Latte Lexuses?

David over at Oikos posts an excellent overview of car efficiency standards in the US, and how they might apply in Australia. Café standards for cars: Espresso Excels and latte Lexuses.

Al Gore mentions efficiency standards in An Inconvenient Truth, and they are also referenced, from memory, in Who Killed the Electric Car. David’s piece gives a good overview (including the costs to manufacturers) and also suggests that such standards wouldn’t be as effective in Oz.

Update 26-Jan-2006: Martin Eberhard responds to the energy portion of Bush’s State of the Union speech with specific discussion of CAFE standards.

No excuses left…

WWF and CSIRO yesterday jointly launched a new report called The Heat is On.

I haven’t had a chance to read it yet (been on annual leave moving into our the apartment), but there’s a fair buzz around here about the report. From the press release launching the report:

The report was two years in the making and is the result of a coalition of Australia’s leading energy and transport stakeholders – including Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton, Xstrata Coal, Westpac Banking Corporation, Alcoa World Alumina Australia, Woodside Energy and the Australian Automobile Association.

The report features modelling by CSIRO and ABARE that reveals Australia can make deep cuts to its greenhouse gas emissions in concert with the international community with little impact on the economy.

Contrary to popular belief, the report shows that overall household energy will be more affordable in 2050 than it is today.

This, on top of the Stern Review of previous reports on the topic should finally put lie to the argument that taking the necessary steps to reduce our carbon emissions will destroy the economy.

This, plus the continued public and political momentum behind addressing global warming will hopefully tip the government into action. Only time will tell…

P.S. just a reminder to those that don’t know, I work for WWF-Australia, but the views expressed here are my own, and not necessarily those of my employer.

Proportional emissions

Tim Burrows: UN overtaken by snail. Tim points out an interesting fact.

If China was to emit at the same rate as Australia, it would be responsible for about 90% of global emissions instead of the 30% or so that they account for at present.

China is taking an active stance on reducing emissions. As Al Gore points out in An Inconvenient Truth, it’s mileage standards for cars are far stronger than the US. And there are many other things they are doing. Not perfect, but a lot better than our country’s piss poor efforts.

He then goes on to talk about a proportional carbon allowance:

As George Monbiot points out in his book ‘Heat’, rather than stopping the clock and freezing everyone’s emissions at their current level, surely it would be fairer to base emissions caps on a proportional split of allowable emissions levels. That is, take the allowable total emissions of the world, divide that by the population of the world, then multiply by the population of each country.

On this basis, most developing countries would be allowed to actually increase their emissions slightly, while developed countries would have to make drastic cuts. This would allow developing countries some time to adapt to the new regime, while putting most of the burden on the countries that caused the problem in the first place.

I’ve seen this theory before (it’s not Monbiot’s creation I don’t think). But it makes intuitive and rational sense. And it shows how irrational some of the alternatives are. But that’s politics for ya…

Flip-flopping?

Oikos: Costello on climate change: Back to the future?.

From the ABC, Costello says:

“I think the ground is changing. I think it is important that we bring new countries into this discussion. And I think, from Australia’s point of view, if the world starts moving towards a carbon trading system, we can’t be left out of that.”

David does more than just point out that the Kyoto Protocol in fact does include an emissions trading mechanism – he points to Alexander Downer telling us just that in 1998.

This at the same time as the so-called Environment Minister apparently claims Australia is recognised as a world leader on global warming (I heard that from someone in the office earlier today, but can’t find a reference)…

Do they take us for fools?

Subsidising the wrong things

So, I was reading in Wheels magazine today that Ford Australia received $100 million in funding from the government so that they could keep open their manufacturing operations here.

To put that figure into perspective, the government has committed $75 million towards the recently announced “world’s largest” solar energy plant [Replaced broken link 14 Mar 2017].

Obviously the intent is to maintain a manufacturing presence in Australia which will support Ford’s workers, but also the component manufacturers that supply Ford. I’m not a fan of subsidies for uncompetitive industries, but on balance it sounds reasonable. (I’d love to know how many people would be affected by Ford closing local manufacturing – could that $100 million be better spent re-skilling the workforce? But I digress…)

Of course, that mag went to press before the layoffs announced the other day. These layoffs are blamed on rising oil prices, and a drop in “big car” sales.

This is not a new trend. Car manufacturers that are relying on “big car” sales, like Holden (Commodore) and Ford (Falcon) have been seeing declining sales of their bigger models for years, with a particularly steep drop in the past year. The biggest selling cars for some time have consistently been smaller cars. And the dominant player at the moment is Toyota.

You’d think they’d cotton on to the fact that maybe they should be looking to develop smaller cars. Or more efficient engines. Or something! Not just keep building the same old cars that aren’t selling. Certainly it doesn’t seem to be a winning strategy.

But I nearly fell of my chair when I continued reading the article to see that the funding was specifically for development of large cars (specifically V8s if memory serves) and related technology – with a view to export markets. So not only is the government propping up an uncompetitive industry, but it is throwing money at a strategy that is clearly a dud.

In the same edition of Wheels, they interview last year’s Wheels Young Designer of the Year who is close to finishing an internship at Ford (the internship is a prize for winning the award). He is environmentally conscious, and clearly wants to work on cars that are more efficient and environmentally friendly. But Ford aren’t doing a whole lot in that area, are they?

Now to me, connecting the dots is pretty easy. (Am I being too simplistic?) Yet high-paid executives at Ford seem unwilling to see the writing on the wall and change course. Instead of looking for government handouts to prop up their unsustainable “big car” strategy, they should be looking to utilise Australia’s strong design talent to deliver innovation – cleaner, more efficient cars might be a good place to start.

And perhaps our government could think more strategically about spending our tax dollars on a dying business and instead focus it on research and development of cleaner and more efficient technologies. Focus on the development of “green tech” – one of the biggest growing industries worldwide – with a view to position Australia as a leader in the field.

What would it take to switch from subsidising “business as usual” practices to spurring innovation? I do hope we find out soon, coz I fear for the continued economic success of our country if we don’t start changing course soon…

Update 2006-11-10: Just a pointer to the comments section – John has some really interesting points in his post there…

Interest rates

As a new home owner, I now have to understand Reserve Bank interest rate announcements and how they affect our loan etc. Ross Gittens has a great piece that explains a few things about today’s rate increase. We’re on a fixed introductory rate that’s unlikely to change prior to settlement, so we should be sweet. But still, it’ll take a few of these announcements for me to stop feeling just a little anxious…