Friday, December 26, 2008

More on Tillegra Dam

Greg Ray over at the Herald has a good piece on the farce that is the Tillegra Dam project.

Central Coast and Tillegra
23/12/2008 9:18:00 AM
IT is beyond doubt that water supply authorities on the Central Coast wanted Tillegra Dam to be built.

The coast's WaterPlan 2050, its blueprint for long-term water security, lists the dam as the first among a range of options to drought-proof the region.

By unexpectedly announcing the dam in November 2006, when the coast's drought was dire and reserves were under 15 per cent, the NSW Government was giving the Central Coast what it wanted and playing good politics in the lead-up to an election.

For some months the Hunter had been piping large amounts of water to the coast but there were limits to what it could supply. Tillegra, previously considered a future option if Hunter water demand grew vigorously, promised to remove those limits, drought-proofing both regions for many, many decades.

Now, however, the Central Coast has changed its mind.

Gosford Mayor Chris Holstein has conceded that Tillegra was the coast's preferred option, but this changed in May 2007 when the Federal Government also in election mode unexpectedly promised $80 million to build a pipeline from the Wyong River to the Central Coast's Mangrove Creek Dam.

The pipeline made Tillegra redundant from the coast's point of view, especially since coast users would have been paying top dollar for Tillegra water.

Having trumpeted the Central Coast benefits when it announced the dam, the State Government is now shrugging off the Central Coast's change of heart, promising the marginal seat voters that they won't have to pay a penny towards Tillegra.

Not only that, the Government's decision to exempt property developers from contributing to the dam's cost through levies means Hunter Water's budget for the project is up in the air.

The only option left to finance Tillegra is to crank up the water bills of existing Hunter Water customers who are already facing a massive increase in bills over the next four years.

This hardly seems fair. At the time the dam was announced it was clear that the Central Coast was intended to be a beneficiary. If the coast hadn't been in drought it is debatable whether the announcement would have occurred.

The Government helped make this mess and it should not leave Hunter residents to clean up on their own.

So when is the State Government and Hunter Water going to call off this expensive farce? Lower Hunter residents have been milked ever since the user pays system came in (though there's nothing wrong with the user pays system just where the money ends up) and look like being hit again. I'm just glad I'm not in Hunter Water's juristiction, that and I'm soon to move somewhere with around 50 000 litres of water storage (and only needing 100-150mm of rain to fill them).

As has been pointed out it would be cheaper to install rainwater tanks at every house in Hunter Water's area.

Friday, December 12, 2008

And now for some good news: Motorcycles save the world!

Well not entirely but it does tie together a couple of my major interests.

Stolen from here.

Retrofitting for the environment

Every day at dawn, Angel Raqueno gets on his motorised tricycle with its shaky side-car and criss-crosses the narrow paved streets of Vigan, a small, picturesque tourist city 400 kilometres north of Manila, capital of the Philippines. Long ago, he had begun studying electronics, but he gave it up to take up taxi-driving to support his family. For the past 18 years, he has driven passengers through the city’s 39 barangays (districts) ten hours a day, six days a week. But, for Raqueno, worse than the long hours on the road is the blueish smoke emitted by the 3,000 other tricycles providing transport for tourists and locals around this 16th-century architectural gem: if you are stuck in traffic behind one of these vehicles, the air is almost unbreathable.

According to the 2006 Philippine Environment Monitor published by the World Bank, atmospheric pollution causes 15,000 deaths in the country every year. Related health costs represent US$19 million a year, and loss of earnings amount to $134 million. The World Health Organization reports that atmospheric pollution across Asia is responsible for 537,000 deaths a year. The transport sector contributes significantly to this: most of the 100 million tricycles, tuk-tuks, auto-rickshaws and trishaws – symbols of tourism and urban mobility – that clog up Asian cities from New Delhi to Manila are equipped with two-stroke engines – each of them causing as much pollution as 50 cars.

Tim Bauer decided that the solution could be found at the heart of the problem. Since 2006, this 31-year-old American mechanical engineer has been distributing a kit that makes it easy to transform the engines on these vehicles into direct fuel-injection mechanisms, thereby reducing the pollution they produce. Carrying out tests in a laboratory and in Filipino garages for many months, it took him and his team every ounce of ingenuity they could muster to disentangle all the technical, economic and socio-cultural intricacies. The result has earned Tim Bauer a Rolex Award.

In the Philippines, about 1.8 million tricycle drivers have to face appalling traffic conditions for long hours every day in order to transport their passengers on congested thoroughfares, roads flooded by torrential rain or riddled with deep potholes. When neither cars nor buses can get through, a tricycle will always find a way. These all-purpose vehicles provide cheap transport for tourists, but, on a far larger scale, to thousands of people who use them to earn a living, get to work, school, the market or church. “They play an essential role in the social and economic fabric,” Bauer says. “But their impact on public health is disastrous.”
In Europe and the United States, two-stroke engines are relegated to powered grass trimmers and chainsaws. But in the Philippines they are used on 94 per cent of motorcycles; in India, Pakistan and Thailand, the figure is between 50 and 90 per cent. For Tim Bauer, it is easy to see why: “A two-stroke engine is a beautiful thing. It's reliable, robust, powerful and so simple that drivers can repair it themselves, which is very important for people who earn only about $5 daily. But there's a problem: up to 40 per cent of the fuel and oil exit the engine unburned.” This leads to substantial emissions of oxides of carbon, nitrogen and sulphur, hydrocarbons and fine dust, making them one of the main sources of air pollution in the Philippines archipelago.

In 2003, the Filipino government tried to phase out these vehicles and replace them with motorcycles with four-stroke engines, which are less polluting, but cost about $1,500, the equivalent of a tricycle driver’s annual income. The authorities were forced to back down when faced with a general outcry from drivers and the vast network of mechanics and sellers of spare parts depending on them. “The challenge was to find a solution that would allow the drivers to keep their means of subsistence,” says Bauer. “The constraint was thus to keep the two-stroke and start from it.”

The direct injection kit began to take shape in 2000, in the Engines and Energy Conservation Lab – a spin-off of Colorado State University (USA) directed by Professor Bryan Willson – which Tim Bauer joined in 1997 during his mechanical engineering studies. Bauer, then aged 24, and his colleague Nathan Lorenz were leading a team of students in a research project on the application of direct injection to the snowmobiles of Yellowstone National Park. Bauer immediately saw the potential of this technology for reducing polluting emissions and, at the end of his studies in 2004, instead of applying for a more lucrative job in the aerospace industry, he and Lorenz decided to do their utmost to develop a commercially viable product and make it widely available in Asia.

But getting from North American snowmobiles to Filipino tricycles required inventiveness and global awareness. “I became aware of air pollution at an early age,” Bauer remembers. “I lived for some time in Saudi Arabia as a kid, and from there I visited Bangkok and Hong Kong with my parents. This is where I saw and felt two-stroke pollution for the first time. It made a lasting impression on me.”

