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Trump is a cult leader

By Ad astra  

Do you sometimes ask yourself how it is that President Trump is able to attract and hold such a devoted collection of admirers, some of whom insist they ‘would die for him’? Are you amazed that they come out on the streets again and again in their thousands to cheer him and rail angrily against those who decry him? Why is it so?

One plausible explanation is that Trump is the leader of a cult.

In modern English, a cult is “a social group that is defined by its unusual religious spiritual, or philosophical beliefs, or by common interest in a particular personality, object or goal.” The label is usually considered pejorative.

The concept of a cult seems to fit what we are seeing among Trump’s admirers. For them, it appears that Trump can do no wrong. Not only do they embrace every word he utters, but every concept, every proposition, every ‘truth’, even when his ‘truth’ changes often and inexplicably. They are even prepared to donate to his political fund!

When he lost the recent election, yet insisted that he had won it, his followers came out on the streets in droves echoing his accusation that the election had been ‘stolen’ from him. The thieves were not identified. How they could mastermind such a complex coup involving thousands of players scattered across a vast nation of over 330 million was never explained. Yet that did not concern Trump’s followers; if Donald insisted they had stolen the election, that was enough. Did they ask how any group, no matter how brilliant, no matter how well organised, no matter how ubiquitous, no matter how influential and powerful, could exercise enough influence at any point in the electoral process to ‘steal’ an election? Evidence was absent, as is so often the case in Trump’s utterances.

 

 

Characteristically, cult followers do not question the leader, dispute the veracity of his words, or doubt the plausibility of his predictions. What he says, goes. Thus it is pointless to try to address his propositions through logical discourse using verifiable evidence.

Think about Trump and his committed followers. When did you last see them debate an issue? When did they ever propose an alternative viewpoint when their leader has already made his pronouncements?

This in not an academic discussion. It is a serious exposé of the danger of cults and the perils to which cult followers may be exposed when they unthinkingly embrace the leader’s words and beliefs.

Beware!

This article was originally published on The Political Sword

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Emergency department visits surged during 2019-20 bushfire season

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Media Release

A new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows increases in emergency department visits for respiratory problems and sales of asthma medication in regions affected by the 2019–20 bushfires.

The report, Australian bushfires 2019–20: Exploring the short-term health impacts, examines some of the short-term health impacts of the devastating bushfires, focusing on the period from September 2019 through to March 2020.

The report brings together data from NSW emergency departments, air quality monitoring, GP visits, Medicare-subsidised respiratory testing, and pharmaceutical sales data from all states and territories.

‘The bushfire season of 2019–20 saw widespread destruction of land, national parks and property, and tragically, 33 people lost their lives,’

‘The smoke-related health costs of the 2019–20 bushfire season have been estimated by researchers at the University of Tasmania to be $1.95 billion.’ AIHW spokesperson Mr. Richard Juckes said.

Visits to NSW hospital emergency departments for respiratory conditions increased in the 2019–20 bushfire season, compared to 2018–19.

‘Some areas of NSW were affected more than others, with emergency department visits rising by more than 50% in the Capital Region (includes Bateman’s Bay) during times of peak bushfire activity, and 86% in the Riverina region,’ Mr. Juckes said.

Similarly, some areas of Australia experienced worse air quality than others—Canberra residents experienced the worst air quality in the Territory’s history, and on some days, the worst recorded air quality in the world.

‘In the week beginning 5 January 2020, hourly PM2.5 concentrations at the Canberra-based Florey air quality monitoring station reached 2,496µg/m3—hourly readings of 300 and above are considered ‘extremely poor,’ Mr. Juckes said.

Analysis of pharmaceutical sales data revealed that sales and dispensing of asthma reliever medications, including salbutamol (often marketed as Ventolin or Asmol), increased in bushfire-affected regions.

In the Coffs Harbour – Grafton region, there were increases of 70% and 43% in sales of inhalers for shortness of breath for the weeks beginning 10 November and 17 November 2019, respectively.

Similarly, in the week beginning 29 December 2019, there was a 63% increase in the Capital Region.

Mr. Juckes noted that this report focusses on short-term impacts but it will be important to monitor any potential longer-term health and mental health, impacts of the 2019–20 bushfires.

There were almost 19,000 bushfire-related Medicare-subsidised mental health services accessed by 5,094 patients (as at 11 October 2020),’ Mr. Juckes said.

‘The most commonly accessed services were provided by a registered psychologist (46%) or a clinical psychologist (41%).’

Future analysis and updates will aim to explore hospital emergency department data beyond New South Wales, alongside hospital admitted patient data.

‘The AIHW will further analyse air quality and fire danger index data to provide a more comprehensive picture of the relationship between population exposure to bushfire smoke (fine particle pollution) and health. We are also exploring a broader program of work for the AIHW relating to the environment and health,’ Mr. Juckes said.

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Opportunity lost: Trump’s presidency

By Matthew Synnott  

Could there be anyone caught surprised that Donald Trump would be the sore loser that he has shown himself to be? We hear about millennials and the entitled generation, well Trump takes the trait to Stratosphere levels that no millennial could challenge. While we are at it, his ego is up there as well. It matters not that commentators – many of whom were avid supporters have, now that he is on the cusp of being sacked from the office that he would regard as the most coveted, valued and precious – have now turned on him, no doubt disturbed, disappointed, disgusted even that this pathetic human has revealed he is possessed of most if not all of the worst traits of character it is possible to reside in just one individual.

I believe that his decision to run for the office of POTUS was not about “Making America Great Again,” but more about making Trump greater. It was going to be just another conquest, another notch on the bed head, more confirmation that he was not just a highly successful business man but a statesman as well. This would assure him a place in the history pages of the U.S. not just as a wealthy and successful self-made businessman – hell such people are as common as flies – but as the one who had achieved all the things he said he would and so much more than any of his predecessors. It matters not that the reality is very different, his self-belief is all that matters, commentators who have the temerity to disagree even question his claims and assertions are heretics, purveyors of “Fake News.”

