Sunday, 13 December 2009

How industry will redirect to Australia

In today’s Sydney Morning Herald, eminent climate scientist Guy Pearse points how how China’s action on climate change is putting the Rudd Government to shame and that Rudd is being heavily influenced by the notion that Australia can burn coal more cheaply than any other nation. His point that China is
“closing down inefficient ones at the extraordinary rate of Victoria’s Loy Yang B power station every three weeks. Chinese coal-fired power generation is already cleaner than ours”
and that
“China is also investing in renewables at twice the rate we are per unit of GDP”
This is the most utter shame for a nation whose per capita carbon emissions should be set, even by fiat decree, at no more than one twentieth the world average and probably as little as one-hundredth.

In terms of climatic and ecological impact, Australia should merely to be a member of the international community rather than an absolute pariah state to have by far the best public transport in the world and utterly rigid laws against any private ownership of motorised transport or transformation of bushland to mining or farming uses.

The problem, which is still not grasped by anybody, is that in spite of the cheap labour costs of Asian nations today, this cheapness cannot last simply because they have relative to Australia a very limited supply of land for a very large population. If we exclude the areas under (mostly discontinuous) permafrost, China has about the same supply of land as Australia, but most of it is steep, so that it has fifty times the population on half as much or less usable land. India is worse, with the same population on probably half as much usable land as China.

Australia’s surfeit of land naturally pushes down the cost of farming and ultimately of living in general, with the result that at an “equal” level of development the dollar or other currency unit goes much further in Australia than anywhere else. As I have said many times, this eliminates the incentive to innovate, but that lack of incentive for innovation makes for much more favourable conditions for family development, which as has been noted tend to breed an extremely conservative culture. In the context of Australia’s need for extraordinarily high environmental standards, this problem of a pacified majority in spacious housing is made worse by a powerful car and fossil fuel lobby linked as a “greenhouse mafia” and able to dictate to politicians what they may do – which quite simply cannot correspond with the ecological need to be by far the smallest per capita energy comsumer in the world.

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