The ”retrofit” consists of a simple but effective mechanical change. “In a two-stroke, when the piston goes down it uncovers both the exhaust port, where the combustion products are forced, and the fuel and oil intake port. This means that a lot of the oil and fuel mixture is directly washed out in the exhaust stream,” explains Tim Bauer. “In a direct-injection system, fuel is injected into the cylinder later in the cycle, when the exhaust port is closed by the piston, thus greatly reducing the amount of unburned fuel that is allowed to escape.”

The kit can be installed in two to four hours and reduces particulate emissions by roughly 70 per cent and emissions of carbon monoxide (CO) by 76 per cent, hydrocarbons by 89 per cent and carbon dioxide (CO2) by 35 per cent. The kit also eliminates the blueish smoke in the exhaust, and oil consumption is reduced by 50 per cent and petrol consumption by 35 per cent – the equivalent of around 450 litres of petrol a year per kit. This makes the engine cleaner than a simple carburetted four-stroke, and for the driver it means a saving of around $3 a day or over $1,000 a year, almost doubling his salary. This extra income is put to use straight away. “Drivers often give the money to their wife for her to invest – many families have a small convenience store. Or they use it to pay for their children's schooling or studies,” says Tim Bauer.

To keep down the cost of manufacturing the kit – currently $350 – Tim Bauer and Nathan Lorenz used off-the-shelf components: “We have simply adapted as many components as possible from an existing direct-injection system and developed other components (i.e. custom cylinder head, wiring harness, bracketry, etc) that could be used on the most popular motorcycle models in Asia. One-third of the 30 parts of the kit are produced in the Philippines.”

In October 2003, in order to further develop, commercialize and distribute the kit, Bauer and three of his colleagues founded a non-profit organization, Envirofit, which now has over 20 employees, half of them based in the Philippines. In December 2005, Envirofit signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Vigan City Council, thereby gaining its official support. The following year, it published a troubleshooting manual, translated into Tagalog, one of the main languages of the Philippines, and Ilocano, the language spoken in Vigan. Bauer, who travels to the Philippines five times a year, has also organized about 15 training workshops and seminars in Vigan and Puerto Princesa, two seaside tourist cities with no major industry, where tricycles contribute significantly to atmospheric pollution. Twenty or more drivers and mechanics have attended each workshop so far. “We have developed the kit so it is easy to install, even by non-certified mechanics,” Bauer explains. “But we had to convince them that the common idea, according to which the more visible smoke you have, the more powerful your engine is, is wrong. As there is no smoke with the kit, they thought that we were hiding it with some kind of chemicals!”

However, purchasing the kit represents a major investment for a tricycle driver. So Bauer and his team launched a microcredit programme, in collaboration with the Nueva Segovia cooperative bank, which collects repayments on the loans. “Microcredit is essential to ensure a sustainable impact to our action. Drivers earn money daily, so it's easy for them to pay back their loan and 90 per cent of them do it in less than a year.”

By August 2008, more than 260 drivers in Vigan and Puerto Princesa have fitted their taxis with a kit and have driven a total of 5.2 million kilometres. With the funds from his Rolex Award, Bauer now wants to further develop the market in these cities and surrounding regions as a stepping stone to distributing the kit more widely in the Philippines and beyond, particularly Pakistan, India, Indonesia and Sri Lanka where millions of autorickshaws could easily be retrofitted.

Besides the kit, Vigan City Council is exploring other forms of technology to solve its pollution problem, such as tricycles powered by electricity or natural gas. For the moment, however, their price is prohibitive and, according to Bauer, if implemented incorrectly, can potentially shift the problem elsewhere: “Two-strokes can have a lifetime of up to 20 or 30 years. If they’re banished from the cities, they’ll continue to be driven in more disadvantaged, outlying areas. Our retrofit kit makes it possible to reduce the environmental impact of the millions of two-strokes currently in use, and that will still be used for many years.”

Amory Lovins, a world expert on energy resources, agrees: “Envirofit has devised a practical and affordable way…to fix two-stroke vehicles in Asia. This is the here-and-now solution to go with.”

“These drivers are at the base of the economic pyramid, and these tricycles are a testament to their ingenuity and work ethic,” says Tim Bauer. “At the end of the day, we can improve their lives with a cylinder head, a few brackets, and, of course, hard work. This is our best reward.”

Francesco Raeli

Thanks Mr Rudd!

Showing his concern for the environment, greenhouse effect and all sorts of other stuff Kevin Rudd has announced a billion dollar port expansion and rial upgrade project designed to double the amount of coal exported from the Port of Newcastle. So more greenhouse gasses, more devastated landscapes, more salinity issues, more dust, more ruined aquifers, more productive farmland lost.

Yeah thanks Mr Rudd, thanks a lot.

From: The Herald
$1bn funds Newcastle port coal rush
13/12/2008 4:00:00 AM
A $1 BILLION federal rail-building program and a port expansion agreement brokered by the state were both revealed yesterday in a historic day for the Hunter's coal industry.
If all goes according to plan, Newcastle could double its coal exports to 200 million tonnes within seven years, with up to a third of the coal coming from 300 kilometres away in the Gunnedah Basin.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese announced the federal rail funding program as part of a $4.7 billion package designed to lift gross domestic product by as much as half a percentage point, creating about 32,000 jobs.

Mr Rudd said $1.2 billion would go to the Australian Rail Track Corporation, $711 million to roads and $1.6 billion to higher education.

Corporation chief David Marchant said the Government was providing $580 million of the $1.2 billion to help expand the Hunter Valley coal rail lines. The corporation would borrow another $420 million on the open market, taking its Hunter commitment to $1 billion.
The biggest item on the construction plan is a new route through the Liverpool Ranges to the Gunnedah Basin, costed at about $290 million, with another $508 million on projects between Ulan, Muswellbrook and Maitland.

"As far as the Hunter rail lines are concerned, this announcement is not so much about the timing of the work as it is about the certainty of funding," Mr Marchant said.
The coal industry, which was unable to maximise its profits during the three years of the coal boom because demand far outstripped the rail and port system's ability to supply the commodity, welcomed the rail track plan unveiled by Mr Rudd and the "coal terminal access agreement" struck by Ports Minister Joe Tripodi.

After announcing earlier in the week a plan to deal with coal queues by asking the ships to stay away , Mr Tripodi described yesterday's deal as a modified version of the one proposed by former premier Nick Greiner, but with added protection for small mining companies and a levy on export tonnages to help fund new export capacity

Graham Davidson, general manager of coal loader operator Port Waratah Coal Services, said the agreement added a dose of commercial reality to the coal chain.

"It's in everyone's interests for PWCS and Newcastle Coal Infrastructure Group to expand as quickly as possible to cater for incumbent and new producers, and it now looks as if the pieces are finally falling into place to make that possible," Mr Davidson said.

The agreement guides access to the two PWCS loaders and to a third terminal being built by Newcastle Coal Infrastructure Group and due to operate from early 2010.
Mr Tripodi has also pledged that PWCS will be able to build a fourth loader, known as " T4".

Damn It! News from the front...

Opponents of the politically motivated, expensive and unnecessary Tillegra Dam project held a protest yesterday in Newcastle, a little more notice on the press release would have been good as it only dropped into my email after the advertised protest time.

