Letter to Tanya Plibersek re: Carbon targets

I received a response from Tanya Plibersek to my previous letter re: clean feed just before I went away on holidays, and just after the Government announced their woefully inadequate targets for CO2 reduction.

Below the fold is my follow-up.

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Geo-sequestration mis-reporting

Environmental Leader highlights a Reuters report on the new geo-sequestration plant opening in Victoria.

The basic principle of the “plant” is to pump 100,000 tonnes of CO2 into the ground (and, I suggest, hope that this won’t cause unforseen and/or longer-term issues). I’m dubious about geo-sequestration generally, but that’s not my real gripe with this report. This is the lead:

A geo-sequestration plant, capable of capturing and compressing 100,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide which is stored two kilometers underground, has opened in Victoria, Australia. Researchers hope the project will help to significantly reduce the emission of greenhouse gases.

(Emphasis mine.) Whilst, technically, it could be argued that sequestration reduces the emission of greenhouse gases – because it’s funneling the emitted CO2 into the ground – it’s not actually reducing the emissions. Just storing them somewhere else for an indefinite period.

But the corker is when the voiceover of the report says:

… it uses experimental low-emission technology that has the potential to reduce the burning of fossil fuels.

This is patently untrue. In fact, a successful trial is likely to lead to a continuation, or even increase, in the burning of fossil fuels, as it delays the need for investment in truly renewable energy and allows the continuation of use of coal fired power stations and the like.

I’m astounded that an agency like Reuters would get this so wrong in their report…

Choice on going carbon neutral

Choice magazine have got an interesting article on going carbon neutral. I found it interesting that in this graph Australia ranks 4th for per-capita emissions. I’d always been led to believe we were second only to the US. Also includes all the usual tips (and usual suspects) for reducing emissions, but doesn’t mention offsetting. A useful guide to pass on to family and friends that are bitten by the green bug…

BP’s friendly face

I’ve been seeing advertising around the city touting BP’s “green credentials” – paraphrased, the ad says “We committed to reducing our emissions to 1990 levels by 2010. We did it by 2001.”

I find these ads mildly offensive, because BP are still making massive profits – $4.21 billion in one quarter (and this is considered a “bad” quarter) – from their primary busines – selling petrol. Of course, this is one of the major contributors to global warming, so the company’s claims seemed to me to be a bit disingenuous, to say the least.

But, what is even worse still is that while BP are out touting their “green-ness”, they have paid $1.1 billion in fines in the US alone for environment-related violations.

BP are one of the most forward thinking of the Big Oil companies (not that that says much). They have announced an investment, globally, $1.8 billion over 3 years. Working this out another way, that equates to $0.15 billion per quarter – or around 3% of profit.

Don’t get me wrong: $1.8 billion is a big investment in anyone’s language, but it’s a tiny fraction compared to the damage their main business does.

Mostly, though, I reckon that BP should spend less money on advertising how green they are, and more money on actually doing the right thing…

BioBike

South Australian students have constructed a biodiesel powered bike.

That’s cool ‘coz it’s an Aussie invention (we need more of them). But like most – likely to go off-shore (“There are no plans to produce a commercial version of the bike, but several companies in Asia have expressed interest.”).

That’s so frustrating – these talented students can do more than manufacturers with R&D budgets infinitely larger that the students probably had to work with. We need to see more of this kind of R&D happening in Australia – thankfully we have the education system to do that hard work eh?

Global warming – swift action required

Well – we already knew that. But as Treehugger reports, the ice is melting faster than the official predictions of the IPCC. The IPCC is the same organisation that conservatively suggested that humans are 90% likely to be causing global warming. In the face of reality, their conservative estimates on ice melt seem to be very conservative indeed. Perhaps they are also understating our impact?

Vincenze also posted a simple argument for why we need to act – risk management 101 really. Makes common sense – so why is it still in question?

Anyways – very interesting. And with Al and the IPCC getting the Nobel prize, mebbe more action is on the way? I sure hope so…

Jetstar launch offset program

In my inbox today – “Introducing Jetstar’s Carbon Offset Program”:

To celebrate the launch, we are going to be paying for all carbon emissions on every international and domestic flight, for all of our passengers, on Wednesday 19th September – the first day of our new program.

This single day offset will have a six figure price tag and is a real sign of our commitment to protecting our environment…

The program is accredited by the Government’s Greenhouse Friendly program, which includes tree-based offsets in the mix of accredited products. (I’m not a fan of tree-based offsets – investment in renewable energy, like that offered by Climate Friendly, is preferred in my book.)

Unlike Virgin, Jetstar have embedded offsetting into their booking page on their website – right after the “excess baggage” section. This is a good move (and one of the criticisms I had of the Virgin program.)

A flight from Sydney to the Sunshine Coast – which, fortuitously I need to book today 😉 – adds $2.52 to the flight cost. By contrast, Climate Friendly’s price for the same trip are $13.04. This is partly because Climate Friendly also include other factors in their pricing – such as the contrails and other impacts of flights – as well as using more expensive credits.

That said, Jetstar do go to some effort to explain how they calculate the cost and it seems they are factoring in a few things specific to their airline, which may also lower the cost. They also claim that they “will not make any profit from Carbon Offset transactions”.

The offsetting doesn’t apply to Jetstar’s business operations, nor is it compulsory for all passengers (it’s not even ticked by default). But they do claim to be taking measures to increase operational efficiency:

Jetstar is focused on the implementation of several conservation strategies relating to energy, water and waste usage across all facets of its operation.

They also tout the benefits of their younger plane fleet’s fuel efficiency as one of the “measures” they are taking (although I doubt environmental benefit played a significant part in their decision making process).

Unfortunately for Jetstar, like Virgin, their core business, low-cost flights, are actually contributing significantly to the increase in flights being taken, which in turn contribute to global warming. So moves like this will do little to dent the scepticism of many a hardened climate campaigner.

But as I’ve mentioned before, I think, on balance, programs such as these do help, because they result in investment in renewable energy (and in the case of tree-based programs, landcare and bushland regeneration). And with our government lagging behind in introducing any concrete targets or legislation, this can only be a good thing.

Find out more about the program on Jetstar’s site.