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sydney alternative media - non-profit community independent trustworthy
Friday, 30 May 2008
Getting up the nose of Gunns Ltd
Mood:  a-ok
Topic: ecology


Broadcast email to some 250,000 subscribers of Get Up here:

Sent: Friday, May 30, 2008 12:27 PM
Subject: Let's pulp it once and for all


Dear Tom,

All those pundits out there who have been saying construction of the Gunns pulp mill is a foregone conclusion obviously forgot to tell you. ANZ has pulled out of financing the controversial project. Congratulations - this is a major victory and our first corporate win!

Premier of Tasmania, Paul Lennon, has also quit largely due to his unpopular and relentless pursuit of the mill - the project is on a knife's edge, but the battle is not over. We must act decisively and urgently to finally sink this mill as Gunns desperately searches for political and financial backers.

That's why we're planning two full-page newspaper ads - one in the Financial Review to definitively warn off any other potential financiers, and one in Tasmania's Mercury to tell the new Premier to distance himself from the old. Click here to see these arresting ads and chip in to get them in print:


This campaign could go either way - we need to act quickly. Getting ANZ, Gunns' banker for over 20 years, to withdraw from its plans to fund the mill was an amazing achievement. Not only does this put the pulp mill project in serious jeopardy, it also sends a clear message to all other potential financiers considering financing the mill.

But Gunns have been busy approaching other banks to step into ANZ's shoes - we need to let them know that financing the mill is risky business, and the public won't let them off the hook. That's why we're putting it in the paper they read each day. We've booked the ads, we just need your help in paying for them.

If we raise $15,000 we'll run the Mercury ad, if we raise $40,000 we'll run the FInancial Review ad. If we raise $55,000 - we'll run both:


That's people power in action - all the might and muscle of a big corporation like Gunns can't match the collective concerns of the people when we all chip in together. This last act on your part might just stop this mill before the bulldozers move in and this chance is lost forever.

Few thought we had much chance of convincing ANZ to do the right thing. They were wrong. Let's prove once and for all that a united people's movement can match the might of big corporations and politicians who stand in the way: let's finally stop this pulp mill. Click here to make a contribution.

Thanks for all that you do,
The GetUp team

PS - Next week GetUp is heading to the NT to assess the 'intervention' for ourselves. We know lots of you have questions and comments - and we'd like to take them with us (in video format) so that the Aboriginal communities themselves can respond. Click here to submit a question.


Posted by editor at 7:49 PM NZT
Updated: Sunday, 1 June 2008 9:51 AM NZT
Chris Richardson puts a boot into the Howard era?
Mood:  mischievious
Topic: aust govt

We rang Access Economics to seek clarification of a quote in this story as circled:

That quote again reads:

"We've made this mistake once. We have failed to surf the biggest potential burst in national prosperity that Australia has ever seen," Mr Richardson told the minerals council.

Come again? Made the mistake once before in the post war period, or the sixties and 70ies?

Richardson through an assistant advises SAM news blog that "this was a reference to the period 2002 onwards".  In other words as we interpret him the Howard Government regime "failed to surf the biggest potential burst in national prosperity" but you could probably include the state governments in his collective "we've" and maybe some industry leaders in there too? Unions? Given he's so diplomatic we might as well include the whole citizenry. But the buck does stop with the PM in our system.

Posted by editor at 7:21 PM NZT
Brief lobby of John Robertson, union leader, in the lobby re public energy in California
Mood:  quizzical
Topic: nsw govt

Our last two posts are about a visit to Sussex St precincts earlier this week. An area famous for political power business. Our mission was purely visual snaps for the news blog not power politics but fate suggested otherwise.

We feel nostalgic in this part of town being close to the culture of Chinatown and where we took our first political baby steps. Once the home of The Wilderness Society in St James Lane, relocated to Kippax St (Surry Hills opposite the 'Holt St Harlot'). Sundry union buildings still around. And sure enough this picture in a window:

Now we hear Unions NSW leader John Robertson in the news last night and today very adamant in a message to the public that negotiations with the Iemma Govt over sale of public energy assets is "over". Similarly we here Green MP John Kaye saying it's dead in the upper house. Both very categorical and confidently public. Noteworthy because pollies are usually never so categorical in a hard contest for fear of embarrassment and lost media currency later.

