Negawatts On Demand  

Posted by Big Gav

The best phrase of the day is from Rob at CleanTechVC in his look at the demand response technology sector - "Negawatts On Demand".

Perhaps the hottest market few have heard of right now is Demand Response, which we've discussed -- often -- here (but which I find more often than not is still unfamiliar to anyone who isn't a big cleantech geek like yours truly)... Negawatts-on-demand is proving to be an important new tool for generation- and transmission-constrained utilities.

The recent successful IPOs of Comverge and EnerNOC have raised the profile of the sector a bit, and brought in a significant amount of capital available for potential acquisitions. What is less well-known, furthermore, is that two additional factors are poised to drive a wave of consolidation in the still-emerging industry:

1. While a couple of the DR companies have gotten all of the attention lately, the DR capacity aggregator segment (the companies like Comverge and EnerNOC that are contracting with utilities to provide the negawatts-on-demand) is actually a pretty crowded space, with a lot of other companies (some quite large and established with good existing utility relationships) angling to get in on the action as well.

2. While there has been a bit of a "land rush" among DR capacity aggregators lately, their actual technical ability to automate the delivery of capacity on demand has fallen behind a bit -- when the utilities call for the negawatts to be provided later this summer, there will be a lot of frantic phone calls and text messages flying around, in a very manual attempt to get each building's facility managers to go turn down thermostats or turn on backup diesel generators. ...

The WSJ Energy Roundup has a post on the Dean of Columbia Business School recommending a carbon tax (video at the link). Someone from the Bush administration who understands economics - amazing.
At yesterday’s Deals & Deal Makers Conference in New York, Glenn Hubbard, the Columbia Business School Dean and former Bush administration economic adviser, argued in favor of a carbon tax. “I believe that technology is the vital solution to fixing the problems of climtae change,” he told the Journal’s David Wessel in the video embedded at left.

“But businesspeople don’t innovate because it feels good; they innovate because there’s a return to that innovation. If you want a return to that innovation, you will have to price it – you will need to put a price on carbon, which means having, either through a cap-and-trade system or an explicit tax, some incentive to innovate carbon-saving technology.”

In the video, Hubbard also says he thinks it’s “quite likely” that a cap-and-trade scheme and/or a carbon tax will be implemented soon.

Energy Roundup also has a post on western oil companies leaving Venezuela - "Hugo to Exxon, Conoco: Don’t Let the Door Hit You…".
Raul Gallegos reports from Caracas, Venezuela, that Hugo Chavez is hardly crying himself to sleep at night over Exxon Mobil and ConocoPhillips leaving the country:

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez appeared Thursday to shrug off a decision by two U.S. oil companies to leave multi-billion dollar oil projects in the Andean country, saying they’re welcome to go. “Two days ago two U.S. companies left; they didn’t want to accept our laws. Well, if they don’t want to accept that this is a sovereign country, they can leave, the door is open, they left,” Chavez said in a televised speech during his visit to Russia.

The president’s words mark the first time he has referred to the heavy crude projects in the Orinoco river belt, since Petroleos de Venezuela, PdVSA, signed new deals with partners Tuesday. Oil majors Exxon Mobil and ConocoPhillips chose to bow out of their investments, a decision many saw as an indication they were dissatisfied with a reduced stake written into the new deals.

Early this year Chavez launched a nationalization campaign that included giving PdVSA majority stakes in four heavy-oil upgrading projects in the Orinoco area. Other foreign partners, namely Chevron, Statoil, Total Oil and BP, accepted the new terms as minority partners with the state in control. The leftist leader, who has cemented ties with countries such as Russia, Iran and Cuba, pointed out that Venezuela’s allies would be more than willing to do business with the oil-rich nation.

After Gutenberg has a post reporting that growth of renewable energy in Spain is led by wind.
27% of Spain’s total electricity supply comes from wind power. Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate balked at setting a Renewable Portfolio Standards at 15%.

Jeremy Elton Jacquot1, writing for Treehugger from Los Angeles, makes note of the rapid rise in popularity of wind power in Spain, so much so, that Spain has become the world’s second largest producer of wind energy. Germany is the country where the largest amount of wind energy is produced. In a short time, Spain has surpassed countries, such as Denmark, which obtains 20% of the country’s electric power from wind.

Repeating a previous announcement, Jacquot elaborates on the spectacular growth and development of the country’s renewable energy industry. As Treehugger previously had observed, as of March 20, wind provided a whopping 27% of Spain’s total electricity supply. Such “a historic high [was] reached by pumping energy from 72% of its total installed wind capacity.”
This is in great part due to the big investments made by Spanish energy companies and the government’s early adoption of favorable tariff incentives that provide a guarantee to producers that all their energy will be purchased. “Spain has created a cluster of knowledge in clean energy that sets it apart from most other countries,” said Miguel Salis, a private equity manager. “This has enabled Spanish groups to invest successfully in other markets where there is huge potential for growth.”

The poster congratulated firms that made crucial, early investments in core technologies. The payoff, in some cases, has meant becoming world leaders with some of the largest global market shares in their respective industries, e.g.:

1. Gamesa, a manufacturer and installer of wind turbines,
2. Iberdrola, a power group,
3. Acciona Energia, a wind park developer.

The CEO of EWEA (European Wind Energy Association) forecasts continued strong growth in global wind energy market, i.e., an estimated 151,000 MW of wind power will be added worldwide by 2014.
As Europe’s second most mountainous region (after Switzerland) and one of its least densely-populated states, Spain was the ideal location to mass-produce and install wind turbines and photovoltaic panels without causing too much public outcry. It all just comes to show what can be accomplished with the right government policies and a business climate willing to embrace change and risk.

With such progress, the European Union is well on its way to meeting the goals of a large-scale program to establish a sustainable and affordable energy supply throughout Europe.

Grist notes that California is no longer leading the pack on wind energy in "The Long and Windy Road".

Last year, California suffered the ultimate indignity in its quest to be the "greenest state." It was passed by red Texas -- the oil heartland -- for the title of state with the most wind-power generating capacity.

The numbers get even more depressing. Last year, California's wind capacity grew at a slower rate than any of the other top 10 wind-producing states. Texas's wind production grew at a 39 percent clip and (What's the Matter With) Kansas' grew by 38 percent; California managed relatively meager 10 percent growth. That still leaves the Golden State as the No. 2 wind producer in the country, but it is clearly in a slump.

Why has California blown its lead (so to speak)? The state was an early champion of wind farms. During the 1980s, when Texans thought only of oil and gas drilling, California started putting in windmills. By 1985, turbines had sprouted in three key areas: Altamont, east of San Francisco; Tehachapi, near Bakersfield; and San Gorgonio, in the far south. The energy crisis of the 1970s, plus regulatory initiatives in California, had galvanized action.

Ironically, California's early pioneering is part of its trouble. Regulations, well-developed through the years, make it hard for developments to get off the ground. Hal Romanowitz of Oak Creek Energy Systems, a Mojave-based wind developer focused on Tehachapi, describes California as "probably the most difficult state in the country to build in." Nancy Rader of the California Wind Energy Association notes that land is quite expensive in California -- and that while Texas provides property-tax exemptions to people with windmills on their land, California does not.


A big barrier is birds. Whereas Texan officials publicly scoff at avian travails, California developers have been cowed by lawsuits over bird deaths. The technology of 20 years ago -- using small blades that rotated very quickly -- did indeed spell the end for many birds. This January, Alameda County settled a lawsuit with Golden Gate Audubon Society and others concerning bird deaths at Altamont Pass. The wind industry is supposed to cut the number of raptor deaths there in half by the end of 2009. (Golden Gate says that up to 4,700 birds die each year in the Altamont windmills.) Development at Altamont remains basically frozen because of bird issues, though a few hundred megawatts have gone up in nearby Solano County, near the Sacramento River delta -- including several 3-MW turbines that are the largest wind structures in the country.

The wind industry says that technology has improved: turbines nowadays have longer blades, which rotate more slowly than the old types while generating more energy. That is supposedly good news for birds. Also, the California Energy Commission is soon to come out with new (voluntary) guidelines for reducing impacts on birds and bats from wind turbines, which may help clarify matters for wind developers.

But as if birds were not enough, there is the military. Turbines are commonly a few hundred feet high, not only making them a potential hazard for pilots in low-fly zones, but raising concerns about radar interference. Travis Air Force Base in Solano County recently held up a wind project at the last minute over radar issues. In Kern County, which includes Tehachapi, parts of the area were "out of play" for a few years, says Rader, because the military effectively barred anything above 200 feet. And in San Bernardino, there is "a huge amount of good wind land that is just not going to be useable because of military considerations," says Romanowitz.

But the real bottleneck may be lack of transmission capacity -- in particular in Tehachapi, home to the largest undeveloped, onshore wind resource in the state. "Basically since 1986 there has been no additional transmission capacity" in Tehachapi, with the exception of a private transmission line built some 15 years ago, says Romanowitz.

The good news is that California may be poised for a comeback. The state is certainly at the forefront of pushing renewable energy; 20 percent of California's retail electricity is supposed to come from renewables by 2010.

Transmission shortages will soon ease, wind advocates hope. "California is now on a roll to do significant new transmission, significant new generation," says Romanowitz. His company is committed to the Tehachapi region, where a project to build more than 4,000 MW of additional transmission capacity is in the works.

The Energy Blog has a post on a 1.2 MW Tidal Energy Turbine Ready for Installation in Northern Island. It will be interesting to see just how much energy Britain is getting from tidal energy and offshore wind power in a decade from now - I'd be betting on a pretty big percentage - and that means no new nuclear and less Russian gas.
According to a June 6, 2007 press release by Marine Current Turbines Ltd (MCT), the installation of its 1.2 MW SeaGen commercial tidal energy system will commence during the week of August 20th in Northern Ireland’s Strangford Lough. SeaGen will be the world’s largest tidal current device and will generate clean and sustainable electricity for approximately 1000 homes. Being a full size prototype, no scale up will be required for future commercial installations.

SeaGen consists of twin axial flow rotors, each of 16m diameter driving a generator via a gearbox much like a hydro-electric turbine or a wind turbine. The twin power units of each system are mounted on wing-like extensions either side of a tubular steel monopile 3m in diameter which is set into a hole drilled into the seabed. SeaGen will generate electricity from the flow in both directions. ...

The SeaGen demonstrator has been developed on the basis of SeaFlow, a 300kW experimental test system installed in 2003 off the north Devon coast. It has taken the subsequent four years for Marine Current Turbines to design and build SeaGen and secure the necessary environmental and planning consents. ...

The basic requirements for cost-effective power generation from tidal streams using MCT's technology are a mean spring peak velocity exceeding about 2.25 to 2.5m/s (4.5 to 5 knots) with a depth of water of 20 to 30m - the red spots on the map show some of the locations meeting these criteria around the UK and northern France.

The Energy Blog also ponders the question "Can U.S. Adopt Europe's Fuel-Efficient Cars?".
The Wall Street Journal had an article in the July 26 issue that poses this problem. It may be worth your read to ponder this question. A few brief excerpts:
... car makers in the foreseeable future will likely have to build fleets that average about 35 miles per gallon. But what kinds of cars and trucks will gasoline-guzzling Americans drive to achieve that average?

The answer would seem to lie in Europe, where fuel prices are roughly double U.S. ... more than half of the vehicles ... diesel-powered engines. ... Vehicles in Europe ... average of 35 mpg. ... cars in Europe are more expensive, pound for pound, and typically far less powerful than the vehicles Americans have come to expect.

These statements seem to be the main concerns that Americans may have to face up to, but what are the answers. The WSJ offers a few. ...

The Asia Times has an article on the growth of renewable energy in India - "Earth, wind, solar fire fuel India future".
There has been significant corporate movement to tap the alternative/renewable-energy situation in India.

Last week, a report released by the United Nations Environment Program said global investment in renewable energy, especially solar, wind and biofuel, rose from US$80 billion in 2005 to $100 billion last year, with an especially high rate of growth in developing countries such as India, China and Brazil. Renewable- energy investments in developing countries accounted for 21% of the total.

Recently, British bio-diesel major D1 Oil announced plans to expand operations in India. The company already has agreements with Mohan Breweries and Williamson Magor for jatropha (India's main bio-diesel weed) cultivation and processing. D1 already has 20,000 hectares of jatropha growing in four southern and central Indian states for Mohan Breweries.

The potential of using jatropha for bio-diesel has also attracted Chinese interest in India. A 13-member Chinese delegation was in India recently to explore the possibility of cultivating the weed and exchanging technology.

India's Reliance Industries has already bought large tracts of land in many states for jatropha cultivation, and wind-turbine producer Suzlon Energy Ltd has said it plans to enter the bio-diesel sector in the next four years. Others plunging into the bio-diesel pool include Indian Oil Corp, auto maker Mahindra & Mahindra, which is set to roll out its first biofuel vehicles by the end of the year, and Southern Online Bio Technologies, which has announced plans for a large bio-diesel production unit in Andhra Pradesh in an agreement with Lurgi Lift Sciences of Germany.

However, the enthusiasm for a biofuel future is tempered with not-unfounded fears of jatropha cultivation competing for precious land traditionally devoted to edible agriculture.

