Friday, July 18, 2014

Carbon price helped curb emissions, ANU study finds

As something of a coincidence with Australia's repeal of the carbon tax, a study has come out claiming that the tax did have the effect intended.  A report of the study plus the journal abstract is given below.  There is no intrinsic problem with that conclusion.  Taxing something does generally reduce demand for it.  I nonetheless think that the report is pure guesswork.  I cannot see how they can separate out the effect of the tax from other  factors bearing down on electricity generation. 

For most of the period surveyed the Labor government was in power, energetically pressing a variety of policies designed to have the same effect as the tax.  The winding back of brown coal powered generation in Victoria is the most obvious example of that.  Shutting down the cheapest power generators in the country took some time but it did eventually happen to some extent in the latter phase of ALP rule. 

And if you read the abstract, it is clear that estimates (guesses) were involved.  Their admission:  "There are fundamental difficulties in attributing observed changes in demand and supply to specific causes" is very much to the point

Australia cut carbon dioxide emissions from its electricity sector by as much as 17 million tonnes because of the carbon price and would have curbed more had industry expected the price to be permanent, according to an Australian National University study.

The report, due to be submitted for peer-reviewed publication, found the two years of the carbon price had a discernible impact on emissions even assuming conservative responses by consumers and businesses.

“We see the carbon price doing what it was meant to do, and what it was expected to do, namely dampen demand and shift the supply from dirtier to cleaner sources of electricity,” said Associate Professor Frank Jotzo, director of the Centre for Climate Economics and Policy, and a co-author of the report with the centre’s Marianna O’Gorman.

The paper comes as the Senate voted on Thursday to bring almost five years of Coalition campaigning against a price on carbon to an end by repealing the tax. Labor and the Greens say they will continue to push for a price on emissions.

The ANU report, which used official market data to the end of June, found the drop in power demand attributed to the carbon price was between 2.5 and 4.2 terawatt-hours per year, or about 1.3 to 2.3 per cent of the National Electricity Market serving about 80 per cent of Australia’s population.

Emissions-intensive brown and black coal-fired power generators cut output, with about 4 gigawatts of capacity taken offline. The emissions intensity of NEM supply dropped between 16 and 28 kilograms of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour of supply, underscoring the role of carbon pricing rather than slumping demand in curbing pollution, the paper said.

However, investors’ doubts that the carbon tax would last – fostered in part by then opposition leader Tony Abbott’s “blood oath” to repeal it if the Coalition took office - meant high-emissions generators were mothballed rather than permanently closed.

“We’d expect the impact of the carbon price would have been larger, perhaps far larger, if there had been an expectation that the carbon price would have continued,” Professor Jotzo said.

Falling demand

Environment Minister Greg Hunt has said repeatedly that the carbon tax was ineffective, stating Australia’s total emissions fell 0.1 per cent in the first year.

More recent figures, though, show the emissions drop accelerated, with 2013’s 0.8 per cent economy-wide fall the largest annual reduction in the 24 years of monitoring. In the power sector, the industry most directly covered by the carbon price, emissions fell 5 per cent.

“As confirmed by Origin Energy managing director Grant King, there are other factors resulting in lower emissions in the electricity sector – including lower demand, the impact of the [Renewable Energy Target], flooding at the Yallourn power station and increased hydro output,” a spokesman for Mr Hunt said.

However, the ANU paper takes those factors into account in estimating the carbon price impact, Professor Jotzo said.

Rather, the impact of the carbon price is probably understated. The highly politicised debate preceded its implementation by about a year, prompting energy consumers to focus more on electricity costs – and presumably to begin making savings – well before the tax began.

“We would expect politically motivated talk ... may well have had a large impact on people’s power usage patterns,” Professor Jotzo said....

“The only thing that went wrong in Australia was the politics of climate change policy,” Professor Jotzo said. “There was nothing inherently wrong with scheme.”


Impact of the carbon price on Australia’s electricity demand, supply and emissions