Anyway information on the well justified objections here.

From: The Herald
Protest rally damns dam project
13/12/2008 4:00:00 AM
OPPONENTS of the proposed Tillegra Dam rallied at yesterday's Independent Pricing Review Tribunal hearing and called for an independent review of the project.
Groups such as the Greens, the No Tillegra Dam Group and the Total Environment Centre were represented.
"That people's livelihoods and families can be torn asunder for no just reason, that a pristine river system, a fertile agricultural valley, a family member's final resting place and a diverse and unique environment could be sacrificed at the whim of a politician is undeserved and unbelievable," Williams River resident Carol Pasenow said.
No Tillegra Dam Group spokeswoman Sally Corbett described the Tillegra proposal as a "selective tax".
Greens MP John Kaye told the rally at Newcastle City Hall there was every chance the project could be called off.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Is there anybody out there?

Just wondering is all, due to lack of feedback I've added a counter at the bottom of the page to count the hundreds of Quoll fans out there that like to read my rantings. I'll probably have to do some more advertising, develop a marketting plan, I might even hold a couple of focus groups or......

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Carbon Con (Part 2)

In the interests of fairness Ben Keogh did reply to my last posting over at The Land, blatently copied and pasted is his reply:

Dear spotted quoll, The CMAs are paying 800/ha for revegetation for biodiversity and environmental outcomes and taking 50 to 100% of the carbon rights. Under the proposed treatments of forest sinks in the ETS, any loss or harvesting of the trees will be treated as an emission and the landholder (or the CMA) will need to pay back the losses. Unlike a crop where you get paid on harvest under this scenario you will be charged to harvest. It should be up to the landholder if they want to get into carbon trading not have the decision made for them by another body.
I am objecting to a) the price being paid; b) the carbon rights being linked to funding that was provided for environmental outcomes; c) the lack of information provided by the CMAs in regard to liabilities, incomes and other options; d) the CMAs restricting the ability of the private industry to operate by engaging in carbon trading; e) the CMAs and other government agencies undermining the private sector by using data, information and other resources to engage in carbon trading and restricting the access to this information from other users; d) the surreptitious methods of the CMAS to get at the carbon; and finally e) the linking of the carbon rights to PVPs and the way the CMAs have told me directly that if the client does not sign the carbon over under the PVP they will not get the PVP.
The taxpayers do get a return for the activity in better water quality and environmental outcomes (which is what the money was meant to be for in the first place), furthermore whether the landholder or the CMA opt the plantation into the ETS or not the Australian Taxpayer will still benefit as the increase in the national forest extent will be reflected in our national carbon accounts that will reduce our obligations under the Kyoto Protocol, thus saving the federal government (taxpayer) money. I urge you to take the argument you have made to the landholders of Australia and see if they think it is fair to get 9,000 dollars for something worth far more, so what if they get some money for revegetating their land, they take on the work and under the ETS the liability, why should the government funded and landholder funded CMA get such any return at all for something they are obliged to do anyway.
You talk of it as a crop, what happens when Agriculture is covered are the CMAs going to say OK if you plant develop your land for a new crop and it sequesters carbon we will only give you approval for said development if we get half your carbon rights for a pittance. I can give other examples where the CMA has stolen 100% of the carbon rights even though the landholder put in 25% of the project cost. The final design of the ETS is not even out yet and the CMAs have shown their greed and naivety in this matter, this was plain and simple opportunism. I have spoken to a number of the CMAs involved and the project managers of the concept and the best I could get out of them is that the reason for this action was that they see it a s a bonus for the CMA. No consideration of the landholder with whom they are meant to work to better the environment. The intricacies of the carbon sequestration market are too involved to explain in detail in this forum but I have enough experience and understanding to feel that it was necessary to speak out on this issue in the interest of landholders everywhere.
A final note is that I met with the chairs of the CMAs to present an off the shelf product from a not for profit federal government backed organisation for carbon trading and sequestration management that involved CMAs and paid them a fee for service. The CMAs informed me that they were not interested as they believed they could make more money doing it themselves. The Victorian CMAs have investigated the issue and are not pursuing the go it alone approach but are looking for other methods and concentrating on core business. There are also a number of CMAs in NSW who are not involved and have chosen a different path. Whilst I feel for the CMAs and their difficulty in getting funding, there is no need to gouge farmers an use their position of authority and regulation to force unfair deals on landholders. If you wish to discuss this in more detail please contact me outside of this forum.
Ben Keogh Managing Director Australian Carbon Traders

The "final note" does say a lot doesn't it, CMA's shouldn't be involved unless they're with the scheme I'm promoting. It would be reasonable to assume the "off the shelf" product he's promoting would be CarbonSmart a scheme which gives a case study of a landholder getting a whole $80/ha/yr.

Just to let you in on things I was involved with a fairly major NGO that was setting up it's own carbon sequestration scheme and have seen some good analyses of various schemes that have been put forward, they're probably still 'commercial in confidence" so I won't go into details (even if I could find where I've put them). Now one of the big issues (of which there are many) in the whole carbon sequestration thing is how do you actually measure your carbon? You could use the Government models which are quite conservative or you could develop your own using destructive testing which is where you rip up an area of vegetation, roots and all, after taking various measurements take them to the lab where the carbon content is measured, you then use this to calibrate your measurement system.

Your method has to be signed off and accredited by the government, it is a long and expensive process but it does give you more accurate (and higher) measurements than the government modelmeaning you can claim more carbon per hectare than those using other methods and hence get a higher return. How your carbon is measured is only one of the issues for people wanting to get into it, so I do advise anyone interested to do their background reading, do the maths, ask questions and don't rush into anything.

Mind you tree planting's going to do three parts worth of stuff all to reduce greenhouse gasses but there are many other benefits and if someone wants to give you money to grow them then why not?

Poor fellow my valley!

As mentioned previously Sydney Gas has been drilling around the Paynes Crossing area, between Broke and Wollombi for coal seam gas. Of course at the time they were telling people not to worry as they were only "exploring". Now that they've announced finding enough gas to keep Sydney going for the next 150 years I'm presuming we can start worrying now? Apart from the environmental concerns yet again resources are taken from the Hunter to feed Sydney.

And of course if there is that much gas there does that mean the Queensland Hunter Gas Pipeline has just become a massive white elephant?

