Thursday, December 31, 2015
Totally empty Warmist thinking
The puff below appeared in The New Daily, which aspires to be a serious newspaper. It was headed "Why Australia is sitting on a clean energy goldmine" and was written by Rob Burgess, their economics commentator and previously a journalist on Left-leaning newspapers.
I looked forward to hearing what particular activity or resource Australia had that would give it the great advantage claimed. Do we have rare earth metals in abundance? Do we make very efficient solar cells? Do we make better wind turbines? I knew in advance that the answers to those question would be No, so what was it that had I not thought of or what was it that did I not know?
I was disappointed entirely. All there is below are conventional prophecies and some very airy generalities that are well known but are in no way explicitly tied to the subject at hand.
Take this sentence:
"The expertise we develop in energy efficiency, renewable technologies, power grid management and transport networks can be exported to nations trying to catch up".
That is just a pious hope with no evidence or argument offered that it is happening or will happen.
Mr Burgess clearly has nothing to say but says it at length. But Warmist thinking is generally brainless so I don't suppose I should have been surprised
Australia has for a long time become convinced that it ‘got lucky’ via the mining boom, and that the subsequent boost in national income and household wealth could not be generated any other way – a defeatist position that would make industrial nations such as Germany and Japan, or newly-industrialised Malaysia, cringe.
That’s because their growth stories are not put down to ‘luck’ but to successful deployment of financial capital, innovation, development of human capital, and transparent and stable systems of governance.
Australia’s new comparative advantage, then, will be found in acknowledging how far along the non-luck path we are.
Despite pockets of deprivation, Australia is still one of the wealthiest nations in the world and its people rank second only to the Norwegians on the United Nation’s human development index.
The USA is eighth, the UK 14th and Japan 20th, by way of comparison.
Our rule of law, and stable and well-regulated financial markets, make Australia an excellent place to invest, meaning financing our renewable energy future will be easier and cheaper than for developing nations.
And to those advantages – strong human capital and attractiveness to investors – can be added a growing recognition that services exports will form a large part of our future economic growth.
The expertise we develop in energy efficiency, renewable technologies, power grid management and transport networks can be exported to nations trying to catch up.
Oh, and there’s a bit of luck too – we have excellent natural resources to develop in renewable energy areas such as solar, wind, wave, biomass and biofuels. We also have huge scope to offset future carbon emissions via carbon forestry.
In short, Australia is sitting on a carbon-free goldmine. We are smart enough, wealthy enough, export-oriented enough, well governed enough and blessed enough in natural resources to be ahead of the curve in the transition to clean energy.
The five-year challenge
At the heart of the Paris agreement is a five-yearly ‘stocktake’ of how each nation is doing with meeting its self-nominated targets.
Australia took a very modest target to Paris at the end of November, but it will now face five-yearly check-ups to see if, firstly, it has met the target, and, secondly, whether it will offer a stronger target for the next five years.
As the US, China and others strengthen their targets, they will not idly disregard laggard nations – the threat of trade measures such as ‘border tax adjustments‘, are the means by which ‘non-binding’ pledges will, in effect, be made binding.
Also, as with all 195 nations who have signed up to the Paris agreement, Australia is committed to globally binding transparency measures – that is, we can’t fake our carbon emissions.
But why would we?
The tide of history is running, strongly. The arguments put forward by the fossil-fuel lobby, the Abbott government, and a few King Canute-like backers in the media, have been lost.
Yes, Australia has among the highest per-capita carbon emissions in the world, and the highest carbon-intensity per unit of GDP. So we have more work to do than comparable nations to keep up with the post-COP21 pack.
But the point that must not be missed is that those reductions will be easier here than just about anywhere.
It is our new comparative advantage.
And though it’s based partly on luck, to capitalise on it we will need world-beating innovation, business acumen, policy responses and, most importantly, a voting public given the full facts of where the tide of history is flowing, rather than the unworthy fear campaigns of the past few years.