I have struggled to find a redeeming quality I can attach to this man and I use the term advisedly, I am no closer to finding any, any man who is so bankrupt of human decency is unworthy of that title. It bears a responsibility to live a life beyond the selfish gene we all have and while it is necessary for survival, it should not become so dominant that it extinguishes our instinct to be the social creatures that we have evolved to be. I have no professional training/experience but my inclination as a lay observer is that the subject is a pathological liar combined with a paranoid psychopath, and throw in narcissist all at the extreme high end of the curve. He is such a loose cannon that he is a danger, not just his countrymen and women, but the world through his denial of climate change science. He seems so deluded that he believes his handling of the pandemic is world-class. Doing an Admiral Lord Nelson or he is in a parallel universe.

It concentrates the mind to think what might have happened during the Cold War years had Trump been POTUS then. He would have held the launch codes for the missile defence system. Those of us now in our senior years were familiar with the terms, “Arms Race, 100 Megaton Bombs/ICBMs, MAD.”

The one chance the subject had to redeem some grace and dignity, to accept that his chance to win a successive second term is lost. Condemned felons have accepted their fate with impending death with greater courage and dignity than he will ever know. Victory is a showcase of talent, defeat is a showcase of character (unknown author), no point explaining this to the subject, the only quote he gets is; “winners are grinners, losers always lose” and that is what will really hurt him. He can say what he likes, history will record that in 2020 he lost by a not inconsiderable margin and that he resorted to all the dirty tricks he could invent to manipulate the system by falsely asserting illegality and dishonesty in the postal service, the electoral service, the Democrat States, the legal system, even the party that gave him oxygen in the first place, the Republican Party, conspiracists all of them.

I predict this spoilt brat, when his only option is to take his bat and ball and wander home alone, that he will boycott the Inauguration ceremony next January. He will go to his grave proclaiming he won the election but it was stolen from him thus attending the ceremony would only legitimise the illegal acts that resulted in the injustice. And that will plague him forever. The President-elect and his Vice President-elect should not be troubled by any immature action by this aberration, it reflects not badly on them only on the ignominious ex-POTUS. The truth is that he was never going to be equal to the task he was assigned and trusted to do four years ago. His ego was such that he believed that only his ideas were worthy of being exercised, when confronted with advisers who held differing views, he found reasons to dismiss them. As the smartest person in the room, correction, the world, he didn`t need to consult experts.

 

 

The incoming administration has its job cut out restoring faith in the process and in the nation`s leader to repair the damage reaped by four years of inglorious damnable conduct.

The Republican Party also has some fence-building to do. The lights in the party room need to be burning late into many nights analysing the last four years; what worked, what didn’t and what needs to happen to ensure the Democrats only get one term (when Biden is likely to hand the baton on to his Vice President for 2024). Should their outgoing fellow decide he wants another tilt, do they support him or send him on gardening leave, or do they quietly hope that the agony of loss will fry his addled brain completely? Time will tell. Maybe he will retire to his golf courses, sorry, country clubs. Memo to anyone competing with the club owner; let him win, he doesn’t like losing … in case that fact eluded you.

 

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Basking in the Post-COVID-19 Sunshine: NSW Goes Out and About Towards a Brighter Neoliberal Future

By Denis Bright

At federal and state levels of government, the LNP seeks to dazzle its support base with financial rewards.

Josh Frydenberg’s budget on 6 October 2020 advanced the timetable for tax relief for business and middle- income constituents as noted by Scott Morrison after the tax changes had cleared the senate:

The tax relief package, for both individuals and business, is part of our COVID-19 Economic Recovery Plan for Australia to create jobs, rebuild our economy and secure Australia’s future.

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) will update its schedules next week, with software payroll companies to update over the coming weeks, to get more money into the pockets of hard-working Australians as quickly as possible.

Getting money into the pockets of Australians will give them more to spend at their local shops helping to create more jobs.

The package brings forward Stage two of our Personal Income Tax Plan by two years. From 1 July 2020:

  • the low-income tax offset will increase from $445 to $700;
  • the top threshold of the 19 per cent tax bracket will increase from $37,000 to $45,000; and
  • the top threshold of the 32.5 per cent tax bracket will increase from $90,000 to $120,000.

The NSW Budget Papers from 17 November 2020 show that the focus on distributing dollars and cents as a celebration of neoliberalism brought some challenges to NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet at a time when net incomes from interest on reserves, dividends from state enterprises and royalties are all in decline during the current recession (Image of Revenue Sources in the 2020-21 Budget Statement):

Deviations in total revenue since 2019-20 Half-Yearly Review

Revenue from federal grants including GST is down in real terms by over a billion dollars to 40.6 per cent of total projected revenue for 2020-21. 

These scenarios were anticipated by NSW Treasury which released its draft report on Federal Financial Relations on 1 July 2020 to call for discussion on a revision of the revenue tax base for NSW. NSW is very disadvantaged by the current carve-up of federal tax revenues as well as the current tax largesse by the federal LNP towards its crucial middle-income support base.

Using data that predates the current COVID-19 financial crisis, NSW Treasury has promoted discussion on a more equitable taxation formula that would take net income from Victoria ($16.9 billion), Queensland ($16.8 billion), SA ($4.2 billion) and Tasmania ($2.3 billion).  

Both federal and state Labor should be joining in this national debate on tax reform as the Morrison Government continues to bask in the glory of its largesse to the business sector and to the largely LNP voting segments of its middle- and upper-income support bases. 

To cap off the LNP’s taxation farce is the extent of the deficit which has been imposed on NSW for the maintenance of its service delivery and the added burden of the $500 million Out and About Reward Vouchers offered in the current NSW budget.