CNet has an article on a start up called Stion that has raised funding to develop thin film quantum dot solar cells.
Solar start-up Stion announced Tuesday that it has received $15 million in venture funding in an effort, sources say, to combine nanotechnology with alternative energy.

Formerly called NStructures, Stion plans to make thin-film solar cells that can compare in performance with silicon solar cells but cost less. The big question is what the active material in the solar panels will be that will convert sunlight into electricity. "It is not silicon based. It is not cadmium telluride. It is not CIGS (copper indium gallium selenide)," said Frank Yang, manager of business development. "In due time, we will make it publicly available."

Sources, however, say the company is probably working with quantum dots, tiny particles measuring a few nanometers, or tens of atoms, in diameter. Partly because of their small size, quantum dots can be highly sensitive to physical phenomena and can be used to trap electrons. Since solar panels work by wiggling electrons out of sunlight and transferring them to a wire, quantum dots in theory could work well in solar panels. Quantum dots, however, remain highly experimental.

Howard Lee, Stion's chief technology officer, worked for years as a solar researcher at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and also obtained a number of patents on quantum dots at Ultradot. Stion's CEO is Chet Farris, who once served as president of Shell Solar.

Coming up with a solar material that can be applied to thin foils or sheets of plastic is one of the major goals in the solar industry. Most solar cells on the market today extract electricity from sunlight with silicon and are integrated into glass substrates, which is relatively heavy. First Solar uses a glass substrate too, but the active ingredient in its cells is cadmium telluride, which is currently cheaper. ...

CIGS panels likely won't be as efficient as silicon, but will cost less because CIGS cells can be integrated into inexpensive foils, proponents say. Silicon solar cells on the market today can hit 22 percent efficiency and can go up to 29 percent. CIGS panels have hit 19.5 percent in the lab but will likely hit efficiencies only in the mid- to low-teens when they first hit the market. (Multi-junction solar cells made up of layers of different materials and lenses to concentrate sunlight can boost efficiency rates higher, but also add costs.) ...

John Brown at The Slow Home Report has a list of 10 Steps to a Slow Home (via Energy Bulletin).
1. GO INDEPENDENT
Avoid homes by big developers and large production builders. They are designed for profit not people. Work with independent designers and building contractors instea

2. GO LOCAL
Avoid home finishing products from big box retailers. The standardized solutions they provide cannot fit the unique conditions of your home. Use local retailers, craftspeople, and manufacturers to get a locally appropriate response and support your community.

3. GO GREEN
Stop the conversion of nature into sprawl. Don’t buy in a new suburb. The environmental cost can no longer be justified. Re-invest in existing communities and use sustainable materials and technologies to reduce your environmental footprint.

4. GO NEAR
Reduce your commute. Driving is a waste of time and the new roads and services required to support low density development is a big contributor to climate change. Live close to where you work and play.

5. GO SMALL
Avoid the real estate game of bigger is always better. A properly designed smaller home can feel larger AND work better than a poorly designed big one. Spend your money on quality instead of quantity.

6. GO OPEN
Stop living in houses filled with little rooms. They are dark, inefficient, and don’t fit the complexity of our daily lives. Live in a flexible and adaptive open plan living space with great light and a connection to outdoors.

7. GO SIMPLE
Don’t buy a home that has space you won’t use and things you don’t need. Good design can reduce the clutter and confusion in your life. Create a home that fits the way you really want to live.

8. GO MODERN
Avoid fake materials and the re-creation of false historical styles. They are like advertising images and have little real depth. Create a home in which character comes from the quality of space, natural light and the careful use of good, sustainable materials.

9. GO HEALTHY
Avoid living in a public health concern. Houses built with cheap materials off gas noxious chemicals. Suburbs promote obesity because driving is the only option. Use natural, healthy home materials and building techniques. Live where you can walk to shop, school and work.

10. GO FOR IT
Stop procrastinating. The most important, and difficult, step in the slow home process is the first one that you take. Get informed and then get involved with your home. Every change, no matter how small, is important.

Reuters has an article on a report from the Oxford Research Group called "The future of civil nuclear power".
The world must start building nuclear power plants at the unprecedented rate of four a month from now on if nuclear energy is to play a serious part in fighting global warming, a leading think-tank said on Wednesday. Not only is this impossible for logistical reasons, but it has major implications for world security because of nuclear weapons proliferation, the Oxford Research Group said in its report "Too Hot To Handle - The future of civil nuclear power".

The report fired a series of broadsides against the growing momentum for more nuclear-generated electricity to help cut climate-warming carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels. "A world-wide nuclear renaissance is beyond the capacity of the nuclear industry to deliver and would stretch to breaking point the capacity of the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) to monitor and safeguard civil nuclear power," it said. ...

The report said that if it was to play a significant part in curbing carbon emissions, nuclear power would have to provide one-third of electricity by 2075. That, it said, meant building four new nuclear plants a month, every month, globally for the next 70 years. Not only had top civil nuclear power France, which gets 78 percent of its electricity from 59 nuclear reactors, never got remotely near that rate of construction, but the implications for wholesale weapons proliferation were overwhelming, it said. ...

The report said there were 429 reactors in operation, ranging from 103 in the United States to one in Armenia, with 25 more under construction, 76 planned and 162 proposed. It noted not only major nuclear expansion plans in boom economy China -- which is already building two coal-fired plants a week -- but nascent interest across the oil-rich Middle East and the likelihood of demand from across Africa and Asia.

Surging demand would place great strains on supplies of uranium ore -- probably leading to exploitation of poorer grades and therefore more carbon expended on extraction and refining. This would push development of fast breeder reactors which produce more radioactive fuel than they consume, solving the fuel problem but creating a security nightmare, the report said. The report said if the 2075 scenario came about then 4,000 tonnes of plutonium would be being processed into reactor fuel each year -- twenty times the current military stockpile.

Rolling Stone has a look at some global warming denial history in "The Secret Campaign of President Bush's Administration To Deny Global Warming".
Earlier this year, the world's top climate scientists released a definitive report on global warming. It is now "unequivocal," they concluded, that the planet is heating up. Humans are directly responsible for the planetary heat wave, and only by taking immediate action can the world avert a climate catastrophe. Megadroughts, raging wildfires, decimated forests, dengue fever, legions of Katrinas - unless humans act now to curb our climate-warming pollution, warned the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, "we are in deep trouble."

You would think, in the wake of such stark and conclusive findings, that the White House would at least offer some small gesture to signal its concern about the impending crisis. It's not every day, after all, that the leading scientists from 120 nations come together and agree that the entire planet is about to go to hell. But the Bush administration has never felt bound by the reality-based nature of science - especially when it comes from international experts. So after the report became public in February, Vice President Dick Cheney took to the airwaves to offer his own, competing assessment of global warming.

"We're going to see a big debate on it going forward," Cheney told ABC News, about "the extent to which it is part of a normal cycle versus the extent to which it's caused by man." What we know today, he added, is "not enough to just sort of run out and try to slap together some policy that's going to 'solve' the problem."

Even former White House insiders were shocked by the vice president's see-no-evil performance. "I don't see how he can say that with a straight face anymore," Christine Todd Whitman, who clashed privately with Cheney over climate policy during her tenure as the administration's first chief of the Environmental Protection Agency, tells Rolling Stone. "The consequences of climate change are very real and very negative, but Cheney is not convinced of that. He believes - not quite as much as Senator James Inhofe, that this is a 'hoax' - but that the Earth has been changing since it was formed and to say that climate change is caused by humans is incorrect."

Cheney's statements were the latest move in the Bush administration's ongoing strategy to block federal action on global warming. It is no secret that industry-connected appointees within the White House have worked actively to distort the findings of federal climate scientists, playing down the threat of climate change. But a new investigation by Rolling Stone reveals that those distortions were sanctioned at the highest levels of our government, in a policy formulated by the vice president, implemented by the White House Council on Environmental Quality and enforced by none other than Karl Rove. An examination of thousands of pages of internal documents that the White House has been forced to relinquish under the Freedom of Information Act - as well as interviews with more than a dozen current and former administration scientists and climate-policy officials - confirms that the White House has implemented an industry-formulated disinformation campaign designed to actively mislead the American public on global warming and to forestall limits on climate polluters. ...

Dave Roberts at Grist has a gentle meditation on the future role of the coal industry - "Coal is the enemy of the human race: Robert Murray can kiss my ass edition".
Look, the coal industry is still large and very influential. It's going to take some time to transition to clean energy, so its influence will be around for a while. Of course politicians have to go out of their way to assure everyone that coal still has a role to play. Of course "prominent environmentalist" David Hawkins of the NRDC has to rush in and say, "We don't see a conflict between protecting the climate and continuing to use reasonable amounts of coal." Nobody in positions of power can afford to take on Big Coal directly.

But I'm not a politician or a prominent environmentalist, so I don't have to bullshit. The goal is to eliminate the coal industry. Of course the goal is to eliminate the coal industry. Coal is filthy. It destroys ecosystems to dig it up. It kills the people who work around it. Coal plants throw particulates in the air and causes respiratory ailments. They throw mercury in the water and causes birth defects. They throw CO2 into the atmosphere and causes global warming. The coal industry corrupts the political process. It lies to the public about global warming, and mine safety, and coal reserves, and everything else. It leeches money and opportunity out of the states where it is based.

The only reason we think of coal as "cheap" is that we don't tally all those costs in the debit column.

We still use it because of inertia -- we have an enormous infrastructure built up around it; the industry has insinuated itself into our political system; we've never forced the industry to internalize its costs so the market can develop alternatives. We'll be using it one way or another for the foreseeable future. But long-term, 50, 75 years down the road, yeah, eliminating the coal industry is the only sane goal.

Sure, the industry employs lots of people. So did lots of other industries that progress left behind. We'll need to put money into caring for the working people the industry employs, retraining them, finding them new jobs and bolstering the social safety net that protects them from falling between the cracks.

Links:

Clean Break - Cleanfield Energy goes commercial with small wind
Reuters - Germany mulling programme to boost energy efficiency
Toronto Star - Landfill sites hide electricity potential
SMH - Clean planes or just hot air ?
SMH - Russia Eyes A Frozen Asset.
SMH Costa Says Tim Flannery Is An Idiot. While Costa is a global warming denier.
The American Prospect - Flirting With Liquid Coal
BBC - UN issues desertification warning
Grist - Planktos president responds to environmentalist critics
Grist - Global weather is bad and likely to get worse
Grist 15 Green Politicians. That photo of Helen Clark must be an artist's impression, but an interesting list nevertheless...
Huffington Post - Blockbuster New Poll: Al Gore Would Win The New Hampshire Primary
Dave Roberts - The stupid! It burns!
The Australian - Agency's Strangeloves altered mind of a girl aged 4. I find this stuff much less alarming when its only covered by tinfoil sites.

Beds Are Burning  

Posted by Big Gav

In last night's post I was still holding to my original line that our "national emergency" over social problems in Aboriginal communities was primarily the Rodent playing with The Power Of Nightmares to try and distract voters from the issues the government is getting hammered on. I did, however, speculate that it could also be a land grab for uranium mines - an idea Crikey was promoting with gusto today.

In retrospect, I think I failed to be cynical enough - this makes a lot more sense - what is happening seems to be a camouflaged "rolling back" native land rights to enable the radioactive future most of us are against to happen against the wishes of the people who own the land. Big government conservatives at it again - the American version are oil thieves, ours are uranium thieves.

One of the most irking things about this (ignoring the creepos at The Australian trying to blame the "crisis" on libertarianism) is the way the Aboriginal communities have been systematically deprived of the means of managing their own affairs (with the example of the tribe that owns Uluru not being allowed to set up a coffee shop on their own land to sell much needed refreshments to tourists - a business which would make an absolute killing - being a classic illustration of this). Next time some "conservative" tries to tell you they are pro-business, remember to tell them they are nothing but pathological liars...

Anyway, first off from Crikey, Alex Mitchell on the Rodent's "last throw of the dice".

Long-serving Sydney political journalist Alex Mitchell writes:
This is the last throw of the dice for John Howard. He is doing one big favour for the mining industry which he has faithfully served in public life for the past 30 years by rolling back Aboriginal ownership of their tribal lands. Cynically, cruelly but utterly predictably, he’s doing it under the hypocritical colours of humanitarianism. (Very similar to the invasion and occupation of Iraq sold as “spreading democracy”).

In his four terms as PM, he has starved indigenous health, education and housing of funds, abolished ATSIC and pointedly marginalised the Aboriginal Affairs portfolio. This particular pre-election pitch is aimed at Lateline viewers, readers of The Age and The SMH and ABC stalwarts, the demographic that constitutes Australian (small “l”) liberalism. These are the feeble-brained, hand-wringers who are congenitally incapable of separating the wood from the trees. They are types currently heard sobbing: “I’m no fan of Mr Howard, but at least he’s DOING SOMETHING!” Yes, he is: he’s giving the mining giants the leg-up they need to start exploring, digging and quarrying in indigenous lands in the Northern Territory and then elsewhere.

