do not live in the area of the site. And again, backyard interests and local politics collided to kill the project, which was to be built not just in Senator Campbell's home state but in the electorate of fellow Liberal Wilson Tuckey.

While Senator Campbell has often – and deservedly – been criticised for having gone too green on some issues, when it comes to wind farms, he is not green enough. Killing the Bald Hills wind farm on scanty evidence of a parrot's presence was bad enough, especially when Senator Campbell's office looks set to give the tick to a Pilbara iron ore mine where three rare night parrots were allegedly seen last year. Any human project is going to have consequences, be it a wind farm or a highway or a nuclear power plant. But so far, wind farms seem like a pretty low-impact way to generate power while meeting mandatory renewable energy impacts.

Threats to wildlife appear to be overstated. And succumbing to not-in-my-backyard arguments is a dangerous road for politicians to go down. Even the economics of wind farms, which at first glance look unsustainable (they are more expensive than coal and require government subsidy) are more nuanced when one examines the details. Greenpeace estimates wind farms could create 3300 jobs, mostly in regional Australia, and pump billions of dollars into the states. Taken together, the nation's wind farms could eventually produce enough green power for hundreds of thousands of homes. But that won't happen as long as Senator Campbell keeps playing politics.

Tuesday 25 April 2006

Big Shot

The Australian
Page: 20 Tuesday, 25 April 2006

AUSTRALIA'S membership in the Asia Pacific Climate Partnership is already paying off, with one solar company negotiating contracts worth more than $1 billion. Solar Systems chief Dave Holland, an industry delegate on the renewableenergy taskforce-one of eight established under the climate alliance known as AP6-said the meeting in California last week had exceeded all expectations. Mr Holland, pictured, will lead a solar energy industry delegation to China at the invitation of government officials. The small Melbourne-based company also looks likely to clinch a lucrative deal to roll out 150 megawatt solar power stations in China, India and the US.

Details of the deal were discussed during bilateral side talks between Australian renewable energy industry delegates and the Chinese government delegation. ''We had some reasonably detailed discussions with the Chinese government delegation about what that would involve, '' Mr Holland said. ''We expect the projects across the regions to be worth more than $1 billion in solar power infrastructure. ''In Australia, coal-fired power is so cheap it is difficult for solar power to compete because of more expensive production costs.

But in China, a new tariff system requiring all electricity retailers to buy a certain amount of renewable energy at a set price is encouraging greater take-up of clean energy. China will acquire an additional 2000 megawatts of renewable electricity every year. The Solar Systems deal is likely to involve manufacturing the photovoltaic panels in China. The bilateral talks with China are also expected to lead to lucrative contracts for the wind and hydro energy industries.

Pacific Hydro chief executive officer Rob Grant said Chinese officials expressed an interest in greater foreign investment, to build up their budding wind energy industry. ''I think it's fair to say that the potential in that market for wind and hydro is enormous, '' Mr Grant said. The AP6 taskforces have agreed to complete action plans identifying suitable markets across member nations for deploying low emission and clean energy technology by August. The alliance between Japan, Australia, the US, India, South Korea and China was forged last year and has been touted as an alternative to the Kyoto Protocol.

Cleaner power to people

Community PowerMORELAND has long prided itself on its sustainability and is going one step further with Community Power. Residents who sign up to Community Power by May 15 go into a draw to win a $300 sustainability pack from the Moreland Energy Foundation. Community Power is a program set up Darebin, Melbourne, Yarra and Banyule cities and the energy foundation to make switching to green power cheaper and easier for residents.

The program has struck a deal with AGL so residents can switch at no extra cost to 20 per cent green power: renewable electricity generated from the sun, wind, water and waste.

To join Community Power, call AGL 1300 762 254 or visit then phone Rachel on 9381 1733 to enter the draw.

Minister freezes wind farm funds

The Australian
April 25, 2006

FEDERAL Environment Minister Ian Campbell infuriated another state government yesterday by overriding plans to build a wind farm. Less than a month after he blocked a wind farm in Victoria to "save" the orange-bellied parrot, Senator Campbell froze funding yesterday for a similar project near Denmark on the south coast of Western Australia.

The minister said he had written to Regional Services Minister Warren Truss asking him to refuse further requests for funding for the project. "Senator Campbell strongly opposes further funding for the Denmark Community Windfarm group until the expressed wishes of the local community are taken into account through the introduction of a national wind farm code," Senator Campbell's spokeswoman said.

Earlier this month, the minister set off a war between Canberra and Victoria when he invoked rarely used federal powers to block the $220 million Bald Hills wind farm in Gippsland on the grounds it could kill one rare orange-bellied parrot a year. The Victorian Government has demanded he reconsider. Last night, West Australian Planning Minister Alannah MacTiernan described Senator Campbell's latest decision as tragic.

"It is a joke that at a time when we have got some really hard issues to deal with, we've got an environment minister who has no interest in sustainability, that at a national level we are not only getting zero leadership, we're getting minus zero leadership," she said. "These are big issues. We need leadership at a national level and Campbell is as much a joke as (Denmark area MP) Wilson Tuckey is as an environment minister. Other than going around and doing a bit of bashing of the Japanese on whales, he hasn't shown any capacity to deal whatsoever with the big issues we are facing."