Channel Nine News offered some details of eligibility for the for viewers (Image from Channel 9 News 17 November 2020): 

NSW residents will receive four $25 vouchers, totalling $100.

The idea of separating the $100 lump sum is to try and encourage residents to spread their spending around multiple businesses instead of pouring their free lunch or day out into one.

Every NSW resident aged over 18 will receive the vouchers. Those under 18 will miss out.

A pilot of the scheme will operate throughout December 2020 in Sydney’s CBD. It’s theorised that after a successful pilot scheme it will be rolled out across the state next year.

At a time when capital expenditure from both government revenue and the NSW Generations Fund is likely to peak in the two financial years prior to the 2023 state elections, NSW can hardly afford to splash a half a billion dollars on vouchers for restaurants and entertainment.

Some other suggestions from NSW Treasury are certainly worthy of bipartisan consideration. discussion initiatives to review burdensome property transfer taxes and payroll taxes deserve support from across the political spectrum.  

NSW surely needs more real government priorities to build on the outreach of its Generations Fund which is largely from the proceeds of electricity privatization. 

Keeping service delivery and new public sector investment going into the future requires great foresight which has been a real challenge to past administrations on both sides of politics. Even Labor has experimented with unsustainable neoliberal strategies which have assisted in placing it on the Opposition benches. 

There are real opportunities for Opposition Leader Jodi McKay and Shadow Treasurer Walt Secord to repeat Queensland Labor’s successes on 31 October 2020 in the about to be redistributed electorates of NSW with the politics of a return to the basics in the spirit of William McKell and his successors who offered the people of NSW thirty years of Labor administrations until the defeat of Premier Jack Renshaw in 1968. 

The revival of Labor at the state level in NSW may indeed have an unsettling effect on federal politics. An early federal election can be expected after the 2021-22 federal budget and before the NSW state elections. Might I add, that the Word of the Prophets are perhaps written on the Silo Walls. I suspect that the silos shown in the regional budget papers are long out of use like the public policies which generated this nostalgia for such far-off times.

 

Denis Bright is a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis is committed to citizen’s journalism from a critical structuralist perspective. Comments from insiders with a specialist knowledge of the topics covered are particularly welcome.

 

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Trumpism

By Ad astra  

First, let’s examine the meaning of the suffix: ‘ism’. Wikipedia says it means “taking side with” or “imitation of”, and is often used in association with philosophies, theories, religions, social and artistic movements, and behaviours.

So let’s use that suffix with Trump: Trumpism, although he hardly deserves the use of a suffix so commonly attached to movements of significance.

We have often asserted that Donald Trump is mad. We still do, even more emphatically since the US elections. Those of you who are Trump fans who feel that this is impertinent, will not be pleased with what follows. You may wish to stop reading now. Alternatively, you may care to review your attitude after re-examining his behaviour during and following the recent US Election.

His continuing insistence that he won the election despite the incontrovertible evidence that he lost it, evidence accepted by observers around the world, should cause you to revise your opinion. His refusal to concede is based on fantasy, not facts. The only facts he accepts are his own, those he creates to suit his purpose… Nothing will change that because he suffers from advanced narcissistic personality disorder.

Eventually he will be removed from the White House. At the time of writing, Trump is still holed up there, still claiming he won, and refusing to hand on important documents of state to his successor.

Some believe he will be removed with great difficulty and that he will attempt, figuratively, to wreck the place on the way out.

 

 

It is expected that his behaviour will continue, without power, so we may now be subject to what has attracted the label: ‘Trumpism’. So what is it? What do you think of this?

First, take a look at this extract from The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5, 2013) which indicates that a person with narcissistic personality disorder possesses at least five of the following nine criteria, typically without possessing the commensurate personal qualities or accomplishments for which they demand respect and status:

  • Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g. exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognised as superior without commensurate achievements)
  • Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
  • Believes that they are “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
  • Requires excessive admiration
  • Has a sense of entitlement (i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favourable treatment or automatic compliance with their expectations)
  • Is interpersonally exploitative (i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve their own ends)
  • Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognise or identify with the feelings and needs of others
  • Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of them
  • Shows arrogant, haughty behaviours or attitudes.

So in brief, Trumpism could be described as including the following:

  • A grandiose sense of self-importance
  • A belief of being special, unique, brilliant and successful
  • A profound sense of rightness
  • A fantasy that preferred ‘facts’ are true
  • A need for excessive admiration
  • A sense of entitlement
  • Exploitative behaviour
  • Lack of empathy
  • Envy of others
  • Arrogant, haughty behaviours and attitudes.

What do you think?

This article was originally published on The Political Sword

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Truffle munching wallabies shed new light on forest conservation

Edith Cowan University Media Release

Feeding truffles to wallabies may sound like a madcap whim of the jet-setting elite, but it may give researchers clues to preserving remnant forest systems.

Edith Cowan University researcher Dr Melissa Danks led an investigation into how swamp wallabies spread truffle spores around the environment, and results demonstrate the importance of these animals to the survival of the forest.

“There are thousands of truffle species in Australia and they play a critical role in helping our trees and woody plants to survive,” she said.

“Truffles live in a mutually beneficial relationship with these plants, helping them to uptake water and nutrients and defence against disease.

“Unlike mushrooms where spores are dispersed through wind and water from their caps, truffles are found underground with the spores inside an enclosed ball – they need to be eaten by an animal to move their spores.”

Dr Danks and colleagues at the University of New England investigated the role of swamp wallabies in dispersing these spores.

“Wallabies are browsing animals that will munch on ferns and leaves as well as a wide array of mushrooms and truffles,” she said.

“This has helped them to be more resilient to changes in the environment than smaller mammals with specialist diets like potoroos.