Australian uranium in demand as China goes full steam for nuclear
Despite reactor closures in Europe and the US, the global outlook for uranium looks bright, with Asia's burgeoning nuclear energy industry fuelling demand for the radioactive metal.
Australia's uranium market is also set for a bright future, with a strong possibility of new mines opening in Western Australia provided global demand strengthens as forecast.
And, as with so many of the world's minerals, Chinese demand is a key driver.
A recent commodities research note from Macquarie Bank called uranium the "best mined commodity of 2015".
After a collapse in generation following the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan, "nuclear power has been making a quiet comeback," said Macquarie. "We have now seen more than two years of consistent year-on-year growth. Total output this year is set to be the strongest since 2011."
China, India, Korea and Russia were the engines of growth in the industry, said Macquarie, expected to contribute 70 per cent of new reactors by 2030. Furthermore, Japanese reactors were returning to the fleet, with 20 Japanese reactors back online by 2020.
However, cheap gas and coal, the rise of politically-friendly renewable energy and the costly need to extend the life of reactors had hit the industry in the West, the paper said.
In the US five reactors had closed since 2012, "with potentially as many to follow"; Germany will phase out all reactors by the early 2020s; while Sweden will cut back its reactor fleet by 40 per cent.
New capacity in Asia
However, said Macquarie, "the combined size of these reductions is less than half of the scheduled new capacity additions" in Asia. Widespread closures in the US, despite record-low energy prices, were "unlikely": US nuclear energy use was its highest since 2009, nuclear power was still cheaper than fossil fuel, and the focus on reducing coal usage meant uranium had become a relatively more popular source of baseload power generation.
"We still see nuclear power as a growth industry," said Macquarie. "We still expect solid demand growth on a five-year view."
The paper singled out China's "staggering" stockpiling. In 2016, the Chinese will have the equivalent of nine years of projected 2020 consumption in inventory. "China's annual uranium requirement is likely to grow by more than the rest of the world's combined requirement over the next five years."
China has 26 nuclear reactors in operation and 25 under construction. But long-term plans call for 92 reactors operating by 2025 and 129 by 2020.
In 2015, China approved new reactors for the first time since the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan in 2009, with the China General Nuclear Power Corporation receiving the go-ahead for two gigawatt reactors.
China was "the only part of the world that's really increasing reactor capacity by any large margin", said Mining and Metals Senior Associate at Citi, Matthew Schembri.
But Chinese demand for the radioactive metal far outstripped supply. China only produced 1450 tonnes of uranium in 2015, far less than its 8160-tonne consumption rate.
Consequently, the Chinese were trying to create "uranium independence," said Mr Schembri, not only by producing more but also by stockpiling and buying equity shares in foreign projects.
"They're aiming for one-third to be domestically produced, one-third from foreign equity ownership in foreign mines, and one-third to be imports," said Mr Schembri.
But the world was not likely to face a shortage of uranium despite the uptick in demand, he said.
"It is going to be an important power source in the future and the most recent Chinese five-year plan has said that, but even so, the world has enough uranium that's it's not going to create a particularly tight market."
Uranium has fallen from around $US152 per pound in 2007 to well under $US60 since the global financial crisis, with a low just above $US28 in May 2014. This year, it peaked around $US40 in March. It is currently trading at $US35.35, which is just off the year's lows.
Mr Schembri said that the price would return to $US40, rising to $US50 in the longer term. At these price levels, existing mines would remain viable and new ones would open, he said.
Macquarie agreed, stating that "almost all mine output is cash-positive at current price levels".
Mr Schembri added that the recent Paris Climate Summit – which pledged to restrict global warming to "well below 2℃ above pre-industrial levels", a goal that is expected to increase demand for nuclear power as countries shift away from carbon-dioxide-producing coal power – had had no effect on the uranium market or prices.