This reminds of standing last Monday 26 May in the lobby confused trying to find the Justice Action office. Then we noticed a buff looking guy. When you do as much obsessive media monitoring as we do you often recognise people and even feel you know them (which we don't) and sure enough there was button eyed John Robertson wandering in about 2pm. "Ah John, which way to Justice Action office?" I asked, all workers together. He looks at me uncertainly, as you would, and to his credit answers "Good question, it's down this way" heading to the rear section of the building down a flight of stairs to 2nd smaller lift well. He's a good guy.

As we walk I give him the SAM news blog spiel, readership figures, and mention 'Enron: Smartest guys in the room' on Google Video having the broadcast  the link all over the place.

"I've just got a copy of that in my office." 

I wax lyrical a bit about the rogue traders sabotaging the Californian economy, and US$65 billion travesty of 7th biggest company there bankrupt in 24 days in 2002. It truly is a business-labour horror story all NSW citizens need to see. Feeling a little embarrassed preaching to the famous member of the anti sell off choir, and then out at level 2, brush with fame over.

We have no idea if the ripping yarn of the Enron documentary stiffened his resolve, but it sure is educational:

Meanwhile there are hints of developer council mates involved in this proposal in an old campaigning ground of the Camden Haven back in 1992 Commission of Inquiry against a canal estate development, lodgings with local pillar 'Angry Ant':

30 May 2008 Council met with 'dirty diesel' protests

More than 500 people protested outside the Port Macquarie-Hastings Council last night, against plans to build a diesel power station in the Camden Haven.

The protesters gathered under rainy skies chanting "no dirty diesel".

They are outraged by a proposal to build a peak diesel power plant near Kew.

Residents Against Power Pollution's Stuart O'Brien addressed the crowd.

"A polluting diesel power plant in any area makes no environmental sense, social sense or economic sense," he said.

The New South Wales Government has the final say on the development, but the council owns the land on which the power station would be built.

It has given in-principle approval to sell the site to the developer.

Last night it resolved to get legal advice on whether or not it has to go through with the sale.

and here

More time for power plant consultation

Posted Tue May 27, 2008 8:10am AEST

The community has been given more time to comment on a controversial proposal for a diesel fuelled power plant south of Port Macquarie.

Local MP Robert Oakeshott says Camden Haven residents can use the extra time to let the Minister for Planning, Frank Sartor, know about their concerns.

Mr Oakeshott says many people have been surprised by the proposal to build a 'peak load' station between Kew and Herons Creek.

He says they will now have time to comment on the plan.

"When the meeting took place last week, which was the biggest meeting I've seen in the Camden Haven of about 600 people, it was very clear that the majority in the community were either not aware of the proposal at all, or were only just getting their heads around it all," he said.

"So getting an extension to the time frame was important and I'm really pleased that the Minister's come through with that and we've got an extra 20 days, through to June 22.

And here

Sent: Thursday, May 22, 2008 1:13 PM
Subject: [Greens-Media] Herons Creek power station unnecessary,bad for environment

Herons Creek power station unnecessary, bad for environment
Media Release: 22 May 2008
The proposed diesel peaking power station at Herons Creek on the Mid North Coast of NSW should be rejected by the Department of Planning, according to Greens MP John Kaye.
Dr Kaye said: "Local residents are right to be concerned about the environmental impacts of the proposed plant.
"Diesel power stations are a poor way to generate electricity.
"The plant will produce 23,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide every year at a time when a rapid reduction in emissions to combat dangerous climate change is essential.
"These stations cause significant local air pollution, including emissions of nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, lead, sulphur dioxide and microfine particles (PM10), which have been called the new asbestos.
"The power station developer has given vague assurances about water use and storage. Glib statements that these will be used onsite 'as much as practicable' are not good enough for a major development application.
"Local residents will face regular noise pollution and exhaust stacks 20m high will become a major eyesore.
"The Greens do not believe this peaking plant is even necessary.
"A better solution would be a significant program of energy efficiency measures. If absolutely necessary, the local line capacity could also be upgraded.
"A new diesel-fuelled peaking plant is the wrong option for the region," Dr Kaye said.