Valley's $10bn methane gas find
29/11/2008 4:00:00 AM
AN estimated $10 billion worth of coal-seam methane gas or enough gas to supply Sydney for the next 150 years has been found beneath the Hunter.
The discovery of the untapped resource, which has the potential to generate hundreds of jobs, was announced at the Sydney Gas annual general meeting this week.
The find has exceeded the company's expectation and is seen as one of the most significant Australian gas discoveries in recent years.
It follows 12 months of core hole drilling in the region by Sydney Gas and its partner, AGL Energy.
The company believes 708 billion cubic metres of gas, or 25,000 petajoules, are contained in coal within an area from Paynes Crossing to Scone.
It estimates 10,000 petajoules can potentially be extracted from the area. By comparison, Western Australia's North West shelf contains an estimated 33,000 petajoules of extractable gas.
"We've broken the exploration area into 10-kilometre by 10-kilometre grids and we've looked at the geology in each of those grids," Sydney Gas chief executive Andy Lukas said.
"We've estimated how much gas we expect is in the coal, the quality of the gas and whether there are any faults nearby."
Mr Lukas said the company was aiming to supply 50 per cent of gas to the NSW market beyond 2015.
"The 30-year contract to supply Sydney is about 2000 petajoules," he said.
"On that basis we will certainly be able to supply Sydney and have some left over for power stations and export.
"Having a gas resource so close to the Sydney and Newcastle markets provides an excellent opportunity for the company."
Coded maps indicating the "sweet spots", or the areas believed to contain the richest resources, were presented at the meeting.
The company will establish production pilot plants across the region to demonstrate the viability of the resource.
"Provided the permeability is such that the gas will flow, we would normally expect to get about half out," Mr Lukas said.
"Our first aim is to get 500 petajoules of reserves then do it in 500-petajoule steps."
Gas energy is seen within the energy sector as a transition fuel between coal and renewable energy such as solar.
When burnt, gas produces half the emissions coal produces.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A Carbon Con?

It seems a certain marsupial has been causing a little mischief this week on "The Land" website, have a read of this down to the comments section:

A carbon con?
14/11/2008 4:00:00 AM
Farmers are being warned not to sign over their carbon credits before they understand the true value of the product and the liabilities they may incur by signing contracts.

Ben Keogh, of Australian Carbon Traders, is hot under the collar about a clause in the vegetation agreements put out by several Catchment Management Authorities (CMAs) in NSW and Victoria, which claims for the CMA all or half the carbon credits that arise from the contracted revegetation work.

“One landholder I know of was offered $800 a hectare to revegetate by his CMA, on a site that will return about 550 tonnes of CO2 equivalents during its lifetime,” Mr Keogh said.
“Break that down and the CMA is offering $2.90 a tonne for the carbon – and they are using government money that was put aside for biodiversity and water quality projects.

“They could sell those carbon credits on the open market for up to $30 a tonne.

“When the CMA is proposing paying a fraction of the market price, with no mention of liability if the carbon is lost, and without knowing what they will actually do with the carbon rights, some big questions hang over their intentions.”

Mr Keogh also warned farmers about signing over carbon rights without understanding the implications if agriculture is “covered” under the Federal Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) at a later date.

Farmers who commit their carbon, or land, for a low price now may find themselves obliged to buy in carbon if agriculture is later included under the CPRS, and the farm has to account for its emissions.

That could lead to farmers having to buy back carbon from those they sold it to earlier in order to balance the CPRS books.

Newest first Oldest first

The Great Carbon Con!
Posted by BigD on 14/11/2008 6:22:28 AM

All on the basis of bogus "science".
Posted by Ted O'Brien. on 14/11/2008 7:36:37 AM

I'd love to know how Ben Keogh does his calculations, if farmers are getting $2.90 per tonne after the CMAs take their share then without the CMAs they'd be getting $5.80/t and if the brokers are selling it for $30/t where does the extra $24.20/t go to? A "con"? Well yes maybe, but it doesn't look like the CMA's are the ones doing it. I've looked at a number of schemes over the years and the advice I give is do you research and calculations thoroughly a lot of schemes are nowhere near as good as they market themselves.
Posted by Spottedquoll on 15/11/2008 5:00:41 PM

Dear Spottedquoll, The calcualtions are based on what the CMA is paying for revegetation in return for the carbon rights. The agreements have no mention of cosats or liabilities, access requirements or transaction costs, etc. Brokers usally get 5 to 10c per credit. The extra money would go to the sellers of the carbon or the owners of the Carbon rights, in this case the CMAs. If you read the article what I am urging landholders to do is to ensure they have done their homework and ensure they know what they are signing up for. What I object to is the CMAs tying carbon rights to PVP and reveg activities without fully recognising the input of landholders and operating by stealth. I agree entirely that there are a lot of schemes out there that are nowhere near as good as they seem and this is another one.
Posted by ben keogh on 18/11/2008 3:27:11 PM

Thanks for that Ben, So what you're saying is the CMAs are paying $2.90 per tonne for their (potential) share of the carbon up front and the landholder still has 275 tonnes to sell on the open market? So over time the landholder could still get $9000/Ha (from his sales plus the CMA "pre-purchase")? And this is only one particular case I'm aware of CMA payments for some revegetation projects going far higher than $800/Ha. The other point is is should taxpayers money be used to finance (or part finance) a crop (which essentially it will be) and taxpayers not get any return for it?
Posted by Spottedquoll on 19/11/2008 7:46:48 PM

Note that the CMA's "could" sell the carbon at $30 per tonne, no doubt that does depend on whether anyone wants to buy it at $30/tonne. Hell they "could" sell it at $50/t, $100/t etc it all depends on what the going market rate is, something Mr Keogh doesn't mention.

This $30 a tonne sounds great but honestly how much does the grower actually get? You can't just go out and sell the rights to your carbon, it's quite a long process to get it all set up and accredited you need to insure that the carbon will be in place for the next 130 or so years, you need to have a system in place to measure the carbon you have and you need to have some sort of insurance against flood, fire or anything else which will reduce the carbon you've guaranteed you've locked up. This insurance is generally in the form of putting aside a proportion of your carbon for just such a contingency, I believe that it's around 30 percent. It's a bit of a pain for the individual to do it so it's best for a company or co op to put a scheme together and pool carbon from a wide area administer the scheme split the profits (no doubt there's many more models than that but I really couldn't be bothered checking into all of them or going through the numerous documents I've gotten on the subject over the past few years - some of which may still be "commercial in confidence").

Now Ben Keogh is the manager of Australian Carbon Traders and has worked with Landcare Australia Limited to set up their CarbonSMART Scheme. According to their site CarbonSMART basically pools the carbon in their scheme, sells it and pays landholders 60% of the sale price.

So how much is this 60%? According to their case study the landholder "could" recieve $80 per hectare per year, which is, well, a pretty low return, it may just cover the cost of maintenance but I doubt it would cover the cost of establishment.

I suppose in this case I'd be more than happy to take $800 per hectare to revegetate it then split the profits rather than pay for it myself then get $80 per hectare for it. It all tends to make Ben Keoghs objections quite interesting doesn't it?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Scuttling the butt!

First off apologies for not keeping this as updated as I should but you get that kind of thing.

Been hearing some interesting scuttlebutt this week, I have no reason to disbelieve it given the sources but there is a possibility they could be mistaken. (There does that count as a disclaimer?)

And now to the subject of this posting is our lovely new Scone power substation. Remember that from a few months ago? Well they're still building it, the walls are almost up. From memory it was supposed to take only a couple of months to complete, I wonder if it will be completed by Christmas?

Anyway from what I hear there's been a couple of reasons for the delay, firstly truck bogging. Apparently it's quite a common event, wow who'd have thought it, low lying area, subject to inundation, poor drainage and heavy clay soils? Funny what was it I was saying a couple of months back?