“We were interested in finding out whether swamp wallabies have become increasingly important in truffle dispersal with the loss of these other mammals.”

Conservation by poo tracking

The team fed truffles to wallabies and timed how long it would take for the spores to appear in the animals’ poo. Most spores appeared within 51 hours, with some taking up to three days.

Armed with this information, the researchers attached temporary GPS trackers to wallabies to map how far they move over a three-day period.

Results showed the wallabies could move hundreds of metres, and occasionally more than 1200 metres, from the original truffle source before the spores appeared in their poo, which makes them a very effective at dispersing truffles around the forest.

Dr Danks said this research had wide ranging conservation implications for Australian forests.

“As forest systems become more fragmented and increasingly under pressure, understanding spore dispersal systems is really key to forest survival,” Dr Danks said.

“Many of our bushland plants have a partnership with truffles for survival and so it is really critical to understand the role of animals in dispersing these truffle spores.

“Our research on swamp wallabies has demonstrated a simple method to predict how far an animal disperses fungal spores in a variety of landscapes.”

Modelling mycorrhizal fungi dispersal by the mycophagous swamp wallaby (Wallabia bicolor)’ was published in Ecology and Evolution and can be read on the website.

 

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A small intermission

Every time The AIMN grows bigger we have to move to larger premises. Not physically, of course, but in our case to a larger server.

Last year our traffic grew by 8% over the previous year, and 2020 is poised to exceed last year’s gain. And with thousands of articles and hundreds of thousands of comments – all growing by the day – we are quite a large site. Our current server is thus a bit overworked, with occasional dropouts and slow loading being the consequence.

Tomorrow, Monday (16/11/2020) we pack up all our belongings and move them to a larger, quicker server. It’ll be a win/win for everyone.

We’ve done this before, so we are aware that during the migration period to a new server it is important to put a ‘freeze’ on activity at The AIMN until the move is complete, which will be no later than 12:00pm Monday.

What does this mean to you?

If you are a commenter:

Please refrain from commenting on a post until 12:00pm. If you make a comment and it happens to be during the migration process then your comment may remain on the old server without being migrated. It is rare for this to happen, but, in accordance with Murphy’s Law … it does!

If you are an author:

Please wait until 12:00pm before placing your post in drafts, otherwise it might suffer the same fate as some comments, as per above.

Also, photos in our Media Gallery, whilst remaining on the old server they will be visible in a new post (and all published posts) but will come up as a blank when the post is shared on Facebook and Twitter. Therefore, you will need to select a new image for all future posts, and not from our Media Gallery.

For everyone:

If you access The AIMN from a desktop shortcut or an icon, the link will take you to the old server. If you comment on any posts then they will be ‘invisible’ on the updated site. After 12:00pm you will need to create a new shortcut, which you can do by typing in the URL https://theaimn.com/ in the address bar then create your shortcut from there. We also recommend clearing your cache, as the web address cached will be attached to the old server. We apologise for these inconveniences.

Last but not least, if you run into any problems or have any questions please do not hesitate to contact us at theaimn@internode.on.net.

We also take this opportunity to thank you, as without you this site would not have continued to grow.

 

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The Odour of Rotten Eggs

Just after WW2 my parents settled into their new home. The stove and cooktop were powered by gas and my mother cooked with gas for the next seventy years.

I did not take much notice of the fact she cooked with gas because I regarded it as being quite normal. And today gas is a popular fuel.

When I took to gas for a barbecue after failing one day with damp wood, I realised that there are different kinds of gas, and it is necessary to know which one is which. So it was a big surprise to me that the gas which is used to power stoves and cooktops is methane.

The reason it was such a surprise was that by this time I had learned that methane is a powerful greenhouse gas. As Bob Carter tells us in his book “Taxing Air” (2011, page 92) about greenhouse gases:

“… and the most important, in order of magnitude of their overall contribution to greenhouse warming, is water vapour (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4).”

I could see how those three are closely related in the chemical formula for the burning, or oxidation, of methane: CH4 + 2O2 => CO2 + 2H2O.

There is some controversy over the role of water vapour. On the one hand clouds reduce the Sun’s radiation, reflecting the Sun’s rays back into space and act to cool the Earth. At the same time clouds absorb heat from the surface and help to warm the Earth. The temperature rise since 1970 of 0.4 of a degree C should, by chemical theory, increase water vapour in the atmosphere by 4% – which has been found to be true.

“Water vapour is the most effective greenhouse gas… responsible for 60% of the total heat absorption by the atmosphere. Increasing the global temperature increases evaporation from the ocean and so increases total water vapour.” (Tony Eggleton, “A Short Introduction to Climate Change,” Cambridge UP, 2013, pp 62-64).

“The rise in atmospheric CO2 has been inexorable… and as I write [2013] it stands at 396 ppm [in 2020, 415 ppm]; in 1750 it was 275 ppm. Another greenhouse gas (CH4, methane) has more than doubled in its atmospheric concentration.” (Eggleton, op.cit, p55).

The definition of natural gas, from Wikipedia:

“The mining and consumption of natural gas is a major and growing driver of climate change. It is a potent greenhouse gas itself when released into the atmosphere and creates carbon dioxide during oxidation. Natural gas can be efficiently burned to generate heat and electricity, emitting less waste and toxins at the point of use relative to other fossil and biomass fuels. However, gas venting and flaring, along with unintended fugitive emissions through the supply chain, can result in a similar carbon footprint …

“…While the lifetime of atmospheric methane is relatively short when compared to carbon dioxide, with a half-life of about seven years, it is more efficient in trapping heat in the atmosphere so that a given quantity of methane has 84X the global warming potential of carbon dioxide over a 20-year period and 28X over a 100-year period.

“Natural gas is thus a potent greenhouse gas due to the strong radiative forcing of methane in the short term and the continuing effects of carbon dioxide in the long term.”