He is being aided and abetted by Kevin Rudd’s craven behaviour. Instead of falling into line with Howard’s agenda, he should have demanded complete details of the plan, the highest-level briefing, sought face-to-face meetings with Aboriginal leaders, state premiers, police and army officers and taken the lead in a national debate. Instead, he mouthed pieties such as “I’m taking Mr Howard at his word” and “I believe the Prime Minister when he says he is responding to a national crisis” etc etc. Has anyone realised that these are almost the same words used by Kim Beazley when he backed Howard during the Tampa scam? By his pusillanimous approach, Rudd has vacated leadership on the tragic issue of rescuing Aboriginal communities and given Howard the opportunity to play his sickening Father of the Nation role. Paul Keating, you were right about the Rudd team of fixers, hucksters, flyweights and spineless opportunists.

- Alex Mitchell

And to be honest, we couldn't have put it better ourselves.

Next from Crikey, Gavin Mudd (no relation) on using children to nuke Aboriginal land rights.
As an environmental engineer, Gavin Mudd has over ten years' experience in issues concerning Aboriginal land rights and mining. He is a lecturer in environmental engineering at Monash University, and a concerned Australian. He writes:

It is ironic that at the time of the 40th anniversary of the 1967 referendum John Howard is in the middle of gutting the Northern Territory’s Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1976 (ALRA) -- the Commonwealth legislation made possible by that referendum.

The land rights were long overdue, hard fought for and won by Aboriginal people, but they are about to be critically undermined, not just by the politics of military-style interventions in problematic Aboriginal communities, but by a more insidious, as yet unrecognised agenda -- mining and nuclear waste on Aboriginal land.

The ALRA gives legitimate powers such as access permits for entry to Aboriginal freehold lands, a veto over exploration and mining and other activities. As noted by the 1974 Woodward Land Rights Inquiry, to deny Aboriginal people the right to prevent mining on their land is to deny the reality of their land rights.

Since gaining control of the Senate, the Howard Government has finally had the parliamentary power to gut the ALRA, which they are doing, but have needed a massive diversion before they introduce the most controversial reforms: radically altering the mining royalty regimes, and potentially remove the veto provision for exploration and mining.

It is no coincidence that many of the communities targeted for “military style intervention” are also areas that are heavily targeted for minerals exploration, particularly uranium, as well as for potential nuclear waste dumps. This includes Western Arnhem Land and Central Australia, where numerous known uranium deposits are being actively investigated by various wanna-be uranium producers.

I have personally visited numerous Aboriginal communities, including some with major social dysfunction and others which have escaped the tyranny of petrol sniffing, grog and domestic violence. This was achieved by the communities and took hard yakka over a decade (or more). Now, they are vibrant, positive and functional communities proud to be truly sustainable. Mining has rarely aided this process.

The use of “social issues” as a diversion to hide the gutting of Aboriginal land rights is malicious and cold-hearted. As with almost everything Howard does, there is clearly more at play -- perhaps it’s time to have a real debate about problems, true partnerships and the future.

As noted by Yvonne Margarula, Senior Traditional Owner of the Mirarr-Gundjeihmi clan of Kakadu and on whose lands the Ranger uranium mine and Jabiluka project lie, “None of the promises last, but the problems always do!”


The Age says the "PM 'got it wrong' on abuse plan".
JOHN Howard's radical plan to protect Aboriginal children from sex abuse has come under strong attack from the man whose report inspired him to act.

Days after the Prime Minister announced his unprecedented intervention, Rex Wild, QC, has accused the Government of adopting an excessively heavy-handed approach, sending people to descend on remote indigenous communities "like a plague of locusts". Mr Wild, co-author of the landmark report Little Children are Sacred, said Canberra should have been trying to build up trust with indigenous people. "Now you'll find the problem is that people's backs are up," he told the ABC's Lateline Business. Referring to his contact with communities before the publication of his report, Mr Wild said: "We didn't arrive with a battleship. We came gently … Now they are just having the gunships sent in."

He also said some "pretty good ideas" among his team's 97 recommendations appeared to have been ignored by the Government. Among them was a proposal to get all children from pre-school age into schools by January 2008.

By contrast, the contentious plan for comprehensive medical checks on indigenous children was not among the report's recommendations. Asked who was advising the Federal Government now, Mr Wild said he didn't know. "Nobody phoned me from Canberra." He said the Government, which had enormous resources and collected $6 billion a year in taxes on alcohol alone, should spend more to help fix problems in Aboriginal communities, such as the shortage of housing. ...

Democrats senator Andrew Murray, who drove a Senate report into children in institutional care, urged the taskforce not to repeat the mistakes of the past. His inquiry found vulnerable children had been subjected to what amounted to "state-sanctioned rape" by medical examiners that haunted them for the rest of their lives. Senator Murray urged the adoption of strict medical protocols to protect children. ...

A senior Federal Government adviser on indigenous substance abuse warned that banning alcohol in Aboriginal communities could cost lives. Ted Wilkes, chairman of the Government's National Indigenous Drug and Alcohol Committee, said a chronic shortage of treatment services in the NT meant people with alcohol addiction faced dangerous withdrawal without support. He has held meetings with Canberra health and drug strategy advisers to warn against a blanket ban on alcohol in Aboriginal communities without investment in rehabilitation.

Plus some reader comments at Crikey:
Matthew Campbell writes: I am surprised at the vitriol directed at Guy Rundle as a result of his article (yesterday, comments), and that he, by making some valid observations, is basically on the side of the abusers. I don’t know the experience of those who wrote in but it seems like it might be less than mine. I currently live in Alice Springs and previously lived in four Aboriginal communities in northern Western Australia. I have been working in indigenous communities in the NT for the past eight years and can attest that there are things in most of the communities I have visited that are working. These ventures are the product of a lot of hard work between well-trained professionals and Aboriginal people who together are developing and implementing innovative solutions to issues in these communities. They are, by their nature local initiatives, and where adequate time and resources have been invested continue to be successful, in some cases employing people, and in most leading to noticeable increases in self-esteem ownership and increased ability to develop new solutions to other issues. These sorts of things of course do not get reported on, meaning that in a situation like we have today, they are overlooked while non-indigenous Australians pronounce "nothing else has worked so this is worth a try". This latest plan will fail no doubt. However, don’t think that this means that attention should not be drawn to Aboriginal communities. It should be, but if we based the response on building on what works, engaging in partnership with Aboriginal people we might have a chance. We need the spotlight turned on, but lets turn it on together so that in a few years all those saying currently "this is worth a try" won't have to acknowledge that solutions imposed from the outside don’t work.

John Craig, Centre for Policy and Development Systems, writes: Re. "Make no mistake, Howard's NT plan is a new apartheid" (Monday, item 1). Might I respectfully suggest, in relation to your article, that: there is no doubt (as your article suggested) that making new special laws for Aborigines does not end "Aboriginal exceptionalism". However: apartheid means living apart (ie. as separate communities). It is not a term that strictly can be applied to preventing anyone from exercising legal rights they would otherwise have in particular places -- which is a quite routine effect of government regulations on land use (for example); special laws for Aboriginal people (and thus inequality before the law) were made possible by the widely supported 1967 referendum; inequality before the law was cited most vigorously by One Nation (whose name suggested their opposition to the idea of separate communities, but whose policy 'solutions' seemed unlikely to be particularly beneficial). As far as I can tell the position of Aboriginal Australia has not improved over the past 30-40 years -- arguably because the focus has been on gaining "benefits" (eg. native title to land, government funding) through political pressure, with virtually no attention to what is required for indigenous people to be economically successful. The real requirement to improve their situation is not to further force the Australian community to "cede power", but to gain economic power by participating in enterprises that entice consumers to part with hard-earned cash to pay for attractive products and services. Boosting any other form of power will simply leave Aboriginal people worse off through increasing their dependence on government handouts. While I have not yet studied the PM's proposed "solution", if it contains steps along the lines your article mentioned, then your article's suggestions about its likely failure and parallels with Iraq are (unfortunately) likely to be valid. In the case of Iraq also, the cultural and institutional preconditions for democracy and economic prosperity (and their absence in Iraq) were simply ignored. The Federal Government has "shot itself in the foot" by creating an organisation so politicised and centralised that it is virtually incapable of generating practical initiatives in relation to any problem (see the CPDS article: Decay of Australian Public Administration); The initiatives being advanced on both sides of politics seem equally insubstantial (On Populism in 2007); The problems facing indigenous communities are unlikely to be resolved as long as the practical effect that cultural assumptions have on any people's ability to be materially successfully continues to be put in the "too hard" basket and officially ignored (The Challenge of Aboriginal Advancement).

In other local news, one of the big storms we have had recently resulted in a bulk coal carrier being washed up on the main surf beach at Newcastle (our primary coal export port), with efforts still underway to try and refloat it. In the meantime, local activist groups have been having fun shining a massive "coal causes climate chaos" slogan on the hull of the ship.
The day has arrived for salvage experts to attempt to refloat the bulk carrier Pasha Bulker from a sandbar at Newcastle's Nobbys Beach. The bid comes after Greenpeace activists last night staged a protest against coal at the salvage site, beaming messages against the ship's hull including "Coal causes climate change chaos".

Three tugs and winches aboard the $35 million coal carrier will haul together during today's 7pm high tide to heave the massive vessel seaward. The 40,000-tonne ship's ballast water, which has been holding her steady on the sand, will be pumped out and the hull pressurised.

Since the Pasha Bulker ran aground during a severe storm on June 8, its plight in pounding seas has been a source of fascination. The ship has about 700 tonnes of fuel and 100 tonnes of other chemicals on board, prompting worries of a possible hull breach.

Wind gusts of up to 80 km/h and three-metre waves around the ship are forecast to ease today and continue to lessen over tomorrow and Saturday, when the salvage operation is expected to continue.







Dave Roberts has a great article in The Guardian on liquid coal. Sounds the coal industry works the same way everywhere - sucking up government subsidies while despoiling the environment.
They say the first thing you should do when you find yourself in a hole is to stop digging. But if there's one thing the coal industry loves, it's digging.

Generating electricity by burning coal has ravaged the climate, but it's made coal barons in the US rich. They worried for a while that global warming would mean the end of the gravy train - they're the ones who started the massive climate-change disinformation campaign back in the 1980s - but instead, to their delight, they've discovered that climate change is a gravy train itself.

They're being showered with government subsidies to develop and deploy carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), whereby the emissions from coal-fired power plants are collected and stored underground. It's technologically precarious and enormously expensive, but with taxpayers footing the bill, what the hell?

Now they've got a new idea, and it's audacious. They want taxpayers to fund the creation of another coal industry, one that that would generate liquid transportation fuel from coal (coal-to-liquids, or CTL). Of course, liquefying coal is every bit as dirty as burning it for electricity, so - this is the brilliant bit - they want US taxpayers to simultaneously fund a new set of carbon sequestration projects.

In one fell swoop, using public money to create a dirty industry and public money to clean it up, skimming hefty profits off the top. It's like a two-rail bank shot of rent-seeking, a bamboozle almost without precedent. Even the ethanol guys must be impressed. You'd almost have to admire it, if it weren't your money and your climate at stake.

The Huffington Post has a rebuttal of Raymond Learsy's "Peak Oil Is Snake Oil" post recently by ASPO USA's Steve Andrews. There are a few over the top claims in here which weaken his case in my view (arguing Iraq's flat oil production is somehow related to peak oil is ridiculous, for example).
It seems Learsy thinks small non-profit groups like ours -- the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas/USA -- are in cahoots with the oil companies, joined at the hip in a conspiracy to hype the "fabricated drama of peak oil" in order to drive up oil prices and profits. This is a delusional notion with zero substance that deserves no further comment.

Except for those in extreme denial about our oil problems, even casual observers looking at the facts and trends listed below should see that we're on the front edge of an enormously challenging energy transition:

1. Some 20 nations around the world produce 83% of the world's oil. In half of those, production is either flat (Iran, Iraq, Venezuela) or permanently declining (the USA, Mexico, the UK, Norway and Indonesia, among others).

2. World oil production outside of OPEC and the former Soviet Union (FSU) grew for many decades until 2002. Since then, it has declined slightly for four straight years, during an era of unprecedented high oil prices.

3. Oil production in the FSU collapsed from 1990-96, then rocketed back and should match their previous high oil mark (1987) this year. But Russia's production growth trend has slowed dramatically and will probably peak soon.

4. Roughly two-thirds of the world's oil lies in the Middle East -- a cauldron for geopolitical, religious, cultural and military conflict. This obviously reduces the security of long-term supply, which drives up prices.

5. Over 90% of the world's oil is owned by government-controlled oil companies. ExxonMobil only ranks #13 in size, dwarfed by Saudi Aramco. On a daily basis, the Saudis produce much more oil from the world's largest single oil field -- Ghawar -- than ExxonMobil produces from its many multi-billion-dollar projects scattered worldwide. As a retiree from Saudi Aramco wrote recently, those government-controlled oil producers "are no longer inclined to rapidly exhaust their resource for the sake of accelerating the misuse of a precious and finite commodity." That's our new reality, Mr. Learsy.

6. Resource nationalism is rearing its ugly head around the world, especially in Russia and Venezuela. During the last 12 months, Russia and Venezuela expropriated oil producing assets developed and paid for by the world's major investor-owned oil companies. Expect slightly tighter supply and higher prices from this trend.