Australia, which produces 11 per cent of the world's uranium and is the world's third-largest producer after Canada and Kazakhstan, currently has three operating uranium mines: Ranger in the Northern Territory, Olympic Dam (the world's largest uranium deposit) in South Australia and Four Mile in South Australia. Australian-listed uranium miners and explorers include Energy Resources of Australia, BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto, Paladin Energy, and Mintails.
There are a numerous proposals for new Australian mines, including four well-advanced proposals in Western Australia alone: Lake Way (Wiluna), which Toro Energy hopes to mine; Yeelirrie and Kintyre, which Canadian uranium miner Cameco wishes to develop; and Mulga Rock, which Vimy Resources has an interest in.
However, the new mines – which could create up to 1300 long-term jobs and be worth $1 billion a year to Western Australia by 2020 – have still not been formally approved and are dependent on the uranium price improving as forecast.
They are also the subject of fierce opposition from environmental groups such as the Australian Conservation Foundation, while the Western Australia's ALP opposition opposes uranium mining and export. The next Western Australian election is in March 2017.
Leftist academics think the Jihadis are good guys
Bloodshed has never bothered Leftists
ASIO head Duncan Lewis ‘merely reflected a widespread view that criticism of Islam by a non-Muslim will only provoke Muslim rage and provide more recruits to Islamic State’.
Academic theoreticians are to blame for Australia being in a position where ASIO head Duncan Lewis, “an unelected securocrat”, tells democratically elected MPs that “silence is the price they have to pay for an uneasy civil peace”.
David Martin Jones, a former associate professor at Queensland University who is visiting professor at the War Studies department at London University’s King’s College, told The Australian that, from a widespread academic perspective, “the market and the West perpetuate the real global violence, not terrorists, who merely resist the capitalist behemoth”.
He said that “in asking MPs and, by extension, the wider political community to refrain from commenting on the connection between Islam and political violence, Duncan Lewis merely reflected a widespread view that criticism of Islam by a non-Muslim will only provoke Muslim rage and provide more recruits to Islamic State”.
Since the terror attacks on the US in 2001, “liberal political elites, academe and state broadcasters have consistently denied any connection between religion, in its Islamist form, and religiously inspired violence”.
He said that after the London bombings on July 7, 2005, and the more recent Paris attacks, “a predictable chorus of academic experts have appeared in the media to claim the latest outrage has nothing to do with religion”.
“Well might they,” he said. “For the past decade, grants and chairs in terror or peace and conflict studies have been dedicated to showing modern terrorism has no Islamic association.” Even if some Islamic connection was conceded, he said, this was viewed as part of a wider, anti-capitalist “resistance” by the rest to the West.
The past decade, said Professor Jones, had witnessed a proliferation of peer-reviewed academic journals that reinforced this “resistance” message. These included, he said, Critical Studies on Terrorism and Critical Security Studies. “Tracing this critical posture reveals how deeply imbued contemporary academe has become with anti-western self loathing”. Such journals explained, for example, that “the rhetoric of freedom and the democratic way of life it upholds inflames the Muslim community”.
Professor Jones said that “the antidote they suggest is not to condemn, but to enter into ‘force-free dialogue’ with the forces of resistance”. Thus, he said, this academically fashionable critical theory shared an elective affinity with “the resistance”.
Reading Islamism as a form of revolutionary Marxism with a religious facade, he said, “enables the Western theorist to present the Islamist in more attractive academic garb as a fellow critic ‘representing a distinctive combination of Islamic and enlightenment thought’ ”.
Not surprisingly, he said, Islamism’s most effective online journals embraced this unmasking of the “true” sources of terrorism. “They also consider the war on terror ‘a narrative’ and a distorted Western ‘construct’ that Islamism ‘deconstructs’, and accept that orientalism and colonialism are the real causes of their ‘radical’ reaction,” he said.
Professor Jones said that “ultimately, to empathise with Islamism and provide it with a justification for its hyper-megalomaniacal violence was delusional”.