Posted by editor at 10:52 AM NZT
Updated: Friday, 30 May 2008 11:44 AM NZT
Tragic death of Roni Levy 11 years ago on mural at Justice Action office
Mood:  sad
Topic: nuke threats

We recently got permission from Brett Collins principal of Justice Action prisoner lobby/human rights group, to take a picture of this mural of Roni Levy who died from multiple gun shot wounds from police early morning about 10 years ago. Roni by all accounts was in high confusion and distress and brandishing a knife when he died.

We were put in mind of this mural recently since we were a local ward councillor back then living 2 blocks from the same beach and it was this event said recently to justify the use of stun guns now in NSW:

 Taser guns rolled out to cops | NEWS.com.au

 NSW top cop says tasers not fatal - Breaking News - National ...

He'd be alive if we had tasers: police chief - National - smh.com.au

More NSW police to be issued Taser guns - ABC News (Australian ...

We had another theory about the sudden enthusiasm to announce the decision by the police minister:

 19 May 2008

Police Minister Campbell tasers 'travel rorts' story in Sydney Morning Herald?
Mood:  accident prone
Topic: nsw govt

Posted by editor at 10:22 AM NZT
Updated: Tuesday, 3 June 2008 1:21 AM NZT
B double trucks in narrow city streets: Is it safe, is it wise?
Mood:  sharp
Topic: local news

Photo taken 26th May 2008 in Sydney CBD, corner of Liverpool and Sussex St

There is no doubt B double drivers are very expert drivers generally. But as this story points out on NSW Stateline fatal accidents do happen with pedestrians, especially the elderly, the deaf, the slow who have every right to be in their CBD:

Transcript An Avoidable Death. Broadcast: 01/06/2007 Reporter: Quentin Dempster

QUENTIN DEMPSTER: In 2001 Lola Welch, aged 70, was killed on the footpath near a construction site in the northern Sydney suburb of St Ives.

In the six years since, Mrs Welch's grief-stricken husband, Alan, a former construction controller for the Coles Myer group, has campaigned for changes to the law to make safety measures - including flag men to protect pedestrians - mandatory for all construction sites.

He's also tried to bring to account those he sees as responsible for the approval of the construction in the first place.

Although through his own investigative efforts and agitation Mr Welch made significant progress, he won't give up his demand for a coronial inquest as a start to changing the law.

Six years ago in pouring rain, Alan Welch took Stateline to the exact spot where his wife Lola had been killed as she was walking past a contentious home unit construction site in busy Mona Vale Road, St Ives.

Lola Dorothy Welch, aged 70, was killed when walked between the prime mover and trailer of a huge excavation truck moving across the footpath in front of her at 12:20 pm on Saturday, June 30. According to a police report:

EXCERPT OF POLICE REPORT: The trailer knocked the deceased to the ground and as the truck continued to turn onto Mona Vale Road, the rear offside two sets of wheels crushed the deceased, causing extensive head injuries and immediate death.

QUENTIN DEMPSTER: Alan Welch was called from his Saturday afternoon golf game to be told his wife was dead. His life shattered, he lost weight and was sick with grief. He told investigating police that Lola had a peripheral vision problem, identified by her doctors some years before. But during the police investigation he was comforted by the knowledge that all the facts would come out in a coronial inquest.

But there was no coronial inquest. In spite of a letter writing campaign, the ministers, the Premier, the Ombudsman, the ICAC, the Judicial Commission and the Attorney-General, the Coroners Office consistently refused. Six years later, Alan Welch, now 78, remains deeply disillusioned.

ALAN WELCH, WIDOWER: It should never have happened, it was totally avoidable. The builder was at fault for having the required safety measure in place, bus as I pursued it further, I learnt of the failure of the various authorities, in which we can discuss later, who have all contributed to Lola's death.

And we received this technical comment about cost of trucks on roads recently:

Sent: Thursday, May 22, 2008 8:20 PM
Subject: from RAILPAGE

for nearly 6 years i worked in the UWA civil engineering dept building data logging systems and writing code for thier soil labs. one of the professors there who was a road surfaces expert explained to me the amount of damage large trucks do to roads. B-doubles in particular. he went on to say one of the problems is that many of the prime movers have only 1 driven axle. the lateral loading on the bitumen broke it up over time. he explained light vehicles did next to no damage if the surface was sound. this was in the mid 90s. back then he said a B-double could do as much as $30k / year in road damage..

it would be interesting to do the maths and see what 21c/L equates to.