7. New oil discoveries listed by Mr. Learsy are fine and dandy for both oil companies and consumers, but new discoveries peaked during the 1960s and are down substantially since that oil heyday. Further, those new discoveries are increasingly located in deeper water and colder climates that add to cost and are prone to delays and weather-related shut-downs.

8. Depletion of aging oil fields is relentless. The world's largest oil fields -- all of which once produced at least one million barrels of oil/day -- are all in permanent decline. The smaller new fields brought into production can't offset the declines in the old war horses. It's like being on a treadmill that is both speeding and ramping up, where you work harder and harder just to stay in place.

9. New technology isn't saving the day. In the US, where we've applied the best technology available, production has slowly declined since the late 1970s.

10. Oil exports are riding for a fall. In exporting countries like Mexico, where production slips while domestic consumption grows, exports will shrink at an accelerated rate. China, the UK and Indonesia, oil exporters during the 1990s, are now importers. World oil exports will peak before world oil production peaks.

Highly hyped liquid substitute fuels, such as ethanol from corn and liquids from coal or oil shale, come with their own unique baggage. They can't be scaled up quickly, require huge energy and water inputs, and pose a range of environmental problems.

Given the above facts and trends, ASPO-USA and a growing list of respected energy analysts anticipate a peaking in world oil production soon, most likely between 2010 and 2015. Such a turning point in world energy consumption and production patterns will undoubtedly have serious consequences on the world's economy. Those possible consequences should be anticipated and acted upon by decision makers at every level. Those who deny this looming reality are part of the problem, not part of the intelligent response.

Bruce Sterling's latest Viridian Note is out, this one focussing on manifestations of the "khaki green" future we should be trying to avoid.
Key concepts: Khaki Green, British military, Air Marshall Jock Stirrup, military implications of the climate crisis
Attention Conservation Notice: keenly depressing, yet something of a tribute to Viridian foresight.

Links:

Climate crisis in former location, central Texas:
http://blog.wired.com/sterling/2007/06/climate-crisis-.html

Climate crisis in current location, southeast Europe:
http://blog.wired.com/sterling/2007/06/planet-ark-five.html

Link:
http://www.planetark.com/dailynewsstory.cfm/newsid/42799/story.htm

Armies Must Ready for Global Warming Role == Britain
UK: June 26, 2007

LONDON == Global warming is such a threat to security that military planners must build it into their calculations, the head of Britain's armed forces said on Monday.

Jock Stirrup, chief of the defence staff, said risks that climate change could cause weakened states to disintegrate and produce major humanitarian disasters or exploitation by armed groups had to become a feature of military planning.

Link: Air Marshal Sir Graham Eric Stirrup, (1949 - ):
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jock_Stirrup

But he said first analyses showed planners would not have to switch their geographical focus, because the areas most vulnerable to climate change are those where security risks are already high.

(((Interesting, isn't it? The places where we've already got hell are gonna have more hell.)))

"Just glance at a map of the areas most likely to be affected and you are struck at once by the fact that they are exactly those parts of the world where we see fragility, instability and weak governance today.

"It seems to me rather like pouring petrol onto a burning fire," Stirrup told the Chatham House think-tank in London. (((Nice fossil-fuel metaphor there.)))

Link:
Chatham House studies on climate change:
http://www.chathamhouse.org.uk/index.php?id=189&pid=403
British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett chaired the first debate on climate change at the UN Security Council in April this year. She argued that the potential for climate change to cause wars meant it should be on the council's radar.

Stirrup said the unpredictability of the immediate effects of global warming on rainfall patterns and storms meant flashpoints could be advanced by years without warning.

He did not identify the problem areas, but Bert Metz of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change told the meeting they included Central America, the Amazon Basin, large parts of north, central and southern Africa and swathes of Asia.

(((And New Orleans. And maybe Los Angeles. And Australia.)))

Scientists say average temperatures will rise by between 1.8 and 4.0 degrees Celsius this century due to burning fossil fuels for power and transport, melting ice caps, bringing floods, droughts and famines, and putting millions of lives at risk.

Stirrup said the security threat was far more immediate than those figures might suggest.

"If temperatures rise towards the upper end of the forecast range we could already start to see serious physical consequences by 2040 == and that is if things get no worse." (((He's not a scientist, folks. He's a general. Well, an Air Marshall.)))

"If things do get worse you don't need to come very much forward from 2040 before, in my terms at least, you are talking about the day after tomorrow," Stirrup said.

He said the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington showed the devastation that attacks fuelled by political, economic and social deprivation could achieve.

(((It's a tribute to the political genius of Al Qaeda that, six years later, people still talk about the damage to two and one-fifth buildings. Meanwhile, where the real paramilitary trouble is:

Global narco-guerillas in North America:
http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/globalguerrillas/2007/06/journal_mexicos.html
Hollow states:
http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/globalguerrillas/2007/04/hollow_states.html )))


Now add in the effects of climate change. Poverty and despair multiply, resentment surges and people look for someone to blame," he said.

Even if the world agreed quickly on a way of equitably tackling the climate crisis == which was far from sure == the nature of the problem meant a significant degree of adverse change was already in the pipeline.

"That rapidity, alongside the size of the global population and the complexity of today's society, leaves us particularly vulnerable," Stirrup said. "It is bound to present substantial security challenges of one kind or another."

Asked on the margins of the meeting if that meant military planners should opt for premptive action where they saw a security crisis emerging, he said: "Only in the sense of building governance. Recognising the problem is the first step."

(((So, what's the story here? Well, as I pointed out earlier, green design is winning. Practically every state with a trace of civilization has got capitalist-green fever now. They'll even do it in the teeth of government opposition, as they do right now in the USA. So design, in the sense of a comprehensive grass-roots effort to change the infrastructure, is doing great.

It is scarcely necessary to talk about this; it has become mainstreamed.

However, nation-states couldn't get it together to create a Kyoto-friendly world order, so we're seeing many failed states and hollow states. These areas are defeating the armies of nation states through the simple tactic of becoming and remaining ungovernable. This, as Stirrup is pointing out here, is making failed states indistinguishable from climatic disaster areas. They are going to become the same thing. Khaki Green, as an idea, is far from mainstreamed, but this article is a strong signifier of it.

The rain falls on the just and the unjust alike, but the rain is going to fall with particular virulence on places where there is no government. No army. No civil services. And no functional ability to restore the infrastructure.

Peoples who defeat nation-states through tactics of civil disorder are going to be particularly vulnerable to climate-crisis starvation and epidemics. After the era of operations-other-than-war, there will be mass-deaths-other-than-genocide. Mass deaths of peoples, mass deaths of former nations, but without any institutional entity inflicting it. That's the Unthinkable, but it is certain to happen, and is already happening in isolated locales. The question for the next decades is: how much Unthinkable, how big is it. It's a process that "could be advanced by years without warning.")))

O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O
THE LESSONS HERE? (A)
DON'T LET YOUR STATE FAIL;
(B) DON'T IMAGINE YOU CAN
PUT OUT FIRES WITH BAYONETS
O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O

Dan at The Daily Reckoning has some interesting observations on the wheat crop and on the financial treadmill and the debt traps facing the average Australian.
--It's raining outside. Again. All the rain has been great news for wheat growers in Victoria. But is now the time to go bearish on wheat, before the ground is even dry? Yesterday's Financial Review ran an article detailing how a lack of maintenance and upkeep has reduced the speed and traffic on the rail lines that carry Victorian wheat to market. Is another Queensland-coal-like bottleneck forming in wheat?

-- And then there's the question of wheat prices. Our commodity-trading analyst friend Steve Belmont chimed in with this from Chicago yesterday. "Since 1978, every spike high in wheat above US$4.50 per bushel has reversed, causing prices to retreat below US$4.00 per bushel within 7 to 9 months. Markets anticipate. Wheat is an international crop. It is grown everywhere. High wheat prices increase acreage, which increases supply, which lowers prices. Will the same thing happen this time? We don't know. There is always the possibility 'things will be different this time.' However, every time we hear that phrase we want to run the other way. This is precisely what we want to do now."

--Globalisation is rigged to force households deep into debt they can never repay. That was the gist of our argument this week about housing. But this applies to the whole gamut of modern economic life. Both partners work in a modern marriage, which seems to be the result of both choice and necessity. To afford the median priced home, a car, insurance, and the basics of modern life you need two incomes, and even that is not enough.

-- "Australians love their bit of land, but Census figures reveal we're less likely to own a home now than we were five years ago while the level of household debt has gone through the roof," reports Nicki Bourlioufas at news.com.au. The census figures also showed the number of Australians who actually own their homes outright declined from 40% in 2001 to 32.6% today.

--Before-tax incomes have risen by nearly 24% in the last five years, from AU$375 per week to AU$466 per week. The trouble is, rents and average mortgage repayments have risen faster. The average mortgage payment is up over 50% in the last five years from AU$867 to AU$1,300. The average weekly rent is up slightly less at 31%, from AU$145 in 2001 to AU$190 last year.

--"But that's great," a real estate agent might say. "Mortgage payments are up because house prices are up. And when house prices go up, people are getting richer. It's a little thing we in the real estate business call 'capital appreciation.'"

--What's not up for anyone, anywhere, is affordability. To chase rising home prices, Australians are having to load up on debt. Borrowed money fills the gap between slowly-rising incomes and fast-rising house prices. As a man in a grey suit said on the TV last night, and we're paraphrasing here, "It's more accurate to describe Australia as a nation of home buyers than as a nation of home owners."

--And here's another thing to think about. Housing bubbles are more accurately described as mortgage-lending bubbles. It's the supply of money, in this case cheap housing credit and grants from the State and the Federal governments - that push up house prices. The affordability crisis begins with an increase in housing credit. But how does it end?

--With falling prices. Buying a home only makes sense under the right financial circumstances. Today, the housing market is rigged to make mortgage brokers, real estate agents, and the tax man rich based on high appraisals and sales prices. But for the buyer? Reject the debtor's bargain, dear reader!

--We're not offering an easy alternative, by the way. It is tempting to try and get rich in housing. But we think it's more likely that in trying to get rich on 'capital appreciation' many people will become much poorer. As with investing, the first rule is to not lose your capital.

TomDispatch has a look at the situation in Iraq - "Iraq by the Numbers - Surging Past the Gates of Hell".
A caveat about numbers: In the bloody chaos that is Iraq, as tens of thousands die or are wounded, as millions uproot themselves or are uprooted, and as the influence of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's national government remains largely confined to the four-square mile fortified Green Zone in the Iraqi capital, numbers, even as they pour out of that hemorrhaging land, are eternally up for grabs. There is no way most of them can be accurate. They are, at best, a set of approximate notations in a nightmare that is beyond measurement.

Here, nonetheless, is an attempt to tell a little of the Iraqi story by those numbers:

Iraq is now widely considered # 1 -- when it comes to being the ideal jihadist training ground on the planet. "If Afghanistan was a Pandora's box which when opened created problems in many countries, Iraq is a much bigger box, and what's inside much more dangerous," comments Mohammed al-Masri, a researcher at Amman's Centre for Strategic Studies. CIA analysts predicted just this in a May 2005 report leaked to the press. ("A new classified assessment by the Central Intelligence Agency says Iraq may prove to be an even more effective training ground for Islamic extremists than Afghanistan was in Al Qaeda's early days, because it is serving as a real-world laboratory for urban combat.")

Iraq is # 2: It now ranks as the world's second most unstable country, ahead of war-ravaged or poverty-stricken nations like Somalia, Zimbabwe, the Congo, and North Korea, according to the 2007 Failed States Index, issued recently by the Fund for Peace and Foreign Policy magazine. (Afghanistan, the site of our other little war, ranked 8th.) Last year and the year before Iraq held 4th place on the list. Next year, it could surge to number #1.

Number of American troops in Iraq, June 2007: Approximately 156,000.

Number of American troops in Iraq, May 1, 2003, the day President Bush declared "major combat operations" in that country "ended": Approximately 130,000.

Number of Sunni insurgents in Iraq, May 2007: At least 100,000, according to Asia Times correspondent Pepe Escobar on his most recent visit to the country.

American military dead in the surge months, February 1-June 26, 2007: 481.

American military dead, February-June 2006: 292.

Number of contractors killed in the first three months of 2007: At least 146, a significant surge over previous years. (Contractor deaths sometimes go unreported and so these figures are likely to be incomplete.)

Number of American troops Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and other Pentagon civilian strategists were convinced would be stationed in Iraq in August 2003, four months after Baghdad fell:): 30,000-40,000, according to Washington Post reporter Tom Ricks in his bestselling book Fiasco.

Number of armed "private contractors" now in Iraq: at least 20,000-30,000, according to the Washington Post. (Jeremy Scahill, author of the bestseller Blackwater, puts the figure for all private contractors in Iraq at 126,000.)

Number of attacks on U.S. troops and allied Iraqi forces, April 2007: 4,900.

Percentage of U.S. deaths from roadside bombs (IEDs): 70.9% in May 2007; 35% in February 2007 as the surge was beginning.