The extraction of natural gas is of a technological nature. It is called ‘fracking’. It is about vertically fracturing rock at depth into the ground; sometimes horizontally as well, perhaps deep down:

“… high pressure water “fracks” the rock for release of the gas – sand and other particles added to water keep the fractures open – chemicals added to reduce friction and inhibit corrosion – frack fluid flows back to the surface with the gas, creating water with high salt content and other chemicals…

“The decades in development of drilling technology for conventional and unconventional oil and gas production has not only improved access to natural gas, but also posed significant adverse impacts on environmental and public health.” (Wikipedia).

[Which are accusations also aimed at coal]

“… carcinogenic chemicals, i.e. benzene and ethylbenzene, have been used as gelling agents in water and chemical mixtures for high volume horizontal fracking… water, chemicals and frack fluid (flowback or produced water) may contain radioactive materials, heavy metals and hydrocarbons [which cause] pollution of the water cycle [to be] recycled into other fracking operations or injected into deep underground wells – eliminating the water used in fracking from the hydrologic cycle.” (Wikipedia)

There is also the risk of explosion with gas. In the USA 1994-2013, there were 745 serious incidents with gas distribution, 275 fatalities, 1059 injuries and more than $110m property damage. (Wikipedia).

To make people aware of leaking gas, the colourless and almost odourless gas is odorised with a scent similar to rotten eggs [like hydrogen sulphide]. (Wikipedia).

“To reduce its greenhouse emissions, the Government of the Netherlands is subsidising a transition away from natural gas for all homes in the country by 2050. In Amsterdam, no new residential gas accounts are allowed as of 1 July, 2018, and all homes in the city are expected to be converted by 2040 to use the excess heat from adjacent industrial buildings and operations.” (Wikipedia)

“Based on an estimated 2015 world consumption rate of about 3400 cubic kilometres of gas per year, the total estimated remaining economically recoverable reserves of natural gas would last 250 years at current consumption rates. An annual increase of 2-3% could result in current recoverable reserves lasting significantly less, perhaps as few as 80-100 years.” (Wikipedia)

Meanwhile we use natural gas as a fuel, and for the production of fertiliser, hydrogen, animal and fish feed, fabrics, glass, steel, plastic, paint, synthetic oil…

How can we do without it?

OOO

In The Weekend Australian (27/9/2020) Chris Mitchell wrote an article (pay-walled) titled “Scott Morrison takes a hit from pundits, but he is cooking with gas.”

He discusses the “pundits” in the first two paragraphs:

“Many journalists seemed not to understand Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s support for gas-fired power generation this month.

“The ABC, the Nine newspapers and the Guardian saw Morrison’s September 14 gas announcement as a betrayal of the environment. On Sky News, backing gas was seen as betraying conservative voters. Both views are just politics.”

And of course, Murdoch writers can handle “politics”: it’s the science they have difficulty with. Mitchell tells us that many countries have been “integrating renewable into their power grids… using gas to ‘firm’ their systems as wind and solar have made generation less stable.” Luckily, he says, Australia has only been talking about slowly phasing out coal. He criticises other countries or states such as California for phasing out gas peakers which Australia is supporting, and California has been hit by blackouts as was South Australia in September 2016. No explanation, except that SA has renewables – forget the storm blowing down the powerlines.

Environmental fundamentalists, he says, are against any technology with a carbon footprint but reject nuclear power, “the best source of clean baseload electricity.”

Now we let us just pause there, because he will make that same claim again.

At Independent Australia (4/10/2020) Karl Grossman writes under the heading “Nuclear power: A gargantuan threat.” He says:

“Of the assertion that nuclear power is carbon free – that’s untrue. The nuclear fuel cycle – mining, milling, enrichment – is carbon intensive and nuclear plants themselves emit radioactive carbon 14.”

He refers to sciencedirect.com “Nuclear Fuels: Behaviour at High Burnup” citing ID Palmer in “Encyclopedia of Materials: Science and Technology,” 2002.

But Mitchell will not be fazed. He is very proud that:

“Australia is the world’s largest supplier of coal, uranium, gas.” He goes on to say we should have cheaper energy, but we “have exported power intensive manufacturing industry jobs to Asia since the introduction of the Renewable Energy Target by the then PM John Howard in 2001.”

And “the heavily subsidised renewables quickly began distorting the electricity market”:

Bob Brown refused to support Rudd; Gillard “knifed” Rudd and negotiated with the Greens to make a tax which ‘she had promised not to introduce.” [See how some things just stick in some reporting. Remember that Peta Credlin has admitted that Gillard’s “tax” was not a tax.] Ross Garnaut’s two reports to Gillard and Rudd, says Mitchell:

“… made it clear a move to renewables would take decades. Gas, 45% less carbon intensive than coal, could smooth the transmission…

“All this came to a rapid expansion in gas exports without domestic gas reservation policy to ensure cheap gas here.”

Morrison bit the bullet, says Mitchell, to build a gas plant in the Hunter to replace Liddell if no industry commits to do it before April. “Given the Californian and SA examples, Morrison’s caution looks prudent.” Yes, of course, but is it?

“Yet many in Labor,” he says, “seem to have learnt little from its defeat in resources seats at the last election.”

What Labor has learnt is how a wealthy mining magnate can trawl for preferences and interfere in an election with massive spending involving Murdoch media. What the resources seats have learnt is not clear. One can only wonder what the miners tell their children if they ask about climate change. Adani, for example, is operating at a lower level than anticipated and is at the same time making renewables. India will not import coal after 2023-4. Japan will “retire its fleet of [about 100] old, inefficient coal-fired generation by 2030 (theconversation.com, 28/8/2020). In China, there is talk of more coal-powered stations. “This is despite significant overcapacity in the sector, with more than half of coal-power firms already loss-making and with typical plants running at less than 50% of their capacity… with a target to peak its CO2 emissions no later than 2030.” (carbonbrief.org, “Will China build hundreds of new coal plants in the 2020s?” 24/3/2020).