Posted by editor at 9:50 AM NZT
Thursday, 29 May 2008
Palestine Israel report allegedly censored from Sydney Morning Herald
Mood:  don't ask
Topic: big media

  Image:Mordechai Vanunu.jpg

We tuned into this question of censorship/editing discretion in a report in The Australian Media section today, by Errol Simper:

29 May 2008 Last dispatch fuels conspiracy

The hot story of concern apparently ran in The Age on 10 May 2008, but not in The Sydney Morning Herald which is noteworthy. Then when you read the dramatic nature of the story you begin to wonder how very significant the omission was because it sure looks like news written by a 5 year veteran. Here is the lead in to the big feature:

Wars between worlds

Ed O'Loughlin, Gaza and Sderot
May 10, 2008

As Ed O'Loughlin's five years as Middle East correspondent come to  an end, he reflects on his time covering one of the world's most intractable conflicts.

THE car was still burning when we came upon the scene. A bullet-proof plate from a flak jacket lay near the wreckage, its plastic layers peeled open like the pages of a book. My "fixer" recognised the silver Pajero at once, and he hurried over to a colleague to find out what had happened. When he came back he looked almost puzzled. "It's Fadel," he said. "He's dead!" And he started to weep for his friend.

In fact four were already dead, men and boys, and two more were to die of their wounds a few days later. But 23-year-old Reuters cameraman Fadel Shana was the one who made headlines.

Hundreds of innocent people die in Gaza every year — far more than we bother writing about in the West. But footage from Shana's camera revealed that he had actually filmed an Israeli tank firing the shell that killed him, as he stood in his clearly marked press flak jacket, by his clearly marked press vehicle.

A second tank shell, fired several minutes after the first, sprayed would-be rescuers with a second cloud of three-centimetre "flechette" steel darts, killing 19-year-old Khalil Dogmoush and injuring several others, including freelance photographer Ashraf Abu Amra.

We didn't know all of this at the time, as we stood by the wreckage of Shana's vehicle. All we knew was that a press vehicle had been targeted minutes earlier, that we were standing beside that vehicle, fully exposed to a hillside where Israeli tanks were operating, and that an Israeli drone was whining overhead.

And we knew from long experience that, whatever had happened, the Israeli Defence Force would deny responsibility. This it duly did, claiming that its troops had fired only at armed militants who had attacked them at close range.

I have covered quite a few stories like this over the past 5½ years, in Gaza and elsewhere. Since the present uprising began in 2000, close to 5000 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli action, according to figures from the Israeli rights group B'tselem. Slightly more than 1000 Israelis were killed by Palestinians. In the first three months of this year, 11 Palestinians died for every Israeli civilian.

Eman al-Hams was a 13-year-old schoolgirl who was machine-gunned to death at point blank range by an Israeli officer, who admitted the act on army radio. The officer was subsequently acquitted, promoted and decorated. Asma al-Mughair, 16, and her brother Ahmed, 13, were both shot in the head on the roof of their home in Rafah, which was in the sights of an Israeli sniper's nest, only 100 metres away. Seven members of the Ghaliya family were blown to bits while picnicking on a Gaza beach which Israeli artillery was shelling.

But if you Google any of the above names you will quickly learn — from armchair bloggers and Israeli Government spokespeople — that all of these stories are false, elaborate hoaxes concocted by anti-Semitic journalists to smear the state of Israel. Little wonder, then, that Israeli talkback was generally of the opinion that Fadel Shana got what he deserved.

And you can't help asking yourself, as you stand exposed on a roadway stained with blood and gristle and carbonised rubber, with a killer robot circling overhead, what would they say if it was you who'd been hit? For the average Middle East correspondent this is not a difficult question to answer. As a character remarked in the BBC political satire The Thick of It, looking up your own name on the internet is like opening the door to "a room full of people who are trying to throw shit at you". Fortunately, the job gives one a thick skin. But the Israeli Defence Force's culture of denial and impunity, repeatedly condemned by Israeli and foreign rights groups, does nothing for your confidence when you have reason to fear that someone you can't see is studying you on a computer screen, or through a gun sight.