Percentage of registered U.S. supply convoys (guarded by private contractors) attacked: 14.7% in 2007 (through May 10); 9.1% in 2006; 5.4% in 2005.

Percentage of Baghdad not controlled by U.S. (and Iraqi) security forces more than four months into the surge: 60%, according to the U.S. military.

Number of attacks on the Green Zone, the fortified heart of Baghdad where the new $600 million American embassy is rising and the Iraqi government largely resides: More than 80 between March and the beginning of June, 2007, according to a UN report. (These attacks, by mortar or rocket, from "pacified" Red-Zone Baghdad, are on the rise and now occur nearly daily.)

Size of U.S. embassy staff in Baghdad: More than 1,000 Americans and 4,000 third-country nationals.

Staff U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker considers appropriate to the "diplomatic" job: The ambassador recently sent "an urgent plea" to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for more personnel. "The people here are heroic," he wrote. "I need more people, and that's the thing, not that the people who are here shouldn't be here or couldn't do it." According to the Washington Post, the Baghdad embassy, previously assigned 15 political officers, now will get 11 more; the economic staff will go from 9 to 21. This may involve "direct assignments" to Baghdad in which, against precedent, State Department officers, some reputedly against the war, will simply be ordered to take up "unaccompanied posts" (too dangerous for families to go along).

U.S. air strikes in Iraq during the surge months: Air Force planes are dropping bombs at more than twice the rate of a year ago, according to the Associated Press. "Close support missions" are up 30-40%. And this surge of air power seems, from recent news reports, still to be on the rise. In the early stages of the recent surge operation against the city of Baquba in Diyala province, for instance, Michael R. Gordon of the New York Times reported that "American forces.... fired more than 20 satellite-guided rockets into western Baquba," while Apache helicopters attacked "enemy fighters." ABC News recently reported that the Air Force has brought B-1 bombers in for missions on the outskirts of Baghdad.

Number of years Gen. Petraeus, commander of the surge operation, predicts that the U.S. will have to be engaged in counterinsurgency operations in Iraq to have hopes of achieving success: 9-10 years. ("In fact, typically, I think historically, counterinsurgency operations have gone at least nine or 10 years.")

Number of years administration officials are now suggesting that 30,000-40,000 American troops might have to remain garrisoned at U.S. bases in Iraq: 54, according to the "Korea model" now being considered for that country. (American troops have garrisoned South Korea since the Korean War ended in 1953.)

Number of Iraqi police, trained by Americans, who were not on duty as of January 2007, just before the surge plan was put into operation: Approximately 32,000 out of a force of 188,000, according to the Associated Press. About one in six Iraqi policemen has been killed, wounded, deserted, or just disappeared. About 5,000 probably have deserted; and 7,000-8,000 are simply "unaccounted for." (Recall here the President's old jingle of 2005: "As Iraqis stand up, we will stand down.")

Number of years before the Iraqi security forces are capable of taking charge of their country's security: "A couple of years," according to U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Dana Pittard, commander of the Iraq Assistance Group.

Amount of "reconstruction" money invested in the CIA's key asset in the new Iraq, the Iraqi National Intelligence Service: $3 billion, according to Asia Times correspondent Pepe Escobar.

Number of Iraqi "Kit Carson scouts" being trained in the just-captured western part of Baquba: More than 100. (There were thousands of "Kit Carsons" in the Vietnam War -- former enemy fighters employed by U.S. forces.) In fact, Vietnam-era plans, ranging from Strategic Hamlets (dubbed, in the Iraqi urban context, "gated communities") to the "oil spot" counterinsurgency strategy, have been recycled for use in Iraq, as has an American penchant for applying names from our Indian Wars to counterinsurgency situations abroad, including, for instance, dubbing an embattled supply depot near Abu Ghraib, "Fort Apache."

Number of Iraqis who have fled their country since 2003: Estimated to be between 2 million and 2.2 million, or nearly one in ten Iraqis. According to independent reporter Dahr Jamail, at least 50,000 more refugees are fleeing the country every month.

Number of Iraqi refugees who have been accepted by the United States: Fewer than 500, according to Bob Woodruff of ABC News; 701, according to Agence France Presse. (Under international and congressional pressure, the Bush administration has finally agreed to admit another 7,000 Iraqis by year's end.)

Number of Iraqis who are now internal refugees in Iraq, largely due to sectarian violence since 2003: At least 1.9 million, according to the UN. (A recent Red Crescent Society report, based on a survey taken in Iraq, indicates that internal refugees have quadrupled since January 2007, and are up eight-fold since June 2006.)

Percentage of refugees, internal and external, under 12: 55%, according to the President of the Red Crescent Society.

Percentage of Baghdadi children, 3 to 10, exposed to a major traumatic event in the last two years: 47%, according to a World Health Organization survey of 600 children. 14% of them showed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. In another study of 1,090 adolescents in Mosul, that figure reached 30%.

Number of Iraqi doctors who have fled the country since 2003: An estimated 12,000 of the country's 34,000 registered doctors since 2003, according to the Iraqi Medical Association. The Association reports that another 2,000 doctors have been slain in those years.

Number of Iraqi refugees created since UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon declared a "humanitarian crisis" for Iraq in January 2007: An estimated 250,000.

Percentage of Iraqis now living on less than $1 a day, according to the UN: 54%.

Iraq's per-capita annual income: $3,600 in 1980; $860 in 2001 (after a decade of UN sanctions); $530 at the end of 2003, according to Asia Times correspondent Pepe Escobar, who estimates that the number may now have fallen below $400. Unemployment in Iraq is at around 60%.

Percentage of Iraqis who do not have regular access to clean water: 70%, according to the World Health Organization. (80% "lack effective sanitation.")

Rate of chronic child malnutrition: 21%, according to the World Health Organization. (Rates of child malnutrition had already nearly doubled by 2004, only 20 months after the U.S. invasion.) According to UNICEF, "about one in 10 children under five in Iraq are underweight."

Number of Iraqis held in American prisons in their own country: 17,000 by March 2007, almost 20,000 by May 2007 and surging.

Number of Iraqis detained in Baquba alone in one week in June in Operation Phantom Thunder: more than 700.

Average number of Iraqis who died violently each day in 2006: 100 -- and this is undoubtedly an underestimate, since not all deaths are reported.

Number of Iraqis who have died violently (based on the above average) since Ban Ki-Moon declared a "humanitarian crisis" for Iraq in January 2007: 15,000 -- again certainly an undercount.

Number of Iraqis who died (in what Juan Cole terms Iraq's "everyday apocalypse") during the week of June 17-23, 2007, according to the careful daily tally from media reports offered at the website Antiwar.com: 763 or an average of 109 media-reported deaths a day. (June 17: 74; June 18: 149; June 19: 169; June 20: 116; June 21: 58; June 22: 122; June 23: 75.)

Percentage of seriously wounded who don't survive in emergency rooms and intensive-care units, due to lack of drugs, equipment, and staff: Nearly 70%, according to the World Health Organization.

Number of university professors who have been killed since the invasion of 2003: More than 200, according to the Iraqi Ministry of Higher Education.

The value of an Iraqi life: A maximum of $2,500 in "consolation" or "solatia" payments made by the American military to Iraqi civilians who died "as a result of U.S. and coalition forces' actions during combat," according to a U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report. These payments imply no legal responsibility for the killings. For rare "extraordinary cases" (and let's not even imagine what these might be), payments of up to $10,000 were approved last year, with the authorization of a division commander. According to Walter Pincus of the Washington Post, "[W]e are not talking big condolence payouts thus far. In 2005, the sums distributed in Iraq reached $21.5 million and -- with violence on the upswing -- dropped to $7.3 million last year, the GAO reported."

The value of an Iraqi car, destroyed by American forces: $2,500 would not be unusual, and conceivably the full value of the car, according to the same GAO report. A former Army judge advocate, who served in Iraq, has commented: "[T]he full market value may be paid for a Toyota run over by a tank in the course of a non-combat related accident, but only $2,500 may be paid for the death of a child shot in the crossfire."

Percentage of Americans who approve of the President's actions in Iraq: 23%, according to the latest post-surge Newsweek poll. The President's overall approval rating stood at 26% in this poll, just three points above those of only one president, Richard Nixon at his Watergate worst, and Bush's polling figures are threatening to head into that territory. In the latest, now two-week old NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, 10% of Americans think the "surge" has made things better in Iraq, 54% worse.

The question is: What word best describes the situation these Iraqi numbers hint at? The answer would probably be: No such word exists. "Genocide" has been beaten into the ground and doesn't apply. "Civil war," which shifts all blame to the Iraqis (withdrawing Americans from a country its troops have not yet begun to leave), doesn't faintly cover the matter.

If anything catches the carnage and mayhem that was once the nation of Iraq, it might be a comment by the head of the Arab League, Amr Mussa, in 2004. He warned: "The gates of hell are open in Iraq." At the very least, the "gates of hell" should now officially be considered miles behind us on the half-destroyed, well-mined highway of Iraqi life. Who knows what IEDs lie ahead? We are, after all, in the underworld.

Wired has a look at the Ron Paul online juggernaut.
When Texas Congressman Ron Paul entered the race for next year's Republican presidential nomination, few political analysts paid much notice.

Paul has no backing from political bigwigs or any campaign war chest to speak of. As the Libertarian Party presidential nominee in 1988 he won less than one-half of 1 percent of the national vote.

Yet despite his status among the longest of the long shots, the 71-year-old has become one of the internet's most omnipresent –- and some say most irritating -– subjects.

According to Technorati, "Ron Paul" is one of the web's most searched-for terms. News about Paul has an outsize presence on Digg and reddit, two sites that allow users to highlight their preferred content. Paul's YouTube channel has been viewed over one million times, dwarfing efforts from competitors like John McCain and Rudy Giuliani. The Ron Paul internet boom has born everything from Belgians for Ron Paul to a reggae music video promoting Paul's views on monetary policy and habeas corpus.

During the 2004 election, a web-savvy campaign staff helped turn Howard Dean's anti-war candidacy into the first online political phenomenon. But the Ron Paul frenzy seems to have sprung from the internet itself. Paul's libertarian message – he is against big government, the war, and pretty much anything that costs taxpayers money – has attracted a group of anti-establishment, tech-savvy supporters who have taken everyone by surprise.

"The people who are actually working for the campaign are a little overwhelmed with what's happening," says Alex Wallenwein, a supporter who organized two of the 362 Meetup.com groups dedicated to Paul.

To many immersed in the political blogosphere, Paul's passionate supporters seem to be everywhere at once. Editors of political websites are inundated with angry e-mails demanding they devote more coverage to Paul. Blog posts that criticize Paul are often followed by hundreds of livid comments from his fans. Most frustrating to those not on board the Ron Paul bandwagon, he routinely ranks first in online presidential polls on sites ranging from CNN.com to niche political blogs. ...

Matt Margolis runs GOP Straw Polls, a popular series of monthly surveys that are posted on numerous blogs in an attempt to gauge how much support candidates have throughout the conservative blogosphere. Margolis originally didn't include Paul in the polls but added his name when his fan base began to grow. Paul now dominates the polls, winning nearly half of all ballots cast in the most recent survey.

Margolis says Paul's success is the result of his supporters' "coordinated efforts to show themselves and their power in these polls." While most readers will vote once or twice and then move on, Margolis says Paul fans are visiting numerous blogs hosting the polls and voting repeatedly, while encouraging others to do the same through messages on MySpace, Facebook and blogs. ...

Paul supporters say his success is just the results of the wild, wild web operating at its finest, giving voice to a movement that would otherwise find no traction in traditional media. "If we have 20,000 passionate supporters who go and vote in an online poll and Rudy Giuliani can only get 1,000, we're not going to apologize for that," says Jesse Benton, Paul's campaign communication director.

Michael Nystrom, founder of the Daily Paul blog, says, "What I find interesting is that other candidates have more money, but Ron Paul has something money can't buy, and that's this very active online community." Whether or not Paul's online support translates into any real world success, it is clear this candidate has stumbled upon a new brand of internet activism that has the rest of the web scrambling to adapt.