“The world is not walking away from coal,” says Mitchell. And so Mitchell himself and Greg Sheridan have been saying that Australia could walk away from the Paris Accord, as Trump has done. Tony Abbott actually signed Australia up to the Paris Accord with a pledge of 26-28% carbon reduction – upon which he later reneged from the back bench.

“Much reporting about coal is wrong,” says Mitchell:

“… This raises another favoured Morrison option: carbon capture and storage.” And this is necessary “because emissions would always continue… Finkel said no one was talking about zero emissions but rather ‘zero net emissions’. In other words, business as usual, with emissions buried in the ground. Good luck with that. Just sweep it under the carpet.

“… Morrison today confronts a green lobby wanting zero emissions now, even though the technology does not yet exist outside nuclear,” says Mitchell.  “Fear on the right will say Australia should quit Paris, nor admit the popularity of renewables with voters…

“In the face of this, Morrison has reached a pragmatic solution.”

But, of course, a Coalition “pragmatic solution” does not necessarily mean a scientifically sound solution. Scientists have been warning the governments of the world for decades about climate change. The evidence of its continuing impact is all around us. And only now the Coalition is putting coal aside somewhat and linking gas with renewables as if they had invented it themselves. Mitchell said much reporting about coal is wrong. Remember how renewables were ridiculed by the Coalition, and now the Coalition is agreeing to a marriage of renewables with sacred gas.

OOO

Nick Cater also had something to say about gas in his article “Gas is fracking hell to protesters” (The Australian, 20/10/2020):

“In fact, the traditional owners of the sparsely populated land have given their blessing to this and other projects. Under the agreements painstakingly brokered by the Northern Land Council, they will receive a percentage of revenue.”

However, GetUp! is asking for a “weekly contribution to establish a Solidarity Fund to support Traditional Owners in their fight against fracking” in the Beetaloo Basin 600 kms south of Darwin. The promise of fracking, according to Cater, is that Darwin will become an expanding metropolis.

Fracking has made great strides in its technology, says Cater: slick water, water and sand and small quantities of household chemicals to open microscopic cracks, ability to drill around corners for several kilometres, and technology to transport liquid gas economically.

The skeletal, tiny quantities of chemicals used in extraction as described by Cater, along with transport of large quantities of gas overseas, seem incompatible with the details given in the Wikipedia “Natural Gas” information (see above).

Cater is very confident that “Beetaloo by rights, should be the green movement’s Waterloo, the moment when the progress it has been trying to halt tramples it underfoot.” The end of the Greens? Wishful thinking.

Cater believes:

“… the science behind fracking is well established – a three year CSIRO study – no impact on air or water quality – standard water treatment techniques reduce levels of geogenic chemicals, within acceptable limits – water recovered to its pre-fractured state within 40 days.”

However, on the abc.net.au site “CSIRO fracking research ‘doesn’t pass the pub test’, expert says” by George Roberts, the CSIRO research is under scrutiny.

“The research was conducted by the Gas Industry Social and Economic Research Alliance (GISERA), which is a joint research venture that includes the CSIRO and major gas companies… in the Surat Basin, Queensland.

“An environmental scientist from Queensland’s Griffith University, Emeritus Professor Ian Lowe, said that the sample size ‘doesn’t pass the pub test’.

“Six [wells] is just too small a sample out of 19,000 wells to have any confidence in the results,” Professor Lowe said.

“The second and more problem is that the wells weren’t chosen randomly; they were chosen by the industry and the industry has a vested interest in looking good.

“Australian Institute spokesman said it was not representative of CSG in Queensland … What we’ve got is a situation where the gas industry is funding and overseeing research and then that research is being used to influence decisions made at all levels of government.”

Cater also seems to think Indigenous people will gain, from mining, “a percentage of revenue.” How much is not clear. Mining can be a profitable occupation, although the number of people actually employed in mining is not large.

In “Quarterly Essay” #79 Judith Brett replies to correspondents to her “Quarterly Essay” #78 entitled “The Coal Curse: Resources, Climate and Australia’s future.” Having written about Rio Tinto’s destruction of the Juukan Gorge in Western Australia, she says this:

“Likely there will be changes to Western Australia’s heritage legislation, and mining companies will be more careful in their consultations, but there will be no fundamental shift in the power imbalance between Indigenous owners and miners, nor between Indigenous understandings of the land as sentient  and imbued with ancestral power and settler capitalism’s view of it as a resource for economic exploitation.”

She goes on to quote from Dr Kathryn Pryzwolnik, speaking at the Senate inquiry about another group of Indigenous Pilbara owners:

“‘Within two generations, Eastern Guruma people have seen their country change from a remote place teeming with wildlife, fresh water and unbroken sacred narratives that networked through the Pilbara, to a heavily industrialised hub, now dissected by railways, dry and devoid of animals. Ring-fencing sacred sites won’t restore the Eastern Guruma people’s country.”

In Chapter 12, “The State of the Reef II”, in her book “The Carbon Club” (A & U, 2020), Marian Wilkinson discusses the Curtis Island project opposite Gladstone Port, Queensland, 2010-2013. Following is a condensation of pp205-219 from this chapter.

“Before the election of 2010, on Environment Minister Peter Garrett’s desk was a proposal for the Curtis Island project which was a $16bn LNG plant proposal by Santos and foreign partners and a $15bn proposal by British Gas (just two of four LNG plants including Origin with partner Conoco Phillips, and Shell with a Chinese partner).

Queensland’s Labor government backed the project and had signed most of the state approvals.