Ms MacTiernan has been accused of ignoring advice from a state government planning committee that voted three to two against the proposed wind farm. But she said a departmental report prepared on the project was "substandard and flawed". The report excluded information from Western Power recommending the wind farm site, and ignored advice from its own department that the farm was not visually obtrusive, she said. "This has got nothing to do with this report, because Campbell, well before he had ever seen this report, had been down there (at the proposed site) with Wilson Tuckey trying to stir the possum," she said.

She said the project was formally opposed by only about 60 families, including many who did not live at Denmark. Senator Campbell will also have the final say in the development of a new iron ore mine in northern Western Australia, which yesterday won state government approval despite the possible presence of a bird even rarer than the orange-bellied parrot - the night parrot.

The West Australian Government gave its final environmental approval for Fortescue Metals Group's iron ore mine at Cloud Break in the Pilbara, part of a $1.8billion development stalled by sightings last year of three night parrots, which were once thought to have been extinct. State Environment Minister Mark McGowan was critical yesterday of Senator Campbell's decision to block the Bald Hills wind farm on environmental grounds, saying it had been possible to approve the Pilbara mine by imposing strict conditions.

"I would be surprised if Senator Campbell was to knock back this (iron ore mine). I'm positive he won't knock it back. His decision in Victoria was based on it being a marginal seat - it was not environmental," he said.

Sunday 23 April 2006

Turbine's Got Watt It Takes

Macedon Ranges Telegraph, Page: 5
Tuesday, 18 April 2006

HUME Council is set to embark on a 12-month trial of a micro-wind turbine at Sunbury. The trial, the first of its kind with such a device, will have the turbine set up in an open space and monitored with a computer. It's believed the mini wind turbine could revolutionise household energy. The trial model is a metre wide and can produce up to six kilowatts a day.

The council will measure energy production and fluctuation. Inventor Arthur O'Connor's turbine was reported in the Telegraph in November. Mr O'Connor said his device had the potential to halve residential electricity bills. Mayor Adem Atmaca said the trial was aimed at determining the visual impact and noise levels of the 'micro' turbine on a domestic environment.

"If successful, it would give Victorian householders the opportunity to produce up to half their average daily electricity requirements from greenhouse-friendly renewable energy -for approximately half the cost of installing a solar power system of similar capacity." Cr Atmaca said.

Green Power Brings The Tick Of Approval

Green Power Brings The Tick Of Approval
Lithgow Mercury, Page: 8
Saturday, 15 April 2006

The Blue Mountains are turning green with the launch of a Green Power information campaign in Council libraries and sports centres. Local Member and Minister for the Environment Bob Debus and Blue Mountains Mayor Jim Angel are encouraging local residents and businesses to embrace Green Power and help reduce greenhouse emissions. "Green Power is a clean green energy alternative and you can choose to make some or all of your energy green. By switching even a fraction of your energy needs green, you can help reduce greenhouse gases," Mr Debus said.

"The Green Power Scheme was established in NSW 1997 and launched nationally in 2000 and is one of the first Green Power accreditation schemes in the world." The Green Power tick of approval means that the energy you are buying from your supplier must come from renewable and environmentally friendly power sources. "At the moment at least 80 per cent of that energy must come from 'new' generation plants - or generators which have been built after January 11997." After July this year that will increase to 100 per cent of the energy.

"Green energy is generated from renewable sources such as the sun, wind, water or biomass rather than from burning coal which releases large quantities of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere," Mr Debus said. "The average household in Australia emits over eight tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions each year. "In the past five years, Green Power customers have contributed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to taking 1.4 million cars off the road for 12 months," Mr Debus said.

Mayor Jim Angel said Council was reviewing its energy contracts to look at Green Power and had introduced ways to reduce its energy consumption and green house gas emissions over the past few years. "Blue Mountains World Heritage Institute, in conjunction with the Lawson Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Council and Integral Energy, are working to achieve energy efficiencies and long-term energy savings for the residents of Lawson," Cr Angel said "Over 500 residents in South Lawson have been contacted to take part in a survey which will assist the Institute and the Council in achieving energy efficiency for all of Lawson. "We want to apply the findings of Lawson to reduce the costs for both households and businesses throughout the wider Blue Mountains region. "Over the past two years Council has significantly cut down energy consumption, and therefore greenhouse gas emissions, in Council buildings.

"In the first year of our Energy Performance Contract project we achieved an annual 40 per cent energy saving in lighting and since then we have reduced 136 tonnes of CO2 greenhouse gas emission each year (the equivalent of removing 30 cars from the road) and have saved Council approximately $15, 000 per annum in energy consumption and maintenance costs," Cr Angel said. As part of the project Council has installed solar panels at Katoomba and Glenbrook pools which will be used to help heat the indoor and outdoor pools. The project is being undertaken at no cost to Council. Energy Conservation Systems undertake the capital improvements at their cost and are paid from the financial savings Blue Mountains City Council achieves through the reduction of energy costs.

Council is also reducing the energy consumption of streetlights by switching to T5 lights which give the same level of directed illumination as 80 watt globes but use only one third of the power. "For every 100 streetlights we change over, we stop around 14 tonnes of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere," Cr Angel said. Cr Angel said Council is changing its car fleet to four cylinders rather than six and looking at ways to increase use of public and alternate transport. More information can be found on the
Green Power website: