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Tag Archives: Infrastructure Australia

New EPA rules are a breath of fresh air

By Dr Anthony Horton

As part of the Obama Administration’s push to implement stricter environmental regulations, the US Government has announced a nationwide ground level ozone limit of 70 ppb. As the ground level ozone concentrations across the US are so variable, the 70 ppb limit will be introduced as early as 2020 in some regions and by 2037 in others.

The 70 ppb limit was determined following an EPA review which included more than 1,000 published studies since the last review in 2008. The ultimate aim of the revised limit is to significantly improve public health protection which will result in fewer premature deaths and lower reported absence from school and work. The EPA estimates that the benefit could be in the order of $3-6 billion per year in a decade, outweighing the compliance cost of $1.4 billion.

Ground level ozone is formed as a result of a series of chemical reactions involving a variety of sources including vehicle traffic and industrial areas. It is known to affect the respiratory system and to result in individuals having difficulty breathing and suffering airway inflammation. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy stated that the limit provided protection for people that are susceptible to the effects of air pollution and that it was the EPA’s job to set science based standards that facilitate that protection.

It could be said that ozone is one pollutant struggling to gain and maintain attention in the face of the extensive discussion of greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. Ozone is symptomatic of cities with rapidly growing populations, a reliance on cars as the primary weekday mode of transport and Governments that lack the political will to tackle traffic congestion and to require industry to move towards best practice emissions control technology and ensuring that environmental monitoring is conducted appropriately as per operating licence conditions.

The EPA is to be applauded for revising the ozone limit from an environmental as well as health perspective, as ozone is a significant pollutant in city areas around the world. However, as significant as ozone is, it is important to recognise that there is more to the ozone phenomena than identifying sources and reducing emissions from those sources using a range of mechanisms or regulatory instruments.

An appreciation of the local weather conditions (eg. seasonal temperatures and predominant/prevailing wind directions) is obviously important, as the prevailing wind directions throughout the year will influence in what direction and how far those emissions travel and where they will ultimately impact the community.

In May this year Infrastructure Australia highlighted the need for significant investment to avoid potentially crippling congestion in Australian cities, with Sydney home to seven of the worst road corridors in the country. Their report put the price of congestion as $13.74 billion in 2011 and estimated that the price by 2031 could be as much as $53 billion.

The report discussed a number of roads that require urgent attention in order to underpin Australia’s productivity and employment growth going forward, and a number of initiatives including the use of tolls and other pricing.

I can’t help but wonder the extent to which ozone concentrations could increase between now and 2031 in Australian cities under the scenario painted in the Infrastructure Australia report. By extension I wonder what the cost of these higher ozone concentrations in terms of health and lost productivity would be, and why this wasn’t looked into either as part of this report. Based on the ever increasing knowledge with regards to the health impacts of air pollution and the increasing level of interest from the general public as evidenced by scanning social media, I believe strongly that it should be discussed in Australia.

Granted we probably have more than our fair share of blue skies in Australia compared to some other countries, however that shouldn’t be a reason not to raise the issue of ozone and other air pollutants. Many pollutants are formed as a result of complex reactions in the atmosphere and may not be detectable by the naked eye, however that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be investigated or aren’t as potentially (or even more) harmful than the pollutants we may be able to see.

The recent Volkswagen revelations that spread rapidly around the world may be the catalyst that promotes a discussion of air pollution. From my perspective it is difficult to see how an issue that is receiving as much attention as it is would not prompt people to think about where those emissions end up-ultimately in the air around and above them, and, given that we breathe that air, what the cost of breathing that air may be. I for one would most definitely welcome that discussion.

This article was originally published on The Climate Change Guy.

rWdMeee6_pe About the author: Anthony Horton holds a PhD in Environmental Science, a Bachelor of Environmental Science with Honours and a Diploma of Carbon Management. He has a track record of delivering customised solutions in Academia, Government, the Mining Industry and Consulting based on the latest wisdom and his scientific background and experience in Climate/Atmospheric Science and Air Quality. Anthony’s work has been published in internationally recognised scientific journals and presented at international and national conferences, and he is currently on the Editorial Board of the Journal Nature Environment and Pollution Technology. Anthony also blogs on his own site, The Climate Change Guy.


Tony Abbott builds: a road

image The Liberals went to the election with a few slogans; they would cut the waste, they would then start to build things with this being achieved by “cutting the waste”. This according to yet more sloganeering, would be Real Solutions.

Sparse indeed were questions from our mainstream media such as which waste? And what are your alternatives? But most especially how are you, the Liberals planning to pay for extreme policies such as $75,000 for millionaire moms? A few dollars saved by sacking a swag load of government employees served as window dressing; populist in the extreme.

A cynic might suggest that if you have few policies to implement, then you don’t need nearly as many people to do the non-existent work.

Goals were to cancel, demolish, defer and ultimately to do very little whatsoever.

However as “waste” seems to be a priority, here is but one example of Abbott’s idea of waste:

The Coalition will also begin unwinding key “nanny state” agencies such as the Australian National Preventative Health Agency, established to lead the national fight against obesity, alcohol abuse and tobacco use.

Comment from “Livsh”:

“That’s not the half of it . . . there are a large number of other pretty bloody essential agencies that are up for the chop.

Including the flaming AIHW . . . this blows my mind, how the HELL are we supposed to improve the health of Australians if we DON’T KNOW WHAT THEIR HEALTH STATUS IS NOW”.

If one discounts Abbott’s Liberals and assorted barrackers in mainstream, once in a rare while there appears a few who are prepared to seriously look at issues – who are prepared to look at policy not politics. As such, Ross Gittins quotes Ian McAuley, an economist at the University of Canberra:

McAuley argues that, after another round of good luck with the resources boom, we need to secure our long-term prosperity by building a more resilient economy.

McAuley suggests:

”Capital in the form of a row of machines or a fleet of trucks is less important than the capital in the form of ideas, skills and education, capacities to communicate and to work with others – human capital, in other words. It is the knowledge worker who is emerging as the capitalist of our day, but we are a long way from recognising this.”

”We pay far too little attention to our human capital. We still see education expenditure as an expense, or even as a welfare entitlement. And we pay even less attention to our environmental, social and institutional capital.”

Ross Gittins adds, “It’s hard to imagine Abbott has any of these in his field of vision”.

To date Tony Abbott’s investment in human capital has consisted of the promised sacking of tens of thousands of public servants, including those who work in close collaboration with enlisted defence personnel, promises of cuts in funding to universities, under the guise of what he perceives to be “futile research”. The latter in spite of Abbott’s previous statement that he “gets it”, that he gets the idea of universities being “an independent community of scholars“.

Tony Abbott: “Well intentioned outsiders should not be trying to micromanage universities . . .”. Yet hypocritically, it will be he, Tony Abbott who decides that which constitutes “wasteful research”. As reported by University World News,

Australia’s new Prime Minister Tony Abbott, elected in a landslide victory in Saturday’s election, has promised to reverse many of the policies implemented by the defeated Labor government over the past six years – including those intended to lessen the impact of climate change.

The National Tertiary Education Union condemned the plan, with president Jeannie Rea describing it as “a direct attack on the academic freedom of researchers working in Australian universities”, a far cry from Abbott’s pre-election promise that “he gets it”.

The answer came to Tony in a mere flash, and that answer was . . . ROADS!

This was in spite of Abbott stating that all projects would be “in close collaboration with Infrastructure Australia”.

We will require all Commonwealth-funded projects worth more than $100 million to undergo a cost-benefit analysis by Infrastructure Australia to ensure the best use of available taxpayer monies.

For Tony, trains are bad:

TONY Abbott has slapped down Denis Napthine, insisting the states will have to fund their own commuter rail infrastructure and leave nation building projects to the commonwealth . . . he rejected Dr Napthine’s claim he had softened his position on funding public transport infrastructure such as the Metro tunnel.

But on the other hand, roads are good:

ROADS are “good for the environment” because cars are able to work efficiently, Tony Abbott has declared while pledging financial support for the Gateway Motorway extension in northern Brisbane.

Roads are not just good, they’re super-splendid:

  • “Better roads means better communities; better roads are good for our economy; they’re good for our society,” he said.
  • “They’re good for our physical and mental health.
  • “They’re even good for the environment because cars that are moving spew out far less pollution than cars that are standing still.”

Roads doubtless also make your whites whiter than white and also act as a preventative for many known causes of tooth decay.

It’s as if Tony Abbott believes that by the Liberals returning to power, this will in itself, solve most of our problems. Build a road, and everything will be fine again. Education, health and indeed our entire human capital are going to rank lowly with this, an Abbott-led government.

At least ‘building a road’ is a policy. Let’s see if he builds it.

Do try to keep up, Tony.

From today’s South Coast Register in their thrilling article Abbott show rolls into town we read these wise words from Tony himself:

“Well, in the case of the Federal Government we are going to have this organisation, Infrastructure Australia, which will do its best to rationally and as scientifically as you can look at various infrastructure projects and rank the best on public cost benefit – then all levels of governments will be able to fund what they choose to be the one that makes most sense.”

Someone needs to point out that:

Infrastructure Australia is a statutory body, established under the Infrastructure Australia Act 2008 which came into effect on 9 April 2008.

Infrastructure Australia advises governments, investors and infrastructure owners on a wide range of issues. These include:

  • Australia’s current and future infrastructure needs
  • mechanisms for financing infrastructure investments, and
  • policy, pricing and regulation and their impacts on investment and on the efficiency of the delivery, operation and use of national infrastructure networks.

Infrastructure Australia’s focus is on assisting Australian governments to develop a strategic blueprint for unlocking infrastructure bottlenecks and to modernise the nation’s economic infrastructure.

Infrastructure Australia reports regularly to the Council of Australian Governments through the Federal Minister for Infrastructure and Transport.

It has only been a statutory body for five years, doing what Tony says he will do.

Do try to keep up, mate.

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