Links:

Alt Energy Stocks - America Forecast To Be Hit By Strong Winds
The Australian - Warmer seas bring whales, dolphins to Scottish waters
ABC - The greening of Alcatraz
Grist - More significant energy developments in D.C. today
Grist - Cellulosic Ethanol - Because Encouraging Efficiency Is Too Hard
Grist - The Fracas In Caracas
AFP - Iran launches petrol rationing plan. Peering past the info-frenzy about rioters and burning petrol stations and the partisan interpretations ("Government about to fall" from us and "See - this is why we need nuclear power" from the Iranians), this does actually make some sense - the cost of subsidising petrol in Iran is enormous (as Iranians get a massive discount compared to most other countries), so the government has 2 choices when it comes to reducing the financial burden (and the huge waste of energy brought on by such an unrealistic cost of fuel) - ration or reduce subsidies. Obviously neither option is likely to make the average driving punter very happy...
SMH - Iran Imposes Fuel Rations.
ABC - Iran's oil restrictions 'a warning for Aust'. Roger Bedzek continues his peak oil tour. I wish headline writers would make a small effort to understand the story they are sticking a title on - Iran is rationing petrol, not oil - because it has a shortage of refinery capacity, not because it has a shortage of oil...
SMH - South Korea To Withdraw All Troops from Iraq
The Nation - Iraq: Taxpayers Lose, Halliburton Gains. Its not just the Iraqis who are getting robbed...
David Strahan (Dissident News) - Iraq - The Real Casus Belli: Peak Oil In A World of Looming Fuel Shortage
WHT / Mobjectivist (The Oil Drum) - Finding Needles in a Haystack. WHT takes his latest peak oil model to a wider audience at TOD.
Heise Online - German Wikipedia receives state funding. The German government is funding people to update Wikipedia's renewable energy sections. While this is no doubt a worthy cause (or at least one that seems likely to result in content aligned with my views), I think its really an example of the slippery slope of Wikipedia - eventually corporate PR and Government propaganda sockpuppets will be paid to engage in endless infowar on the pages of Wikipedia, to the point where reading a page on any hot topic is unlikely to result in a balanced or accurate account. Personally I prefer a model where everyone maintains their own blog or site (or contributes to a group blog), with interlinking guiding you to good content and search engines and social networking sites working out what consensus reality is from the links, votes and other pertinent traffic. Of course, this system can still be hacked, but at least there are many takes on the issues to consider, instead of one eternally changing view at Wikipedia.
ABC - Independents flag foray into US presidential race. Nader and Bloomberg heading for the starting gate - how many more to follow ?
CNN - Warren Buffett talks tax reform with Sen. Clinton. "Berkshire Hathaway chairman suggests greater taxes for private equity firm managers and super rich to presidential hopeful ... Speaking to several hundred supporters of the U.S. Senator from New York, Buffett revealed his puzzlement that he was taxed at a lower rate than many of the lesser-paid individuals working for his company". I can't wait to hear Rush call him a communist, thereby dropping the final straw on tens of thousands of strained conservative minds...
AFP - Doctors back plan to store medical info under your skin. Ready to get chipped yet ?
SMH - Truth first casualty of the internet?. Well - I don't think bloggers invented biased or false news reports - the newspaper industry has centuries of experience at this. TV news, on the other hand, will give us a totally unbiased feed of everything Paris Hilton does. If you read the article, you'll see truth is a casualty in there too...

When the British decided to end slavery, Wilberforce set up a slave market  

Posted by Big Gav

Climateer Investing has a great little comment on carbon trading, prompted by my "Can Greed Be Green ?" post:

When the British decided to end slavery, Wilberforce set up a slave market.

Oh wait, that would have been stupid.

Canada's "Report On Business" reports that UBS is analysing the impact of climate change on European stocks.
Every single sector in financial markets will be touched by the climate change debate, though companies will be affected in different ways, a major global bank is saying.

UBS Investment Bank examined how companies will be influenced by climate change, and found six global stocks that represent the most “interesting opportunities.” They are all European: ABB, EDF, Intertek, Saint Gobain, Siemens and Swiss Reinsurance.

The report comes as a growing number of investment banks are issuing research reports on climate change and how it will affect investments.

“We believe that no sector is untouched,” Julie Hudson, head of socially responsible investment research, told Business News Network, adding that the issue has now become a facet of risk management for companies.

The Christian Science Monitor has an article on the greening of US corporate car fleets.
Call it the greening of the fleet.

Corporate America is starting to look at the millions of cars it owns or leases for traveling salesmen, executives, and technicians as an area where it can cut down on greenhouse gases and save money on increasingly expensive gasoline.

• Abbott, a large pharmaceutical company, has shifted 20 percent of its fleet to green status – more fuel-efficient vehicles. In analyzing its carbon footprint, the company found 4.5 percent of its emissions in the US came from its 6,500 vehicles.
• Last month at an expo of the National Association of Fleet Administrators (NAFA) in Houston, managers of corporate fleets waited in line for test rides in hybrid vehicles and cars that use alternative fuels. It was the first time in the 46 years of the expo that NAFA has featured a "green zone."
• Last week, Hertz Corp., owner of one of the largest automobile fleets in the nation, said it would buy 3,400 hybrids, an investment of $68 million, over the next two years. Enterprise, with the largest US rental-car fleet, will have more than 3,000 hybrids this year.

This shift in corporate thinking is relatively new but has the potential to make an impact. Automobiles that are part of the corporate fleet have double the miles of the family vehicle. In the case of rental-car companies and executive car services, the mileage can be even higher.

Whether the shift in thinking is for the public-relations value or because it saves money, companies are suddenly trying to change their ways.


TreeHugger has a look at turning waste into energy in India - "Bio-Digesters in India: Nothing Wasted, A Lot More Gained" (via Alt Energy Stocks).
In the tropical green south Indian state of Kerala, there is a fresh strategy of dealing with an old problem of waste: specially designed, efficient organic 'digesters' that turn solid waste into energy.

Beginning in 1994, a local NGO called Bio-tech pioneered the development of their ‘integrated waste recycling plant,’ where large amounts of organic waste generated by the markets, slaughter houses, and restaurant kitchens are treated and converted into methane (cooking gas) and fertilizer.

Saji Das, the man behind Bio-tech, then chose town of Kadakkal in Kollam district (which fortuitously had the largest dump in the state) as the location for the first integrated recycling plant. Today, the plant is capable of digesting daily one tonne of waste – producing three kilowatts of energy – enough to power 120 street lamps.

The conversion process begins with the manual segregation of wet waste, dry biodegradable waste and recyclable solids like glass, metal and plastic. The plant utilizes five technologies in order to complete the transformation of waste to energy in the form of biogas, namely biomethanization, biocineration, leach beds, waste water treatment and vermicomposting.

Wet waste – including blood and other waste matter from the slaughter house – is critical in producing biogas and is actually run through a pre-digester in order to boost the bacterial action that will break the waste down further. Once the process is complete, it generates biogas that can be used as fuel, in addition to electricity used for lighting and organic NPK (Nitrogen-Phosphorus-Potash mix) fertilizer.

No waste is left behind, as the different components of the Bio-tech integrated recycling plant are designed to address specific types of waste, which distinguishes them from traditional, less-efficient treatment plants. For instance, the biocinerator unit is designed to handle wastes that degrade slowly, such as paper, dry leaves and plants, while the biomethanization unit processes all organic waste. The leach beds dispense with vegetable matter. Anaerobic waste treatment takes place in another separate unit and the final process incorporates earthworm action in a vermicompost unit.

Back at Kadakkal, this thorough efficiency is reflected in the reuse of water that is extracted and recycled so that it can be sent back to flush out abattoirs. Electricity produced by the plant is used to run all the equipment, while the incinerator runs only on the biogas produced by the methanization unit.

Das has now set up ten such integrated plants all over Kerala. In towns such as Kumbalangi, environmentalism and tourism have joined forces in transforming it into a “model tourism village” where, with government support, 140 Biotech domestic units have been designed to run on human waste from lavatories, in addition to 800 units that convert biogas from other wastes. Other municipalities, such as the tourist-friendly Kovalam, are following suit as well. ...

Tom Konrad at Alt Energy Stocks has a post on one important component of our smart grid future - "Smart Metering: A Smart Investment in Energy Efficiency".
Browsing AltEnergyStocks new CleanTech News page I came across one of the best articles I've seen yet on Smart Metering. Smart metering is one of the biggest win-wins available when it comes to reducing our carbon footprint by providing real time feedback on our electricity use. It allows us to see how we are wasting electricity and choose to take action. When Woodstock Hydo's customers were given this information (without any other encouragement to save electricity), their average usage fell by 15%.

In addition, Woodstock Hydro discovered that participants complained much less frequently than other customers. By giving people real time information about their electricity usage it empowers them to make their own decisions, and the better information they have (if accompanied by the tools to manage the new information), the better decisions they will make.

My own utility, Xcel Energy (NYSE: XEL), is just completing a year long trial of time-of day pricing, and the preliminary results indicate that when customers have the controls necessary to program or cut their usage of high consumption appliances such as air conditioners, either ahead of time or remotely, their usage decreases most.

Smart metering is just the sort of less-than-sexy energy efficiency sector I think cleantech investors should focus on. Because it's not as sexy as, say, solar, there are fewer investors bidding up the price of the companies (although, like everything in this sector, they are far from value plays,) yet the strong economic case for smart meters means that smart meters could easily be one of the first energy efficiency measures rolled out by many utilities.

The leading pure-play company in smart metering is Itron, Inc (NYSE: ITRI.) Itron does not have the field to itself, since energy management companies such as EnerNOC (NasdaqGM:ENOC) (previously covered here), and Comverge (NasdaqGM: COMV) offer similar products and services to utilities. Also, conglomerates such as GE and networking services companies such as Echelon ,(NasdaqGM:ELON) also compete in the area..

The competitive forces in this rapidly growing sector are intense, and it is difficult to pick winners in a market whose customers are dominated by regulated utilities. Because of these factors, I prefer acquiring small stakes in as many smart metering players as possible, rather than trying to pick an eventual winner.

The Times has an article by Tim Flannery on "Ten predictions about climate change that have come true".
1) That the Earth would warm as more CO2 was put into the atmosphere (Svante Arrhenius in 1893)
2) That we'd begin to see noticable changes to Earth's climate by around 2000 (some IPCC scientists ).
3) That sea-level would start rising
4) That Earth's Ice would start melting rapidly (James Hanson)
5) That hurricanes would increase in intensity (this one goes back to Alfred Russel Wallace in 1900)
6) That species would start going extinct as a result of climate change.
7) That Australia would start drying out (Hadley Centre scientists)
8) That tropical diseases would increase
9) That food crops would be adversely affected
10) That the CO2 would begin to acidify the ocean

After Gutenberg has a post on "Climate Science, Politics and Solutions", poking some fun at the ignorance prevalent amongst fossil fuel worshipers.
Joe Romm responded to a typical post from Planet Gore. The post attacked Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) for trying to drag the car industry into the 21st Century with fuel economy standards. (The operative word here is try.) In his attack on Reid, PG poster Henry Payne presumed to claim:
Of course, it’s Ford’s ingenuity that invented the gas engine, a vastly superior technology to steam and electrics that has given Americans unprecedented freedom. It remains superior today (along with oil-cousin diesel) even against new challengers like biofuel.

A claim that was a source of amusement at Climate Progress (An Insider’s View on Climate Science, Politics and Solutions):
Uhh, no. Not even close… Ford’s big contribution was inventing the moving assembly line around 1913, decades after the gas engine was invented. It would probably stun Payne to learn that Henry Ford’s Model T was the first flexible-fuel vehicle, running on gas, ethanol or both… The automaker foretold the future when he said fuel could be gotten from fruit, weeds, sawdust, or anything else that could be fermented.

Unfortunately, such an observation fails to acknowledge that the dominant paradigm did become petroleum, which was fine with most everyone (”Yes, we know we stuck you on this reservation, but you would be much more comfortable in this other God forsaken place where the ground does not weep with black tears”) for most of the 20th century.

Technology Review has an article about the folks from one of Craig Venter's companies, this one looking at biological techniques for extracting fossil fuels from the ground - a waste of good scientists really, but an interesting topic anyway.

As a weird aside, I mentioned one of his other ventures recently that was looking at bacteria to turn plants into oil, which quickly found its way to the company then shortly thereafter to their lawyers. Presumably there was some consternation about my mention of SP's "brown goo" theory (the biotech equivalent of nanotechnology's "grey goo" fear), though on the whole I'm mildly supportive of this sort of research, which holds some promise even if the risks need to be kept in mind. Thankfully I didn't hear anything from them and my long run of not being told to unsay things or being threatened with legal consequences remains intact (well, I'll ignore the invisible search ink apparently poured over one post - which was quite impressive - very subtle).
Microbes dwelling in oil fields and coal beds could inspire new methods of extracting fossil fuels from the depths of the earth. That's the hope of Ari Patrinos, a genomics pioneer who helped run the Human Genome Project and is now the president of Synthetic Genomics, a Maryland-based biotech startup founded by J. Craig Venter. Synthetic Genomics's goal is to use genomics to develop new energy technologies. As part of a new partnership with oil giant BP, Synthetic Genomics will study microbes that naturally feed off hydrocarbons for clues into biological means of extracting and processing oil and coal.

After several decades at the Department of Energy (DOE), Patrinos is a strong advocate of using biotech solutions to the world's energy problems. He helped found the DOE's Joint Genome Institute and created the agency's Genomes to Life program, which, among other things, develops energy-related applications for microbes. Patrinos was lured away from the DOE by Venter last year. He talks with Technology Review about Synthetic Genomics's plans and the future of biofuels.

Technology Review: Why look to microbes as sources of alternative energy?

Ari Patrinos: Microbes are the virtuosos of the living world. They have been around about four billion years, a third of the time the planet has been in existence, and they have developed tremendous variability and diversity. We have a lot to learn from them as we face global warming and try to learn to use our resources more efficiently.

TR: How is genomics helping us take advantage of microbes' diverse functional repertoire?