But wait it gets worse, the substation has apparently had to be redesigned, something about the footings not being secure. Now surely an adequate and comprehensive environmental assessment would have identified these site limitations, you'd think that wouldn't you? So the Environmental Assessment they based their determination on has apparently proved inadequate, what sort of assessment/approval process has their redesign gone through? Nothing that I've heard of.

And finally, well possibly not finally but finally on what I've heard (well ok apart from the moat they are going to dig around the station to drain the water away WTF?), where's the trees? C'mon guys, you knocked down a heap of trees and as an offset were going to plant 3000 more. So where are they? I've yet to see them and over what area are they going to be planted, to me if I were planting 3000 trees (that is trees not shrubs and groundcovers) I'd be wanting an absolute minimum of five hectares and even that's getting crowded. So where are they? Even the coal mines start some of their plantings (admittedly they're screening plantings) prior to works commencing. Is it a case that the owner of the land you were to plant them on has said "no"?

I'm really hoping what I've heard has been wrong, but given what I've already seen I fear that it is right.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Latest from the Front

Down in the Wollombi Valley the locals are gearing up for a fight against Sydney Gas's plans to undertake exploratory drilling in the Valley. It's only exploration right? They only want to know what's there...... Yeah right, just like the sample pit at Bickham in the Upper Hunter or the drilling out on the Liverpool Plains (home of some of Australia's best agricultural lands).

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Consensus on global warming grows.

While I tend not to rely on newspapers for my daily dose of science the following is quite good.

(lifted from The Land)

Despite sceptics' noise, scientific consensus is growing
2/08/2008 10:57:00 AM
Anyone keeping up with current affairs could be forgiven for thinking scientists are riven with doubt over climate change.
Climate sceptics have enjoyed a resurgence as the federal Coalition danced around the introduction of carbon trading and heavy-polluting industries began an intensive lobbying effort to convince the Federal Government of their special needs.
The Page Research Centre, a think tank associated with the Nationals, last week hosted a forum that concluded that the science behind global warming was shaky.
Backbench MPs in both major parties have reportedly questioned the science on which the Federal Government's recent green paper is based.
The noise has been loudest on the internet, where websites give voice to people who believe scientists are suppressing evidence to protect their careers.
Unfortunately for the sceptics, and for everyone else, the evidence for human-induced climate change is stronger than ever.
Scientists the Sydney Morning Herald spoke to were candid in their assessment that there was little room for doubt that global warming is happening and that the only changes in the past few months have been political changes.
"It looks as though the population believes climate change is serious and there seems to be momentum behind the issue, and there are some people who don't like that," says Chris Mitchell, head of the CSIRO's Climate, Weather and Ocean Prediction group.
"There are still plenty of creationists around, and there are people who believe tobacco is not linked to serious health effects, and so there are still people who choose to ignore or doubt the amount of evidence for climate change."
Andy Pitman, an editor of the prestigious international Journal Of Climate, says there are good reasons why global warming sceptics cannot get a run in peer-reviewed scientific literature.
"We would kill, literally kill, for a good paper that proved the science on global warming was wrong," Pitman says.
"Then I could retire and accept my chair at Harvard. Unfortunately, that's not going to happen, and there's vast amounts of evidence why."
Pitman, who is also a lead author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (ABC) and director of the Climate Change Research Centre at the University of NSW, says the reasons are simple: "In essence, the models we use to predict climate have been proven right."
In the past decade, he says, refinements in computer simulations have allowed scientists to accurately predict climate in four dimensions: time, latitude, longitude and depth of the atmosphere.
"You feed in the greenhouse gas concentrations that we've seen, and the models predict extremely well the climate variations we've seen. If you don't do that, you get nothing. The mathematical probability of it being a chance mistake, or the wrong numbers, is astronomical."
The claim, often cited by sceptics, that atmospheric temperature did not appear to match the levels predicted by climate models was revised by a reassessment of the data last year.
The research, partly carried out in Australia, ended up reinforcing the accuracy of existing climate models.
Claims that solar activity may be causing recent global warming, reinforced in State Parliament by the Treasurer, Michael Costa, have been comprehensively demolished in peer-reviewed journals.
As weak spots in climate modelling have been eliminated one by one, commentators who do not believe carbon emissions lead to global warming have been retreating to smaller and smaller islands of resistance, says Pitman.
This is also the view of the Australian Academy of Science, established in 1954 along the lines of Britain's Royal Society.
Its president, Kurt Lambda, told the Herald: "If there's been any change at all recently, it's that the observational evidence suggests we're moving away from the lower limits of the ABC projections towards more serious scenarios.
"I've certainly seen no evidence of scientists holding back on their views or suppressing findings or anything approaching that."
Concerned that debate about climate change is being muddied by slanted media reporting of the issue, the academy recently established a committee to try to present the clearest information to the public.
"I think there is healthy scepticism and then there's unhealthy scepticism," Lambda says.
"What you do see is people who will claim that simply because they have a PhD in engineering, that they are an expert on climate modelling."
But labelling people "climate dangerous isn't helpful either, Lambda says. "The other side of the coin is the danger that people who want to discuss the legitimate scientific issues in public becoming less if they are going to be called dangers. We do need to keep giving scientists the freedom to [go] back and forth on these issues and apply their scepticism."
The CSIRO's Mitchell says any remaining doubt among Australian researchers of climate change would have surfaced in peer-reviewed literature.
"The fact is that a lot of the people working at the coalface of climate change research spend more time concerned they are underestimating some of the issues rather than exaggerating them."


Monday, July 28, 2008

A time to live, a time to die.

A big thanks to Dave over at Counter Steer for putting a link up to here. Dave is trying to force a change in Victorian motorcycle politics. The Victorian Motorcycle Riders Association (MRA Vic) has been around for a couple of decades and at the moment could probably be best described as disfuntional and is in serious need of overhaul (or euthenasing). MRA Vic, to the outsider, looks riven with numerous internal squabbles and divisions, threats and violence.

This isn't something unique to motorcycle politics, having been involved with numerous Landcare and other environmental groups over the years I have seen it on many occassions, the executive gets dominated by a few people whose agendas don't always reflect the views of the grassroots membership and often fall to the lure of "playing with the big boys". I've seen it with developers, they're quite happy to have their tame community group they ocassionally throw a few scraps and proclaim "look at us, we're working with the community" while continuing to do pretty much as they please, government departments like the same thing, "community reference groups" are often formed, given tea and bickies and sent on there way happy they've been listened to. MRA Vic seems to have fallen into this as well, quiet diplomacy, we have the ministers ear, working at the coal face, they seem to have become part of the system they started up to change.

Good luck with it Dave, it won't be an easy task.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Fun with Biofuels

There's two types of people in the world, those that understand maths and those that don't. Those that don't tend to think biofuels will save us and those that do, don't.