Garrett was not sure about the proposal at Gladstone, especially with regard to largescale dredging near the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The Gladstone Ports Corporation had planned to move up to 42m cubic metres of dredge spoil to be retained behind an 8-kilometre wall opposite the island in Gladstone Harbour.

Doubts had already been expressed by the Chairman of the Reef’s Marine Park Authority.

In federal cabinet, Wayne Swan, Martin Ferguson and Tony Burke, Gillard’s new Environment minister, supported it. The government informed the World Heritage Committee in Paris only after a press conference revealed the plan.

There was already a big coal port export terminal and a nearby alumina refinery. But the dredging could have serious environmental consequences. Burke imposed many new environmental regulations to reassure the GBRMPA.

May 2011, Julia Gillard and Anna Bligh, Queensland’s Labor premier, launched the first LNG plant construction site. They spoke of jobs and a ‘new gas age’. Bligh said: “Gas is a cleaner and lower emissions fuel than coal and it will be an important part of the region’s transition to clean energy.”

But exporting gas increased overall energy consumption and would not bring down global emissions – slow it at best. Gas prices soared and liquefying gas increased emissions in Australia.

The WHC was more worried about the dredging. Soon after the dredging commenced, fish and other marine creatures showed signs of stress and infection. Some officials blamed recent floods. A WHC investigation questioned the management of the Reef and in June 2012 considered putting the Reef on the ‘in danger’ list.

Labor lost the state election in March 2012, won by Campbell Newman, who said: “We are in the coal business. If you want decent hospitals, schools and police on the beat, we all need to understand that.”

The fossil fuels industry was powering on. No one seemed to seriously question the idea that Australia could export fossil fuels for decades to come. A high priority was given to coal mining in the Galilee Basin in Central Queensland. But we would need bigger ports near the Great Barrier Reef to ship the fossil fuels.

In 2013 a WHC report was clear that further warming would be catastrophic for the Reef.

The major parties wanted Australia to be the major exporter of coal and gas.  But there was a growing resistance to the carbon economy, including from the coral reef expert Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, branded an “alarmist” for reporting the climate threat to the Reef.

Marian Wilkinson’s chapter 12 is important for understanding why critics knew what was wrong with Morrison’s cooking with gas. There is no indication about how long Morrison thinks Australia can sustain “cooking with gas”. Critics have come to understand that climate change is real; it is a scientific matter, not just a matter of “politics”. It is being accepted more and more by some 80% of the population in polls.

Besides that, the experience of Labor, as depicted in that chapter 12, shows us some of the concerns and decisions made in the time of Labor’s last federal term in office. Labor supported, for example, the Curtis Island project, although there was some uncertainty, despite their strong green legislation attempting to ensure success. There was uncertainty about the industrial growth around Gladstone harbour, the dredging in the Harbour and the threat of dumped dredging in the Great Barrier Reef. Dredging created terrible disfiguring effects on fish and other marine creatures in the Harbour. The World Heritage Committee threatened to put the Reef on the “in danger list”. Exporting more from Gladstone would need enlargement of the Harbour and more dredging. The election of the Campbell LNP state government promoted coal even more as a necessary commodity – and now gas as well, its exportation adding to energy costs in Australia.

In chapter 13 of the same book, Wilkinson shows how Tony Abbott, having gained power in part by an attack on Gillard’s “carbon tax” which was not a tax, set about destroying all institutes or ministries which had anything to with climate change, which he described as ‘crap’. He also appeased the WHC by promising not to dump dredgings in the Reef Marine Park and to sign up for a low emissions target of 26-28% at the Paris Agreement, an agreement he reneged on when he was banished to the back bench.

More recently, the Paris Agreement has implications for Australia. Wilkinson explains in her book “The Carbon Club” (p265):

“For Australia the implications of the Paris Agreement were profound. It sent a signal that coal-fired power was on the way out…

“For Australia’s carbon-intensive economy and its lucrative coal export business, this was the fork in the road. If the Paris Agreement held, state and federal governments would need to step up plans to retrain or retire thousands of workers in coal-fired power plants. It meant transforming Australia’s energy market. It meant shrinking thermal coal exports and finding new jobs for miners if there was going to be a just transition. It meant transforming greenhouse-gas-intensive industries like aluminium, steel and cement. It meant setting serious vehicle emission standards, switching to electric vehicles, and scaling back emissions from liquefied natural gas and livestock production.

Australia would also have to bump up its weak 2030 target of 26-28% cut in emissions.”

So, what has Angus Taylor presented as a “roadmap” to address these matters?

“Energy Minister Angus Taylor to reveal Australia’s new ‘roadmap’ to guide $18bn of Commonwealth investment towards five priority technologies: hydrogen, carbon capture and storage, soil carbon, storage options and ‘low carbon’ steel and aluminium production.”

He said:

“Australia can’t and shouldn’t damage its economy to reduce emissions… Emerging and enabling technologies will be included in the mandates of our technological investment agencies…Over time they may become priorities for us or they may drop off altogether.” (Melissa Clarke, abc.net.au. 21/9/2020, updated 23/9/2020)

It is a vague and uncoordinated mishmash, with gaps and anomalies and unexplained costs in need of clarification.

Proven technologies, such as solar “are not the focus of the roadmap,” said Taylor. But these technologies, solar and wind, are exactly what need to be developed and organised into a coherent grid or series of regional grids through transmission. There is clearly no real support for renewables in Taylor’s roadmap. Nor is merely leaving it all to the market or industry the answer. (See Mark Diesendorf, the conversation.com, 23/9/2020, “Angus Taylor’s technology roadmap is fundamentally flawed”).

Perhaps we could even make Australia an energy superpower. (See Roger Dargaville, theconversation.com, 5/12/2018, “Making Australia a renewable energy exporting super power”).