AP: As a result of genomics, we have discovered there are microbes everywhere, living at every temperature and pressure. They can survive at 100 times the atmospheric pressure and at temperatures almost 100 degrees Celsius. People have identified microbes that can withstand huge amounts of radiation. Microbes play a crucial role in the carbon cycle, taking up carbon dioxide in the ocean. More than 50 percent of living biomass on this planet is microbial in nature. That's why we should be looking to microbes to solve some of our problems. They have become extremely effective in life's processes. We need to understand them and then mimic them for some of these applications.

TR: Synthetic Genomics recently formed a partnership with BP. What is the emphasis of that deal?

AP: We have huge reserves of heavy oils in this continent, but their extraction is difficult. It requires energy and water, and produces a lot of carbon dioxide. There may be ways to use microbial communities to improve the quality of the oil while still in the subsurface. So we'll look at microbes that live in coal beds or oil fields and oil sands.

TR: How will that help fuel production?

AP: The idea of oil fields as a reservoir you can tap is naive. Oil exists as a matrix in different layers. When you produce oils from wells, you leave as much as 50 percent behind. As many as 30 to 40 years ago, people were contemplating microbially enhanced oil recovery--ways they could manipulate microbes to enhance oil recovery from wells. But their ability to discover and study these microbes was impaired because of primitive microbiology tools. This never made it into commercial practice, as far as I know.

We have significantly more accurate and powerful tools than our colleagues back then, and we suspect the number and diversity of microbes we discover will be much higher than was contemplated back then. ...

AutoBlogGreen has a look at why the Transformers movie is terrible. On the subject of movies which could have been much better, I watched "Apocalypto" recently which measured high on the stress meter but didn't really do the green apocalypse subtopic justice. Guess its time to try "Children Of Men" next...
As the editor of this here blog, I thought perhaps there's some green angle to the movie that we could mention and get in on the Transformers hype. I emailed the production company a few months back, and they called back saying this film doesn't really have any green car connections. I forgot about it and moved on.

Then, with the increased coverage in the media - the latest issue of WIRED devotes a few pages to Transformers and our friends over at Autoblog can't seem to get enough - and after watching a few trailers for the film, I realized that Transformers, as exciting as it might be, will suck.

First, let me make it clear that I haven't seen the movie. I'm basing this column on a.) what the movie company told me and b.) what we can all guess from the previews and the press.

OK, the reason Transformers will be a terrible movie is that it gives zero credibility to alternative fuel cars. If there's one movie where a hydrogen or hybrid car could have saved the world, this is the one. Now, I'm not asking for a Prius Transformer (but you can go ahead and admit that you'd like to know what a Tesla Roadster would look like in robot form), but I think that with all the creativity used to give Optimus Prime flames, he could also burn ULSD or biodiesel? These green car messages wouldn't have to be delivered in a PSA format (i.e., Optimus turns to the camera and says, "this burns cleaner and is better for the environment, kids"), but there could be a sign in the background. I've seen enough Industrial Light & Magic films to know that those folks could have easily come up with a clever way to tell everyone what's going on.

Or how about this: Bay and team could have used the silent movement capability of an EV to great effect in a tense, quiet scene. Bay is totally in love with the U.S. military, and it's surprising that his Armed Forces partners didn't suggest the plot to him. The Army's Shadow (a Reconnaissance, Surveillance, Targeting Vehicle (RST-V), pictured), for example, would have fit perfectly with Bay's ideology and given electric cars a new look in the public eye.

You can ask James Woolsey, who used to head the CIA and is now a vocal advocate for alternative fuel vehicles, about how our oil supply and our freedom go hand-in-hand. If the Autobots are really here to fight for our freedom, then what we have here is a story that writes itself.

From what I've read, this film makes a lot of changes from the old animated Transformers TV series. You know most of them, I'm sure. The biggest is that Bumblebee is no longer a VW Bug but a Chevy Camaro. So perhaps the one to blame for the lack of green thinking in the film is General Motors.

Bay is no stranger to product placement (just watch The Island. Actually, don't. It's terrible) and his big deal for Transformers is a partnership with GM. With all the work GM has been putting into giving their brand a green shine in the last few months, what cars are they pushing in the big July 4 blockbuster? A GMC TopKick (Ironside), the Camaro, the Pontiac Solstice (Jazz) and the Hummer (Ratchet). Perhaps they is someone at GM kicking themselves for not forcing a Volt transformer into the movie. At the very least, shame on GM for not adding a hybrid badge to Jazz. Sure, there's no actual Solstice hybrid, but there's no Solstice that turns into a freaking robot, either. ...

Jerome a Paris has a post on what he has dubbed "The Anglo Disease" - something that is unfortunately likely to bite Australia when the China driven resource boom eventually busts.
I've been developing ... a concept which I think can usefully describe our current economic system, that of the Anglo Disease, mirroring the "Dutch disease", a term coined in the 70s to describe the economic effects of the rapid development of one sector (in that case, natural gas, today, the financial industry) on the rest of the economy.

...In the Netherlands, the discovery of the large Groningen gas field which brought about a boom in that resource sector, with a lot of - highly profitable - investment concentrating in that sector. The reason that something which sounds like good news is called a disease is that the investment in that profitable sector tends to cause a drop in investment in other industrial sectors, because it is so much more profitable; at the same time, there is a lot of extra revenue from the export of the resource, which generates new demand which cannot be fulfilled by domestic production and gives rise to increased imports. The fact that resource exports grow strongly also tends to cause the domestic currency to get stronger, thus further penalising other sectors of activity on international markets. The result is a weakening of the rest of the economy, and increased reliance on the resource sector.

This then becomes a problem when the new sector is based on finite resources, and eventually goes into decline. At that point, exports dry up, but the rest of the economy, having become uncompetitive and fallen behind, can no longer pick up the slack and has become too small to carry the economy over. Thus the overall economy suffers.

In effect, the displacement of existing activity by the new sector is, to some extent, irreversible, and thus, when the resource dries up, the overall economy is permanently weakened. It's also part of the "resource curse", which usually includes additional symptoms like corruption and weakening of democratic rules as a lot of money gets concentrated in relatively few hands (those that own and those that regulate the resource industry). In the worst cases, it can include militarisation of society (weapons being an easy way to spend a lot of foreign currency and being occasionally useful against those that might want to take your sweet spot overseeing the cash cow).

I think that the above is increasingly relevant to describe the economy of the UK and, to a lesser extent, that of the US, which are increasingly dominated by the financial services industry.

That prevalence of the financial world is no longer a matter of dispute. In fact, it is celebrated with increasingly euphoric words in most business publications and current affairs books. There is an air of hegelian (or marxist) inevitability about the triumph of markets and Anglo-Saxon capitalism, led by the powerhouses (banks, hedge funds and assorted accomplices) in the City of London and on Wall Street. ...
Unfettered finance is fast reshaping the global economy (by Martin Wolf, senior editor, Financial Times, 19 June 2007)

It is capitalism, not communism, that generates what the communist Leon Trotsky once called "permanent revolution". It is the only economic system of which that is true. Joseph Schumpeter called it "creative destruction". Now, after the fall of its adversary, has come another revolutionary period. Capitalism is mutating once again.

Much of the institutional scenery of two decades ago - distinct national business elites, stable managerial control over companies and long-term relationships with financial institutions - is disappearing into economic history. We have, instead the triumph of the global over the local, of the speculator over the manager and of the financier over the producer. We are witnessing the transformation of mid-20th century managerial capitalism into global financial capitalism.

Above all, the financial sector, which was placed in chains after the Depression of the 1930s, is once again unbound. Many of the new developments emanated from the US. But they are ever more global. With them come not just new economic activities and new wealth but also a new social and political landscape.

The front page of the SMH today led with "terrified (Aboriginal) families flee in panic" from the police and army the Rodent and his minions are sending in to sort them out (I'm going to go off topic and examine a few pieces on this subject - if you want more energy news scroll down to the "Links" section).
PANIC about the Howard Government's crackdown on child sexual abuse has spread widely throughout remote Aboriginal communities, where parents fear their children will be taken away in a repeat of the stolen generation.

Some families have already fled the first community to be targeted, Mutitjulu at Uluru, but the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Mal Brough, blames "liars" who have something to hide from police and military personnel for terrorising people and spreading hysteria. ...

Marion Scrymgour, a Northern Territory Government minister, said: "There's a lot of fear, particularly among elder woman. Not so long ago - 30 to 40 years - children were being taken out of the arms of Aboriginal mothers. There is real fear that is going to happen again."

The Northern Territory Chief Minister, Clare Martin, told MPs yesterday to travel to their bush electorates as soon as possible to tell people "what is fact and what is fiction" in an effort to halt the panic.

The minister that the natives are fleeing in terror from has been dubbed "Cyclone Mal" by The Australian. Apparently he is ex-Army and views a military operation as the appropriate way to handle healthcare and criminal justice issues. Just wait and see what they have planned for the obesity crisis...
JOHN Howard's Hurricane Katrina analogy was at least half right. As a textbook example of how governments can contrive to ignore and/or bungle a life-threatening problem, events in New Orleans and remote Australia are probably on a par.

Lead time is where the comparison ends. While the Louisiana weather department had a few days' notice of impending catastrophe, the sinister clouds of indigenous child abuse have been hanging ominously over these parts for years. Not that any of this deters Cyclone Mal.

Long before he addressed his attention to pioneering the audacious faux takeover of the Northern Territory, Mal Brough has been eschewing niceties. "The point is about protecting children, not arguing about technicalities," has been his mantra since landing in the indigenous affairs portfolio last year.

Cyclone Mal is now the closest thing in federal politics to a force of nature. During the past few days, he has cobbled together the Coalition's drastic response to the Northern Territory sex abuse report, harangued the states into jumping on board and formed a taskforce to oversee the federal takeover.

When not video-conferencing territory ministers and bureaucrats, Cyclone Mal is mobilising police, soldiers, doctors, psychologists, paramedics, nurses, social workers, pharmacists and anyone else who might be interested for what South Australian Premier Mike Rann gently derides as a "shock and awe" campaign.

While Brough has been playing down the military element to the federal Government's response, it's clear he is revelling in his return to a familiar role. Before entering parliament in 1996, Brough marketed hair products - not much help, you'd think, in curbing this crisis. Before that, Cyclone Mal spent a dozen years in the army, and doesn't it show? ...

Cyclone Mal is howling around the country like a politician plainly enjoying his job. In his army, there is no tolerance for dissent along the chain of command. Alan Carpenter, the West Australian Premier grizzling loudest about the NT invasion, is summarily court martialled for bloody-minded bleating.

It's frankly impossible to envisage anyone with more discipline, energy and optimism than Cyclone Mal, but these admirable qualities get you only so far. When he began tackling child abuse, he declared: "They're complex issues, but I don't think they have complex answers."

Cyclone Mal can furiously huff and puff, but he's dead wrong about that.

Guy Rundle at Crikey declared the crackdown "a new apartheid".
Last week, the Howard Government, via a sleight of hand connected to the grant of lands in the 1970s, imposed a de facto apartheid system on Australia. You may want to argue that this was necessary, desirable, a last resort, etc etc, but first you have to acknowledge that this is apartheid. A section of the population will be prevented from exercising their legal rights in the places where they live and rarely leave.

This denial will extend to what they can buy, how they raise their children, what they can do with the benefit money to which they, as citizens, are entitled to receive. In other words, such people have been legally ruled – if the law survives a High Court challenge – to be denied the right to equality under the law. Aborigines in these areas are once again the exceptional case.

How did the editorial writers of The Australian mark this occasion? By arguing that it marks the end to "Aboriginal exceptionalism". That’s pretty much the screwy non-logic that has dominated this episode, and which will dominate the inevitable failure of what is de facto, the military occupation of Aboriginal Australia.

Forty years ago the Aborigines got full citizenship and the beginnings of land rights. Neither of these were due to white beneficience, but to the pressure put on sluggish governments by political movements – the ‘freedom rides’ in the first place (started by Charles Perkins and black and white members of the Communist Party of Australia) and the Wave Hill strike on the other (sparked at least in part by communists such as Frank Hardy, who would later draw Fred Hollows, another communist, into Aboriginal Australia).

İn the '70s these grew into full-scale urban and remote political campaigns, which generated medical services, legal services, campaigns on land control and ultimately the successful Mabo et al lawsuit establishing native title.

To understand this is to understand why Howard’s initiative, should it be implemented, will inevitably fail. Nothing that Aborigines have won or achieved has come from outside. İt has come, as it can only come, from movements built from within that force white Australia to cede power, not to re-extend it.

Yet much of the criticism of Howard’s initiative has been misplaced or misunderstands why it is wrong and counterproductive. That it has a political dimension is without doubt. Howard, who can retrieve a majority with a thimble and a line of thread, has performed a dialectical two-step that would have done Lenin proud. Moving on Aboriginal suffering makes him look like a man of action and compassion, and using the police and the army to do it appeals to the right who would dismiss any other type of move as more wasted money. Rudd is left with nothing to do, except bleat agreement. Going to the liberal-left of it and talking about rights would be suicide. Going to the right of it – well there is no right of it, save for reintroducing forced child removal.

But the political maneouvring is beside the point. İf the policy was right its genesis and motive wouldn't matter. İts inevitable failure is obvious with a moment’s consideration.

İ mean really, try and think about it, really think about it for a minute. What are the constituents of the policy? That troubled Aboriginal communities will develop self-determination and autonomy by having key decision-making powers over their own lives taken away from them? That school attendence will be enforced by the army? That chopping up land into freehold title will magically introduce the idea of home ownership and bourgeois individualism into a culture that had not yet developed agriculture when Europeans encountered them? Come on.

Can you think of somewhere where this policy of military modernisation has been tried before? That’s right. İraq. The place where 24-year-old interns were sent to establish stock markets and private health systems etc, where it was assumed that, once a dictator was deposed, a society pretty much like Akron, Ohio, would emerge.

As it unaccountably failed to do so, relations between occupier and occupied detoriarated to the point where a situation of open conflict developed. So, too, will it occur in the north when Aboriginal Australia unaccountably fails to become a southern Switzerland, organised crime breeds from prohibition (as it always does) and Aborigines increasingly define themselves against the army of experts – military and therapeutic – sent in to "help" them.

And as in the Middle East, such exuberant manoeuvres will delegitimise a whole generation of failed leaders. Abbas, Al-Maliki, Khazai have now been joined by Noel Pearson, rubber-stamping the surrender of Aboriginal power when the minister calls.

One consolation of this policy is that it will fail more quickly and more visibly than previous ones, and people can then move on to really thinking about how power is formed and held. Another is that the next generation of leaders will be formed not in the muddy waters of ATSİC and reconciliation, but by seeing their parents and elders bullied by cops and social workers, with vastly more powers than they now possess. Given the way prohibition usually works, the cops will be running the illegal market in booze within six months anyway.

What this new initiative represents above all is cowardice. İt is cowardly because it has little to do with blacks, the movement they have to rebuild, the power they have to take from us.

This policy is for and about white people. İt is about assuaging their guilt and shame of white people by being seen to be doing something, anything, in the face of horror, the unwillingness to look deep into the heart of colonialism and face what really needs to be done with determination and resilience.

To my mind (ignoring my belief that this is primarily a distraction formulated by the Rodent to take attention away from all the other issues the government is getting hammered on in the polls), this is what happens when you swing to far out to either "side" of politics - the authoritarians grab control and once the other "side" has disappeared from the political map (as the left has now) they then start on the dissenters in their own ranks, as this "conservative" lunatic blaming libertarians for the state of Aboriginal Australia demonstrates. Does anyone remember the appalling history of conservative paternalism ? how is returning to it going to fix the current problems ? The final stage of these trends seems to be when relations between governments and their citizens become miltarised, as we are now seeing all over the place...
CRITICS of Prime Minister John Howard's tough new policy for indigenous communities have insisted on the need for Aboriginal ownership of the new regime. Of course, society works better when people accept and internalise the rules that govern them. But you can get a long way with incentives and disincentives. ...

Australia is a long-established capitalist society. You would assume the work ethic is well entrenched in most of the population. But what would happen if the rules, or rather the lack of rules, in an Aboriginal community operated in our world? Say you were paid your wages no matter how late you turned up for work, or if you turned up only every other day (if you never turned up you might need a close relative in the salaries office).

Some would immediately take advantage of the new laxity. Many people out of habit or love of the work or a sense of responsibility would still turn up on time every day. But who does not believe that over time laxity would have an effect on their behaviour, too?

Consultation and ownership may be effective modes for securing change in social organisations, though the open exercise of power would often cause less resentment than the pretence the governed are in charge. But in many Aboriginal communities, social organisation has completely broken down. The people have shown they are incapable of governing themselves. There is no point in consulting them about the creation of authority; authority has to be created for them. ...

Among the many misfortunes of Aborigines is that they were freed from civil disabilities and controls just when the libertarian wave swept through wider society. They became eligible for the dole when the dole became a right not to be interfered with. The prohibition on their drinking of alcohol was dropped just as wider society moved to make alcohol more readily available. Schools were provided for Aboriginal communities just when truant officers were deemed no longer necessary. As the missionaries went out, pornography came in.

The wider significance of the Government's takeover of Aboriginal communities is that it is a spectacular official announcement of how poisonous the libertarian approach has been to marginal people. ...

Among all the difficulties of implementing the new measures will be finding the right personnel to take charge of these troubled communities. Anyone trained in social work and expert in the language and modes of consultation and ownership must be excluded. They've had their turn. Officers and men from the army who have served as peacekeepers would be good candidates, as would school principals or small business people. Anyone, in short, who has the habit of command and senses without formal consultation what can realistically be achieved. White people in charge of Aborigines: it has been criticised as a return to paternalism. Is it an official recognition of Aboriginal failure at self-determination? No. The failure was in those who thought a group of a few hundred or thousand people should run, on a co-operative basis, a store, a school, garbage collection, the health centre and a cattle station. Nowhere in wider society would such madness be contemplated. Even at our local government level, councils become dysfunctional and have to be suspended. An administrator is sent in. Let that be the parallel to what is happening now.

Aboriginal society is least suited to co-operative action, since the people's first loyalty is to kin. A girl working at the checkout in a community store is under pressure to let her aunt shop free. The manager lets his brother take goods out through the loading bay at the back. And in these communities there are frequently different tribal groupings whose hostility undermines joint action.

Paternalism's claim is to full control of someone else's life. This is not what is contemplated here. If outsiders restore social order and run services, traditional leaders can get on with traditional business. When the men are drunk and the kids are sniffing petrol, traditional knowledge and ritual will not be passed on. This move will help preserve traditional culture.

As this is a family blog I won't type in my internal reaction to that lot of claptrap.



The Age points out that the community first in line is the one where the owners of Uluru (Ayers Rock) live. I hope this isn't just some miserable undercover land grab for key tourist attractions and uranium mines...
A letter read to them by elder Donald Fraser, recounted first in English, then in the Pitjantjatjara tongue that is still the first language of the old people, polititely advises that a small contingent of federal and territory officials, together with at least one Federal Police officer, would like to visit and talk to them this morning. The letter is couched as a request, respectful of the process, which still requires the restricted community to give authority for strangers to visit, although the permit system limiting access to remote communities will be scrapped under the planned changes.

The letter urges calm. It offers reassurance. Much of what people are hearing and are frightened about, it says — like the stories of coercive health checks of children, or the whispers that children will again be taken, stories that are said to have already sent families scurrying into the sand dunes— are exaggerated and unfounded.

The officials want to "explain to the community the Australian Government's response to the Little Children Are Sacred report". This was the recent analysis, which distilled years of reports documenting sexual abuse and violence suffered by Aboriginal children throughout the territory into a testament that compelled Prime Minister John Howard to announce last week that he would wrest control of remote communities from Darwin.

But "why us?" and "why now?" are the questions underpinning this afternoon's long meeting outside the Mutitjulu Community Office, painted in the colours of the Aboriginal flag. A three-week investigation of allegations of abuse in the community by a joint police task force last year — including over 100 interviews with local people — failed to find evidence of abuse capable of prosecution in this community, local elders say. "Where is the evidence? Put up or shut up."

Here in the shadow of Uluru, the locals are not so much angry as deeply cynical. They question how much this action is to do with abuses and problems alleged to have occurred in their community — some of which they recognise, though they say they are now in the past — and how much relates to their proximity to the huge rock representing some of the richest tourist geology on the planet. "That bloody rock," observes one old woman, is the problem. Every day, to enter or leave their community, the people of Mutitjulu pass the parading silhouettes of the "minga" — literally ants, but colloquially, tourists — filing up and down the world famous climb.

Five years ago, when local and visiting youths addicted to petrol fumes regularly terrorised this community, local elders say they could not even secure funding for street lights to make the community safer. When concerns emerged that a man was endangering their children, they could not get assistance from authorities to remove him. He is now long gone. But despite his departure, and the arrival of fume-less Opal fuel and a rehabilitation effort that doused the petrol sniffing crisis, a "national emergency" will now summon police and military.

Over the occasional brawls of scavenging dogs, and the distractions of small children nursed by old women, Donald Fraser tells the community that he wants the minister to "come and sit down with the elders face to face" and explain what is going on. "We look up to the Government to help us," he says. "Now the government has become a camel, and kicked us out." He says that people are frightened of the Federal Police coming "because we do not know what they look like". We know our police, he says, we are confident of them.

He passes the microphone to Harry Wilson, an angrier, younger man, who proclaims to his community that this is the Tampa again. This is "black children overboard … this Government is using these kids to win the election". His words echo a joke drily recounted earlier to The Age by one local official that Mr Howard, the magician politician, has pulled a rabbit out of his hat. "Only it is a black rabbit"....

And the last one on this subject - Crikey letting the locals have their say.
Mutitjulu community leaders Dorothea and Bob Randall write:

We welcome any real support for indigenous health and welfare and even two police will assist, but the Howard Government declared an emergency at our community over two years ago -- when they appointed an administrator to our health clinic -- and since then we have been without a doctor, we have fewer health workers, our council has been sacked, and all our youth and health programmes have been cut.

We have no CEO and limited social and health services. The Government has known about our overcrowding problem for at least 10 years and they’ve done nothing about it.

How do they propose keeping alcohol out of our community when we are 20 minutes away from a five-star hotel? Will they ban blacks from Yulara? We have been begging for an alcohol counsellor and a rehabilitation worker so that we can help alcoholics and substance abusers but those pleas have been ignored. What will happen to alcoholics when this ban is introduced? How will the Government keep the grog runners out of our community without a permit system?

We have tried to put forward projects to make our community economically sustainable -- like a simple coffee cart at the sunrise locations -- but the Government refuses to even consider them.

There is money set aside from the Jimmy Little foundation for a kidney dialysis machine at Mutitjulu, but National Parks won’t let us have it. That would create jobs and improve indigenous health but they just keep stonewalling us. If there is an emergency, why won’t Mal Brough fast-track our kidney dialysis machine?

Some commentators have made much of the cluster of s-xually transmitted diseases identified at our health clinic. People need to understand that the Mutitjulu health clinic (now effectively closed) is a regional clinic and patients come from as far away as WA and SA; so, to identify a cluster here is meaningless without seeing the confidential patient data.

The fact that we hold this community together with no money, no help, no doctor and no government support is a miracle. Any community, black or white would struggle if they were denied the most basic resources. Police and the military are fine for logistics and coordination, but health care, youth services, education and basic housing are more essential. Any program must involve the people on the ground or it won’t work. For example, who will interpret for the military?

Our women and children are scared about being forcibly examined; surely there is a need to build trust. Even the doctors say they are reluctant to examine a young child without a parent’s permission. Of course, any child that is vulnerable or at risk should be immediately protected, but a wholesale intrusion into our women's and children’s privacy is a violation of our human and sacred rights.

Where is the money for all the essential services? We need long-term financial and political commitment to provide the infrastructure and planning for our community. There is an urgent need for tens of millions of dollars to do what needs to be done. Will Mr Brough give us a commitment beyond the police and military?

The Commonwealth needs to work with us to put health and social services, housing and education in place rather than treating Mutitjulu as a political football.

But we need to set the record straight:

* There is no evidence of any fraud or mismanagement at Mutitjulu – we have had an administration for 12 months that found nothing.
* Mal Brough and his predecessor have been in control of our community for at least 12 months and we have gone backwards in services.
* We have successfully eradicated petrol sniffing from our community in conjunction with government authorities and oil companies.
* We have thrown suspected p-dophiles out of our community using the permit system which the Government now seeks take away from us.
* We will work constructively with any government, state, territory or federal, that wants to help Aboriginal people.



Links:

After Gutenberg - Sizzling CSP, Canucks, Lizards in Toronto?
After Gutenberg - Membrane Technology for Dewatering Ethanol
Clean Break - Lowering cost, carbon footprint of ethanol production
TreeHugger - LED Replacement for Fluorescent Fixtures
TreeHugger - The Cheaper PC, the Smaller PC, and the Greener PC
TreeHugger - Recycling Plastics Reaches New Milestone in Japan
Gunther Portfolio - Sol3g talks M40 HCPV Solar Modules and Systems at Intersolar
Energy Bulletin - Global efforts to substitute for oil: Learning by doing ourselves in. Overly pessimistic from my point of view (since when was World War 2 a "minor adjustment in the global order" ? and why do people continually say it is hard to increase production of solar power - is a bunch of metal mirrors and some salt really that hard to put together ?).
TreeHugger - Tate Modern: Global Cities
The Australian - Underground Rail For Sydney ?
The Age - Tidal Wave Of Debt Engulfing The Young
The Guardian - The Middle Classes Have Discovered They have Been Duped By The Super Rich. Warren Buffett warned that top down class warfare would eventually have this effect...
Tom Paine - Informed Witness Vs. Ignoramus
Think Progress - FLASHBACK: Cheney Argued Energy Task Force Probe ‘Interfered With Executive Branch’
CNN - Bloomberg Could Have Perot-Like Effect On 2008 Race. Ron Paul support rising.
Washington Post - A Day Of Silence: Internet Radio Goes Dark
Freenet project - What Is The Freenet Project ?.
Technology Review - Artificial Societies And Virtual Violence

And in the most important news of the day, Paris Hilton has been released from prison. Never let it be said that Peak Energy fears to consider the most important issues of our time, or the stories the mainstream media won't touch...

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