Ok we'll run some very simple calculations just to get an idea of just how much biofuel we'd need to replace the fossil fuels we're using in our vehicle fleets. To do this we'll make a few assumptions (I probably could look it all up but ballpark "guesstimates" should give us a reasonable estimate), we'll assume an average fuel consumption of 10l/100km, 20 000km of use per vehicle per year and 10 million vehicles in Australia and we'll treat it as all fossil fuels being replaced with ethanol just for sake of convenience, we're also assuming the same fuel economy from ethanol as from the fossil fuels (which it isn't, ethanol gives less km/l). So:

Fuel used per vehicle = 10/100 x 20 000 which is 2000l/yr

Now one tonne of grain makes about 650 litres of ethanol so 2000/650 gives just over 3 tonne of grain per vehicle to run for the full year which means we'd need to convert around 30 million tonnes of grain to biofuels per year, which unfortunatelly is roughly what we grow per year. In 2006-07 grain production dropped to below 20 million tonnes meaning we'd probably have to dip into the 5 million tonnes of sugar we produce per year.

So do you want to eat or drive?

Friday, July 4, 2008

Test your powers of observation

Now here's a little something for you, look at the following pictures and see what you can find, read the landscape and figure out what it's telling you.

How did you go? Bare patches of ground, low in the landscape, obviously got a few problems and if you look closely you can see little patches of white, telltale signs that there's a salt problem there. Now a couple more pics.

And as you'd expect for a low lying site half surrounded by urban development it's prone to flooding.

Ok you ask so what am I getting at? Well here's the question knowing it was a low lying saline area prone to flooding what would you do with it? If you were smart, like Scone Landcare, you'd plant the site up with salt tolerant species to suck up the excess water, drop the watertable and get some vegetation coverage happening, which they did. The rehabilitation work was very successful, not only were the trees growing and water table dropping but native grasses were starting to recolonise bare salt scalds.

You certainly wouldn't want to whack a development on there, bulldozing a few hundred established trees, putting constrictions on a floodplain that could result in backing up of water and potentially exascerbating a salinity problem.

You wouldn't would you?

Guess what?

Energy Australia in it's infinite wisdom is constructing a power substation on the site. No I shit you not! Despite advice from government agencies that the site wasn't appropriate Energy Australia, as a state government entity, decided to self assess under Part 5 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act. The 300 odd page REF (well I can't remember exactly how big it was but it was big and I'd hate for it to fall on me) was quite impressive, especially for a development covering an area of a hectare. Now it's probably just my cynicism but I tend to distrust big documents for small developments, plenty of room to hide things. But as I said probably just me being cynical after all Energy Australia does have an Environmental Policy which states they will strive to:

"act prudently where environmental risks are uncertain and consequences serious;"

"assess, adequately manage and endeavour to minimise the impacts of activities we propose to carry out;"
I'm glad of all that!
The other big issue is that a growing town like Scone will need new areas of land opened up for residential and light industrial land. The obvious spots being on the edge of town including land above the site of the substation which without good planning and management will likely result in increased runoff and extra flooding of the substation site. Lucky there's a big REF we can use to mop up the water.

Monday, June 30, 2008

New publication from the Department of Climate Change

For those of you still to be convinced on the whole climate change thing or you work in NRM and need a bit more infor the federal Department of Climate Change has just released "Managing Australian landscapes in a changing climate - a climate change primer for regional natural resource management bodies". I've only just skimmed through it but if it gets more people thinking and planning about it, it will be a good thing.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

More on offsets

Looks like you can offset everything these days, probably just as effective and ethical as most of the others.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Friday, June 20, 2008

More on Hybrid Cats

Carole Baskin of Big Cat Rescue (and what a great job they do) was kind enough to leave a comment on my blog this morning (wow my first!). They have a number of concerns over the hybrids (not the least are animal welfare concerns over the breeding process), their page on it is here.

Edit: Tony Peacock from the Invasive Animals CRC has a blog covering this and other feral animal issues (link fixed) and reports the good news that Environment Minister Peter Garrett has initiated a review on the import of hybrid cats.

Ecofascist? Moi?

Australia has a long history of introduction of exotic plants and animals, many of them were introduced for quite legitimate reasons, food, fibre, medicine etc but many of these introductions have had adverse impacts on both our Australian ecosystems and the economy. The list is seemingly endless; rabbits, foxes, canetoads, goats, pigs, prickly pear, water hyacith, salvinia, the list goes on.

The threats posed by introducing plants and animals into ecosystems where there is no control on them is well recognised, for example the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) "Global Invasive Species Programme" lists numerous species which have caused ecological havoc around the world. In Australia there are numerous exotic species listed as key threatening processes under Schedule 3 of the New South Wales "Threatened Species Conservation Act" and also under the Federal "Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act".

Mind you Australian species relocated to other countries can run amock as well, possums in New Zealand, tree snakes in Guam, Eucalypts in Greece, wattles in South Africa and Israel, paperbarks and Casuarinas in the southern states of the US.

Back in the mid to late 1800's "Acclimatisation Societies" started around the world to encourage this sort of thing, thankfully they weren't as successful as they hoped and are now more or less defunct.

Given all that I really do have to shake my head over the article I came across printed in the Kyeamba Valley Landcare Newsletter written by Haikai Tane of Watershed Systems Inc in New Zealand, I'll only quote a few relevant parts but the full text is over here.

Professor Haikai Tane on (Riparian) Biodiversity and Peter Andrews
Research on riparian biota indicates there are probably greater grounds for concern about the phytotoxicity of Australian red gums than Willows!

Well yes this would probably be why Australian animals have evolved to deal with these metabolites, why 1080 has less effect on Australian native animals (particularly those from Western Australia) than it does on exotic ones and why Koalas and Possums can digest gum leaves and Monkeys can't, no doubt Australian invertebrates would have evolved similar mechanisms.

Please be aware that the international convention on biodiversity specifically embraces all biota. Since the 1968 UNESCO international conference on "Use and Conservation of the Biosphere" in France, the UN position has remained unchanged:

"there is no fundamental difference between natural, wild or modified, semi-natural or developed, domesticated or purely artifial vegetations. The laws governing these ecosystems are identical"...

This doesn't make sense, of course the laws governing them would be identical, mind you the organisms living in these ecosystems would probably notice a significant difference.

..........Biodiversity is still only a convention because biologists have been unable to demonstrate that there is a functional relationship between the Linnaen classification of species and environmental performance...........

This makes even less sense, the Linnean system is merely a system of classifying species it was developed around 100 years before Charles Darwin published "On the Origin of Species by means of Natural Selection" and while it is well recognised to have shortcomings has stood up quite well. As I said it is merely a classification system and although there is debate as to whether it should be replaced by a system which better takes into account evolutionary relationships, I am unaware if it has anything to say about environmental performance or ever really could.

......It may come as a surprise to some that the Australian concept of native biodiversity is inconsistent with the international biodiversity convention. It is more about personal beliefs and conservation funding programs than the ecological integrity of watersheds and their environmental performance......

Obviously it's a surprise to the IUCN as well.

Nature does nothing uselessly noted Socrates. Mother Nature is an equal opportunity employer - she does not discriminate on the basis of race, genera or species. That is a human failing. A few years ago, I was advised by the leaders of a German Parliamentary Delegation on Conservation and the Environment visiting New Zealand - while here they investigated "native biodiversity programs" - that in Germany they call native biodiversity "ecofascim" because it is based on the same nativist principles that underpinned Hitler's Fascism.