“Such a delusion, ironically, depends on the liberal pluralist tolerance that both Islamic State and critical theory otherwise abhor,” he said. The result was “a curious disjuncture between what Islamists say and have said for a while, and what the critical theorist and now ASIO say they mean — and what Islamists actually do.”
Malcolm Turnbull fixes Liberals' `women problem': Newspoll
Female voters have returned to the Coalition since the rise of Malcolm Turnbull, erasing Tony Abbott's so-called women problem in the polls.
Support for the government among women has jumped seven points to 44 per cent since the change of Prime Minister, according to an analysis of Newspoll surveys conducted exclusively for The Australian between October and December.
It is the first time in two years that more than 40 per cent of female voters have supported the Coalition and comes as Labor's standing with women fell four points to 34 per cent, to be at the lowest level since Bill Shorten became Opposition Leader.
While women had ranked Mr Shorten as the better prime minister over Mr Abbott by 39 per cent to 34 per cent, that support has been wiped out, with female voters in the December quarter preferring Mr Turnbull over Mr Shorten by 58 per cent to 16 per cent.
The analysis, based on Newspoll surveys of 8013 people, also reveals that Mr Turnbull leads Mr Shorten as voters' preferred prime minister in every age demographic, with his support the strongest in those aged over 50.
It also shows that the Coalition leads Labor in the age demographics with the exception of voters aged 18-34, where the two major parties are tied at 38 per cent support. Among voters aged over 50, more than one in two now back the Coalition.
The Newspoll analysis reveals satisfaction with Mr -Shorten's performance among women has hit the lowest level for an opposition leader in the 20-year history of Newspoll and is at a 12-year low among men.
Male voters overwhelmingly prefer Mr Turnbull as prime minister over Mr Shorten by 64 per cent to 17 per cent and are the most satisfied with his performance during his first 100 days.
Among men, support for the Coalition hit 46 per cent in the December quarter, up five points to be at the highest level since the 2013 election. Labor's standing with men dropped five points to a two-year low of 33 per cent.
Mr Shorten's support as -preferred prime minister among both men and women has more than halved and is at the lowest level since former Liberal leader Brendan Nelson fell to 14 per cent as preferred prime minister among both sexes in September 2008. It is the equal worst result for a Labor leader with Simon Crean's low in 2003.
Mr Turnbull's satisfaction rating among men and women is at a six-year high for any prime minister, giving him the highest ratings since Kevin Rudd in late 2009.
The analysis shows 58 per cent of men and 53 per cent of women were satisfied with Mr Turnbull's performance while 25 per cent of men and 24 per cent of women were dissatisfied.
Mr Turnbull's net satisfaction rating - the difference between those who were satisfied and those who were dissatisfied - is 33 points among men and 29 points among women.
Satisfaction with Mr Shorten's performance among men was at a 12-year low of 27 per cent while among women it was the lowest level in the 20-year -Newspoll time series of 25 per cent.
Sixty-one per cent of men and 54 per cent of women were dissatisfied with Mr Shorten's performance. The Labor leader's net satisfaction was minus 34 points among men and minus 29 points among women.
The analysis shows more than half of voters aged over 50 support the Coalition - the strongest level of support for the government across any demographic. The government's primary vote in this group is 52 per cent, up seven points, compared with Labor's 31 per cent, down six points. Voters aged 35 to 49 back the Coalition by 42 per cent to Labor's 35 per cent while among voters aged under 34 support for the major parties was tied at 38 per cent.
Older voters were the biggest direct supporters of Mr Turnbull ranking him ahead of Mr Shorten as the preferred prime minister by 65 per cent to 15 per cent - a 50-point lead.
Voters aged 35-49 favoured Mr Turnbull by 58 to 18 per cent while among those aged 18-34 his lead was 57 to 19 per cent.
Across all age groups more than half were satisfied with Mr Turnbull's performance.
Voters aged over 50 were the least satisfied with Mr Shorten and the 23 per cent rating was his lowest across all -demographics in the December quarter.