Marianna O'Gorman, Frank Jotzo


Australia’s carbon price has been in operation for two years. The electricity sector accounts for the majority of emissions covered under the scheme. This paper examines the impact of the carbon price on the electricity sector between 1 July 2012 and 30 June 2014, focusing on the National Electricity Market (NEM). Over this period, electricity demand in the NEM declined by 3.8 per cent, the emissions intensity of electricity supply by 4.6 per cent, and overall emissions by 8.2 per cent, compared to the two-year period before the carbon price. We detail observable changes in power demand and supply mix, and estimate the quantitative effect of the effect of the carbon price. We estimate that the carbon price led to an average 10 per cent increase in nominal retail household electricity prices, an average 15 per cent increase in industrial electricity prices and a 59 per cent increase in wholesale (spot) electricity prices. It is likely that in response, households, businesses and the industrial sector reduced their electricity use. We estimate the demand reduction attributable to the carbon price at 2.5 to 4.2 TWh per year, about 1.3 to 2.3 per cent of total electricity demand in the NEM. The carbon price markedly changed relative costs between different types of power plants. Emissions-intensive brown coal and black coal generators reduced output and 4GW of emissions-intensive generation capacity was taken offline. We estimate that these shifts in the supply mix resulted in a 16 to 28kg CO2/MWh reduction in the emissions intensity of power supply in the NEM, a reduction between 1.8 and 3.3 per cent. The combined impact attributable to the carbon price is estimated as a reduction of between 5 and 8 million tonnes of CO2 emissions (3.2 to 5 per cent) in 2012/13 and between 6 and 9 million tonnes (3.5 to 5.6 per cent) in 2013/14, and between 11 and 17 million tonnes cumulatively. There are fundamental difficulties in attributing observed changes in demand and supply to specific causes, especially over the short term, and in this light we use conservative parameters in the estimation of the effect of the carbon price. We conclude that the carbon price has worked as expected in terms of its short-term impacts. However, its effect on investment in power generation assets has probably been limited, because of policy uncertainty about the continuation of the carbon pricing mechanism. For emissions pricing to have its full effect, a stable, long-term policy framework is needed.


Greenie meat pies rejected

Meat pies are often said to be Australia's national food and I certainly am a fancier of them.  The ones I buy have chunks of steak in them and cost around $3.50

Sustainable. Organic. Locally sourced. These four words bulldoze us at every supermarket corner, on every menu and during many a MasterChef ad break. But how happy are we to pay a higher price for such produce?

A Victorian bakery has removed a meat pie from its menu because of complaints the price was too high.

At RedBeard Bakery in Trentham, about an hour north-west of Melbourne, a conversation similar to the following took place at least 10 times a week:

“One pie, thanks mate.”

“No worries. That'll be $8.”

“You're bloody kidding me! That's highway robbery!”

“Our ingredients are sourced locally and we know the farmers. The meat is grass-fed and sustainable. The pastry is made with organic butter and hand-rolled. The pie is put together by hand and cooked in our 19th century Scotch oven. It actually costs us $8 to make, so we're really providing a community service.”

“Whatever, mate. I didn't ask for a sermon.”

Fed up with explaining the price to tourists and tradies alike, RedBeard co-owner and baker Al Reid ceased making the pie in June.

“Every day there were embarrassing, stilted conversations with customers trying to justify why you're charging what is actually quite a reasonable price given the quality of the product and the labour input,” Reid says. “Customers' perceptions of what a pie should cost seem to be based on what you pay at a footy match. Pies ain't pies, just like oils ain't oils.”

Reid says cheap, mass-produced factory pies are often just gravy, corn starch and pastry made with margarine and transfats. They're cheap for a reason.

The removal of RedBeard's pie ignited a flutter of comments on its Facebook page. Most of these lamented the loss and suggested the complainers buy their frozen pies elsewhere.

But where does popular opinion lie?

An article this writer penned about Sydney's best dumplings attracted a wealth of comments on the theme that prices at high-end dumpling houses are absurd when you can purchase 12 dumplings for $4 “down the road”.

This is true. The Chinatowns of Melbourne and Sydney are rife with dumpling houses that trade potstickers by the pound. However, for the most part these little parcels of (admittedly delicious) mystery meat are in no way organic or sustainable. This is why you'll pay more “up the road”.

At Mr Wong, dim sum master Eric Koh uses Alaskan king crab in his noodle wraps (one for $12) and dumplings. It's not cheap, but then, Alaskan king crab fishing isn't easy: it takes place only in autumn; specific size requirements must be met, and only males can be kept.

“I think that in the past many dim sum chefs did not necessarily appreciate the importance of quality ingredients,” Koh says. “It required a vast amount of research to develop my knowledge about the individual ingredients and the skills needed to make the best quality dumplings possible. In the last five to 10 years more people are appreciating the value of dumplings and understanding that you pay for what you get.”

If RedBeard Bakery was selling $8 organic pies in Surry Hills or Collingwood, would it have attracted the same daily criticism? Probably not. Mary's burger bar in Newtown sells cheeseburgers for $14 – and not the type of baby-elephant-sized cheeseburgers that even a Texan would struggle to finish. They're not much bigger than one from Macca's but Mary's is packed to its exposed rafters every night with punters scoffing them down.

The price is justified: Mary's burger patties are made from a mix of high quality, house-smoked brisket, chuck and rump. But a takeaway store charging $14 for a burger this size in country NSW would be unthinkable.