Oh dear! Reductio ad Hitlerum? Wanting to protect endangered species and preserve ecosystems is "Ecofascism"? I can understand the Germans getting a little wary which may even remotely be seen as nationalism but claiming it as "Ecofascism"? As I pointed to earlier there are numerous reputable organisations in Australia and overseas who are concerned with the spread of exotic species and their impact on ecosystems, to label them as fascists or even to equate this concern with fascism is, well, to be extremely polite "unscientific". Denigrating and labelling as "ecofascists" those with legitimate concerns does nothing for the debate and even less for the credibility of those tossing the accusation around.

..........perhaps the Natural Sequence Farming movement can take the lead and expose the "exotics are pests" mentality as a sadly misinformed ecocolonial myth doing more damage than good........

As I've pointed out there is a lot of evidence that exotics can be pests, not all of them and some can be problems in some areas and not in others I really don't want to get into the subject of weed ecology at the moment but just to reiterate foxes are pests, rabbits are pest, prickly pear and tiger pear are pests (the former less so since the release of the Cactoblastis moth), Equine Influenza is a pest. As to "ecocolonialism"? What exactly does that mean? Certainly I can understand it applying to Acclimatisation Societies and their descendents who are quite happy with the McDonaldisation of the worlds ecosystems.

...It is far, far better to teach your community to observe and enjoy the exciting dance of ecosynthesis uniting native and exotic biota in new and improved riparian ecosystems...

"Ecosynthesis"? Just another word for extinction really.

Edit: I really should have gone and had a look at the Convention on Biological Diversity it seems they're concerned about introduced species as well, among the actions listed for preserving biodiversity at a national level is:

Preventing the introduction of, controlling, and eradicating alien species that could threaten ecosystems, habitats or species.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Press Release from the Invasive Animals CRC

6 June 2007
Wild-domestic fashion pets sneaking past quarantine
leaves native animals at risk
Serval-cat “supercat” shouldn’t be let in without scrutiny
A loophole in Australia’s biosecurity system means hybrid African Serval-domestic cat crosses can be imported into the country with no assessment of their potential to decimate native wildlife.

Chief Executive of the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre, Professor Tony Peacock, pointed out the loophole to the Quarantine and Biosecurity Review in Canberra today. “Hybrids of wild animals and domestic animals are a stupid American trend to breed more and more exotic pets” says Professor Peacock. “No one anticipated such animals when our quarantine laws were formulated, so we apply a definition that a fifth generation wild-domestic cross is legally a “domestic” animal and so escapes proper scrutiny”.

“Fourteen of these wild-cross cats are currently in quarantine on their way to Australia and have apparently passed all Federal requirements. We hope the Queensland Government will classify them Class 1 Pest Animals under State Legislation and ban them, but this sort of thing should be a Federal responsibility. An Adelaide breeder is advertising animals available in 2009”.

“This loophole will effectively lead to fitting a nuclear warhead to our already devastating feral cat population. So-called “Savannah cats” are more than double the size of domestic cats and can jump two metres from a standing start. Haven’t our native animals got enough to contend with?”
The practice of hybridising wild and domestic animals deserves much more scrutiny itself. An American breeder describes the issue on her own website:

…it can be extremely difficult to accomplish the Serval to domestic cat breeding. Whether it be the Serval male to the domestic female (which is most often the case), or to attempt a female Serval to a domestic male ... because the Serval body type is so much longer and taller, this makes the pairing physically quite challenging. Add to that the differences in behavior between a wild cat and a domestic cat, and in some cases, too much aggression on the part of an intact adult Serval ...

“I think anyone that forced a mating of an African Serval and a domestic cat in Australia would find themselves in serious discussion with animal welfare authorities” said Professor Peacock. “It is certainly a practice we shouldn’t condone by allowing people to import this new style of fashion animal. We need to update our quarantine rules to keep up with this exotic pet trend”.

The same loophole would allow a variety of hybrid cats and potentially wolf-dog hybrids if they pass disease regulations.

“The Quarantine and Biosecurity Review provides a great opportunity to point out anomalies that need attention. This issue has arisen from the practice of breeding new animals that did not exist when laws and regulations were framed.”

“Our native animals are at risk because of a fashionable desire to own an exotic pet. The impact on these vulnerable species will remain long after the fashion dies out” said Professor Peacock.
Fashion breeds of cat bred through mating wild cats:

"Bengal Cat" hybrid with Leopard Cat Prionailurus bengalensis (SE Asia, 6.8 kg) (already in Australia)
"Savannah Cat" hybrid with Serval Leptailurus serval (Africa, 20 kg)
"Safari Cat" hybrid with Geoffroy's cat Leopardus geoffroyi (S. America, 4 kg)
"Chausie" hybrid with Jungle Cat Felis chaus (Asia, 16 kg)
"Serengeti cat" Bengal cat/ Asian Short-haired cat hybrid

See Big Cat Rescue’s concerns:

Prof Tony Peacock
Invasive Animals CRC
Ph: 0402 036 110
University of Canberra, Canberra ACT 2601

Sign this!

Want to have your say in keeping the Savanah Cats out of Australia, or just wanna tell Peter Garret to get a hair cut (damn long haired hippy!)? Go off and sign it, go on, do it now.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

And that's yer bloomin lot!

It's the end of an era, a hero of mine retires.

Gardening Australia's Cundall retires (stolen from the ABC new website)
Peter Cundall, host of ABC TV's Gardening Australia, is filming his final episode of the popular program before he retires. Cundall, 81, began working in television in 1969. Prior to that he hosted a gardening talk back program on a Launceston radio station, while running his own landscaping business.

He says he has always loved his job. "I've never lost the passion," he said. "Right from the very beginning, the only difficulty I ever had ... was making sure I could transmit that passion I felt.
"The passion is absolutely genuine."

Cundall's final episode air go to air on July 26. He plans to continue presenting a weekly radio talkback program in Tasmania.

Wartime service
Born in Manchester, north-west England, in 1927, Cundall served in the British Parachute Regiment at the tail-end of World War II and spent six months in solitary confinement after straying across the border of Yugoslavia. He later served in Austria - where he guarded former members of Hitler's elite SS - and Palestine, before volunteering for the Australian Army and serving as he machine-gunner in the Korean War. His experience of war made him a committed pacifist in later life.

He moved to Tasmania in 1955.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Idiocy, simple idiocy

Now I admit I don't mind cats, provided of course they're kept under control and in areas where they're not going to hurt the native wildlife (in urban areas where they're only killing Indian Mynas and Sparrows I'm quite happy with) and I will and have deal with them if need be, but this...... this is just fucking stupid and there's no excuse for it whatsoever. I shudder to think of the damage should these get out and breed with the ferals which are already out there.

Stolen from:

Scientists rally to keep out 'supercats'

Posted Fri Jun 13, 2008 6:36am AEST Updated Fri Jun 13, 2008 6:53am AEST

Forty of the nation's leading feral animal researchers are calling for urgent changes to prevent hybrid supercats from being imported into Australia. The Federal Government has been under fire after it was revealed last week that savannah cats - twice as big as domestic species - are being imported by pet shops.