The present Federal Government is not looking far or wide enough to really grapple with the energy scene. It is far too attached to its conservative, ideological roadblock from the past. It is a real danger for the health of our economy, the people, and, ultimately, the world.

Gas might be used as a transmission to a net carbon-free zone. But we must wonder how long we can keep burning carbon. The clock is ticking and we have been procrastinating. Time for bipartisan targeted action is needed yesterday. Time to face the reality of climate change with action. No point cooking the world with gas. We need a plan with a time frame of the kind other countries are offering. We are all in this together in the pandemic, and we are as well with regard to climate change. There is no exceptionalism or privilege allowed. There is no Planet B.

Fortunately, States are taking the initiative and setting the example for the Federal Government.

 

Image from thegladcafe.co.uk

 

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How about some honesty?

By 2353NM  

The last weekend in October would have been a pretty horrible time for Victorians. First on Saturday they found out that Mike Brady can sing ‘Up there Cazaly’ without 100,000 of his closest friends around him at the MCG. To add insult to injury, the ‘backing band’ was the Queensland Symphony Orchestra who made their contribution from Brisbane. On Sunday, Victorian Premier Dan Andrews delayed for a few days the ‘major’ lifting of COVID-19 restrictions in metro Melbourne as flagged for Sunday during the week leading up to October 25. Andrews must have known that he was going to come in for a grilling by all and sundry. It didn’t stop him standing there at his now traditional press conference (it was well over 100 daily ‘appearances’ by then) and answered all the genuine questions to the best of his ability while he discussed the reasons for the decision.

In comparison, recently the Coalition Government announced that the NBN Network around Australia would be subject to additional work so that the speed and reliability would be increased. For those that came in late, the NBN was a Rudd Government initiative to have fibre optic communications cable linking the vast majority of properties in Australia. When Tony Abbott became Prime Minister, the NBN plan was changed with the claim that the fibre to the premises model was too expensive for Australia and there was no real need for better than ADSL levels of speed on the internet. With Abbott making statements like this

“Do we really want to invest $50 billion of hard earned taxpayers money in what is essentially a video entertainment system?”
— Press conference, 20 December, 2010

“[We] are absolutely confident that 25 megs is going to be enough, more than enough, for the average household.”
— Joint press conference, 9 April, 2013.

What else did we expect? The emasculation of the NBN network under Abbott was a cabinet decision and a number of the current Coalition Ministers were in the Abbott Ministry.

While anyone is entitled to change their mind based on new evidence, when the Morrison Government announced that they were prepared to reconfigure parts of the NBN to closely resemble the original Rudd Government vision, did Morrison (who was in the Abbott Cabinet) front up, admit the mistake and discuss with members of the media why the apparent backflip was going to occur? Of course not. The Communications Minister went along to the National Press Club on his behalf.

While the Communication Minister mumbled something about return on investment and cash flows — it’s pretty obvious that the ALP’s plan to ‘do it right, do it once and do it with fibre’ would have been cheaper in the long term. We don’t know the real reason why Morrison and his Ministry changed their minds — they might have observed the issues around usage of the NBN in the pandemic or they might have been ashamed by Australia continually dropping down the quality and speed of broadband service rankings. For all we know the real reason Morrison hasn’t been up front with Australia is that he may want to bring his ideological Pentecostal mate Stuart Robert back into cabinet and ensure that Robert can get good broadband services in the Gold Coast Hinterland (and not be caught out spending $2,000 a month on a wireless connection this time around). Regardless, the initial $50 billion for the Rudd version of the NBN looks cheap now in the middle of a recession.

Mathias Cormann has recently resigned as a Senator. He was appointed to the role of Finance Minister in all three versions of the current Coalition Government and held the position until his retirement. The Abbott Government reversed the former Gillard ALP Government’s carbon emissions reduction program, which has effectively meant that Australia has gone from one of the front runners in management of carbon emissions, which are having a serious detrimental impact on the world’s environment, to one of the laggards. As Katherine Murphy discussed recently in The Guardian

The record shows the finance minister was opposed to the Liberal party supporting emissions trading in the absence of a global agreement when Malcolm Turnbull was shown the door by colleagues the first time in 2009.

Cormann prosecuted the Coalition’s opposition to the “carbon tax” in media interviews and on social media. Cormann then moved against Turnbull in 2018 when the Liberal party was again convulsed by a policy that would have mandated a not very ambitious level of emissions reduction in the energy sector — although more recent events are multifactorial.

Murphy’s article discusses with some disbelief

Startlingly, at the start of the week, Cormann told a conference organised by the German government he was on board with a green recovery

If you were inclined to being droll, you might say Cormann broke out his inner green girlie man. The pandemic, he said, created “opportunities like the pursuit of an inclusive and future-focused recovery, including a green recovery with an increased reliance on renewables, improved energy efficiency, addressing climate change and accelerating the transition to a lower-emissions future.”

While Cormann’s position might have changed (which won’t hurt his job prospects with the OECD either), surely he has an obligation to tell Australians why there is a complete about face once he has left the Coalition Government.

Politics in Australia is claimed to be managed according to the Westminster system based on practices in the UK. The Ministry for any particular government relies on the concept of solidarity and collective decision making. The tradition in Westminster Parliaments such as Australia’s is if you are a member of the Ministry and can’t abide by a decision, you resign your Ministry. It should be noted that no Minister publicly did so throughout the Abbott Prime Ministership.

So who has the honesty here? Morrison or Cormann don’t have the intestinal fortitude to front up, admit they or others in their circle of influence have either been influenced by new evidence or have played politics with our collective futures. While Andrews may have made some mistakes, he fronts up, admits the problem and discusses how they will fix it, despite the obvious shellacking he will receive as a result.

And the Coalition wonder why Andrews is still popular.

What do you think?

This article was originally published on The Political Sword

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