Then there are the hand-cut chips at Hooked Healthy Seafood in Melbourne. Made from locally grown potatoes that are delivered fresh and unfrozen, the chips are big, fat and incredibly tasty. They will also set you back $7.95 for a large serving. That price would be laughed at in a palm-oil-using fish-and-chippery, but at Hooked (which has shops in Fitzroy, Windsor and Hawthorn) the chips have a status approaching legendary.

Despite justified prices and no shortage of customers, user review sites for Hooked host a good deal of “overpriced” and “rip-off” rants – especially comparing it to chippies (again) “down the road”.

Will Australia reach a point where we can all agree that $8 for a pie made from local, organic ingredients is justifiable? Signs are promising. But while buzzwords like "organic" and "sustainable" are bandied around without wider education on the processes and costs associated with producing organic and sustainable food, that day seems some time away.

And Coles selling four frozen pies for $4 doesn't help.


Head of curriculum review Kevin Donnelly says corporal punishment in schools 'was very effective'

The head of the Abbott government's national curriculum review has backed the use of corporal punishment for ill-disciplined children in schools if it is supported by the local school community.

Kevin Donnelly, co-chair of the national curriculum review and a widely published commentator on educational issues, said on Tuesday that corporal punishment was effective during his childhood and still has some merit.

Mr Donnelly was appearing on 2UE radio to comment on Fairfax Media reports that NSW students are being suspended and expelled from public schools at record rates.

Over 18000 NSW students were suspended in 2012 - 1300 more than in 2011.

"What would you, as you've been involved with this for so long, describe as the best punishment you can come across even if it is one that has gone away?" asked 2UE host Justin Smith. "I'm not alluding to the strap here. I don't think you would ever resort to that. You would never advocate bringing that back surely?"

Dr Donnelly responded by saying, "Well" followed by a pause – an answer that surprised Mr Smith.

Dr Donnelly continued: "I grew up in Broadmeadows, a housing commission estate in Melbourne, and we had a Scottish phys-ed teacher.

"Whenever there were any discipline problems he would actually take the boy behind the shed and say, 'We can either talk about this or you can throw the first punch'.

"That teacher would probably lose his job now but it was very effective. He only had to do it once and the kids were pretty well behaved for the rest of the year."

Dr Donnelly went on to say "those days are gone". But questioned further on the merits of corporal punishment, he said: "If the school community is in favour of it then I have got no problem if it's done properly.

"There are one or two schools around Australia that I know where it actually is approved of and they do do it. I'm sure they only do it very rarely."

Dr Donnelly contrasted corporal punishment with "time out" zones which he said do not work because children can relax and avoid class work.

Dr Donnelly has previously attracted controversy for designing an anti-smoking program funded by tobacco company Phillip Morris for Australian and New Zealand schools. He also questioned, in a book published in 2004, whether gay, lesbian and transgender teachers should teach sex education in schools.

Dr Donnelly and Kenneth Wiltshire, co-chair of the curriculum review, will hand their report to the government at the end of July.


Sexist, misogynistic and racist slogans are set to be painted over by controversial hire company Wicked Campers following public outcry

Wicked Campers has come under increasing pressure this week after an online petition kicked off by Sydney mother Paula Orbea gained national attention, triggering widespread calls for the company to remove explicit slogans form its vans.

The petition - launched after Ms Orbea's daughter spotted a Wicked van in the Blue Mountains with "In every princess, there's a little slut who wants to try it just once" written on the back - now has more than 100,000 signatures.

Ms Orbea has since received an email from the company, offering a personal apology and informing her that the slogan had been removed.

"Wicked Campers Owner, John Webb wishes to acknowledge the prevailing community opinion by REMOVING the slogan in question and making a commitment over the coming six months to changing slogans of an insensitive nature," it read.

Ms Orbea described the company's change of heart as a "people power win".

"The kind of sexism and misogyny on those Wicked Campers vans may seem trivial, but it's not – it's degrading to women, harmful for our children to consume, and condones a rape culture that sees one-in-three Australian women sexually assaulted in their lifetimes," she said.

A motion to stop the company "promoting violence against women" with slogans painted on its vehicles was also passed unanimously in the Senate this afternoon.

Greens Senator Larissa Waters had moved the motion earlier in the day following the petition.  Senator Waters told SBS that it was a clear cut case that the slogans in question were “entirely sexist and misogynist”, as well as “basically inciting sexual violence”.

“I think, in order to send a really strong message to company and to challenge the prevailing culture that normalises violence against women, I sought the Senate’s consent to pass a motion condemning those slogans,” she said.


This firm has been controversial for a few years but the police  ruled that they were not breaking the law.  So it is interesting that a public outcry succeeded where the law did not

1 comment:

Paul said...

We see Wicked campers all the time up here, most with off, but basically stupid phrases on them, but lately they've been overboard with the F bomb over some of their cars. I think they got cocky and needed to be reigned in.