Scientists are warning that bandicoots, bettongs, potoroos and possums could soon be on the menu for the imported creatures, which were originally bred by crossing domestic cats with the African serval cat. Scientists, environmentalists and bureaucrats attending a National Feral Cat Workshop in Darwin this week have angrily condemned the quarantine loophole.
The University of Sydney's professor of ecology, Chris Dickman, is warning hybrid cats - which can jump up to two metres from a standing start - would be uncontrollable in the Australian outback.

"It's taken a lot of people who are concerned about the impacts of cats in the Australian environment off guard," he said. "I think there will be some real concern expressed at the meeting that here is an example of another species, a predator that is quite capable almost certainly of taking a wide range of native species. "It hasn't come in through the usual quarantine processes, risk assessments that would otherwise need to be done."

Professor Dickman fears savannah cats would prey on the same Australian wildlife as foxes.
He says that while foxes can be poisoned, cats have proved extremely hard to control in the outback.
"It would be competing with the fox for food in the same size class. We can control the fox, we are not very good at controlling cats at the moment," he said. "Cats tend to prefer living food, live food, that they catch themselves. And as a consequence, it's much more difficult to put baits out and expect feral cats to eat them."

The Environment Department says it has been in contact with two people proposing to import savannah cats later this year, and is examining the implications.

Latest news 17th June: Opposition to Hybrid Cats Grows

No, I can't see a cat like this running amock being a problem....

Saturday, June 14, 2008

P.M.T. (Pt 2)

I was speaking with a friend of mine during the week about the PMT issue, he pointed out, quite reasonably that tree planting is a good "awareness raising" tool. I do have to agree, however tools are only as good as those using them and it is quite difficult to use just one tool for a complex project (just think of the tools used building a house, changing community attitudes and and actually generating change is a far more complex task).

We've been raising awareness in this manner for the past two decades, so what do we do after the awareness has been raised? Where do these people go on to? PMT because that's the message we've been giving them? Is it enough? How do we reach those who aren't receptive to the message? Do we continue to preach to the converted?

I've been involved in environmental education, Landcare, natural resources management for close to 15 years (well much longer if you count firefighting as an NRM activity) and I've long given up on the "warm & fuzzy" message of environmental education. The "warm & fuzzy" (& PMT) is great with schoolkids and very effective and while their parents will listen and will go along and plant a couple of trees will rarely make a change to their lives or a commitment. If the message is something people can relate to, or have a relationship with, then they are more likely carry it through.

The two great motivators tend to be the stomach and the wallet, when talking about plants I'll talk about their uses whether they be as a food or medicine, a useful grazing species or as a good habitat for pollinating insects, insectivorous birds or parasitic wasps. In the case of primary producers the last examples are particularly useful, give them the "warm & fuzzy" talk and they'll often fence off a corner of a paddock, tell them how it's going to improve their productivity and they'll integrate it into their farming practices. The increasing popularity of native pastures and cell grazing is a great example of this with many previously uncommon grass species increasing in frequency due to a change to a more sustainable and profitable system.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Tis trickery.....

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has recently announced Toyota will be building hybrid cars in Australia with a healthy incentive from the Australian government. I will be (mostly) keeping away from the issues of hundreds of millions of dollars in corporate welfare given to the car industry by both side of politics, but will look at some of the issues.

The move will be good for local suppliers particularly if locally made batteries are used, hopefully with flow on effects for other battery consumers (the solar industry for example). It will also be good for reducing inner city air pollution. Now those sort of things are great, but what about the big one, the big question? Will hybrid cars make a difference to greenhouse gas output? Will they save the planet?

We like to look at the fuel consumption, the better the fuel consumption the better it is for the planet right? We don't look at the energy that goes in to building these cars in the first place. Cars are built from steel, aluminum, copper, lead (and nickel in the case of hybrids) and petrochemical derived rubber and plastic all of which require mining, transporting and processing going through numerous steps, and consuming large amounts of energy before taking their final form. So how far do you need to drive that new fuel efficient car (or indeed how many times do you need to use that more efficient fridge/dryer/washing machine etc) to have a positive impact? To use less energy overall than just running the old one? In many cases it will probably never happen. If you really want to make an impact, keep your car well serviced, ensure the tyres are at the correct pressure and use it when you need to. Newer isn't necessarily better.

Or alternately get a motorbike, a tenth the resources to build, twice the fuel economy, no parking problems and ten times the fun.

Wired has an article over here.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


I like trees. Really I do, I think there's little more satisfying than planting them and watching them grow. This is something I know a great deal about, but within Landcare and the broader NRM (Natural Resources Management) we have this obsession with PMT.

"Plant More Trees" is the catchcry that seems to have embedded in many peoples heads. Trees are good but the real power system of a vegetation community are those things less than a couple of metres, grasses, shrubs, herbs etc, in most circumstances, make up the vast majority of flora biodiversity and a huge amount of the biomass but trees get all the glory.

And while we're at it just how many actual trees do you need to plant? I suppose it all depends on what sort of vegetation community you're trying to recreate, forests tend to have around seventy percent canopy cover while woodland is around thirty. So just doing a few rough calculations giving a mature or semi mature tree a canopy diameter of ten metres we only need around ninety of them per hectare to get a seventy percent cover or forty of them for a thirty percent canopy (or around 230 and 100 trees at a 6 metre canopy spread respectively).

So why do we persist in planting so many? I often go past plantings with two metre spacings and am very tempted to chainsaw at least two thirds of them just to give them a chance to grow. The bigger they're allowed to grow, the more likelihood they have of forming hollows and the larger the logs will be falling to the ground again forming better habitat.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

A spotted what?

Spotted Quoll (Dasyurus maculatus) a carnirorous marsupial found in South-eastern Australia, cute, furry, very efficient hunter.

Game, offset and match

Offsets look to be the next big thing, they're based on the idea that it's ok to do something over here (clear rainforest, belch out shitloads of pollution etc) provided you do something to "offset" it over there. Hey I'll club this harp seals head in but to offset it I won't do it to those ones over there.

Anyway I found an interesting article on Carbon Offsets over at MotherJones which says things far more eloquently than I could.

..........Yet an astounding 51 percent of those offsets have been generated by paying refrigerant manufacturers to incinerate HFC-23, an industrial byproduct and potent greenhouse gas, instead of spewing it into the atmosphere.......

Well here we are!

G'day and welcome to Quoll Tracks. I am "The Quoll" by day mild mannered eco friendly public servant by night I don my spotted cape to save...

Nahh forget all that I am more or less eco friendly but the mild mannered bit is going just a little too far, I'm loud, large and opinionated. I also like critters, love wandering about through the bush looking at plants (and I get paid to do it), I like walks on the beach, quiet dinners.... Oh fuck here he goes again....

I'll be using this blog to express my ideas on a number of environmental matters, some of my ideas may upset people, some may even get them to think though given some of my ideas it's more likely to be the former rather than the latter.