The story that had brought Fadel Shana to central Gaza that day, April 16, was the killing of three militants and six civilians in Israeli air strikes against the border hamlet of Johara A'diq, close to where three Israeli soldiers had died in a militant ambush earlier that morning.

[full story in The Age here]

The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies are annoyed with ABC Media Watch for not having their voice in on the controversy over why no SMH feature. We know the JBD feel annoyed because Simper refers to the JBD protesting their innocence of any undue or specific pressure to censor O'Loughlin. See the Media Watch story here where the JBD are reported in standard lobbying mode back in 2006. Even so it looks a bit like a pre emptive buckle by the SMH if anything rather than direct influence, and the protests of non interference by the JBD just adds to that view. We think the Herald wimped out, and Media Watch probably should have given the JBD some more say in their story.

We make the general comment too that the intractable grievance and violence in the Middle East is a moral and political whirlpool that sucks in otherwise agnostic and peace loving observers across the world, even Sydney town. One must take care not to be infected with the madness of hatred and indeed injustice there.

Here for the record is the text of the JBD letter which  we requested earlier today, and note our own contribution to censorship by deleting the names of personalities better to concentrate on the issues:

Sent: Thursday, May 29, 2008 2:45 PM
Subject: NSW Jewish Board of Deputies

May 22, 2008 

 Dear [Media Watch]

I am writing to express disappointment at the fact that, in airing this week's segment on Ed O'Loughlin and the non-appearance of his farewell article in the Sydney Morning Herald, you chose not to include any comment from the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies.

This is despite the fact that the point of the segment was the allegation that undue pressure had been applied to the Sydney Morning Herald by the Jewish community, with an inference that we had a hand in the non-appearance of Mr O'Loughlin's article. The inference is untrue. We did not know about, and made no representation to the Sydney Morning Herald about, Mr O'Loughlin's article.

Furthermore, your reporter, .... was informed by me that we did not know about the article. Yet Media Watch aired an inference which you knew had been denied - as is the fact - and chose not to air that fact.

We do not resile from our criticism of Mr O'Loughlin's reporting as lacking in balance and context. Nor do we resile from bringing to the attention of the Sydney Morning Herald the offensiveness of drawing a comparison between the Warsaw Ghetto and Gaza, which was the subject of a 2003 Press Council ruling indicating that such a comparison is unacceptable, yet which was expressed in a letter printed in the Sydney Morning Herald earlier this year. I am sure you would appreciate the offence of such a comparison to the Jewish community, in particular to Holocaust survivors, and that it is a matter which the Board of Deputies was justified in taking up.

I was surprised that Media Watch failed to include our side of the story - given the programme's rigorous approach to the presentation of media stories, and that presenting the other side of the story is a fundamental of journalistic practice.

The ABC Code of Practice requires "that every reasonable effort must be made to ensure that the content of news and current affairs programs is accurate, impartial and balanced".

By not airing any comment from the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies on your programme, the allegations against us were left unchallenged, which meant that the segment lacked balance.

Please would you read this letter in full on air next week.

Yours sincerely

[NSW Jewish Board of Deputies]

We talk about the aparthied legal reality in Israel/Palestine in an earlier post about nuke whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu (pictured above, released on conditions after a long stretch in gaol. Gaza may not be anywhere near the Warsaw Ghetto but it is still a big worry for all those same critics of the old (assuredly pro Nazi) South African regime infamous for black white aparthied.

21 May 2008 Nuke weapons road block to a one state solution for Palestine/Israel?
Mood:  sad
Topic: peace

Posted by editor at 5:29 PM NZT
Updated: Thursday, 29 May 2008 7:18 PM NZT
Ranger notice on registered car in Marrickville 29 May 08
Mood:  not sure
Topic: local news

These two images were taken earlier today. The car looks registered with a good 10 months to run. So why the council ranger notice directly over the driver's windscreen? A mistake, a joke, a racket? It's a mystery:







Posted by editor at 5:00 PM NZT
Tuesday, 27 May 2008
Iraq war has caused the petrol price rise in the West: UN oil expert
Mood:  not sure
Topic: aust govt

Crikey.com.au ezine of 26 May 2008 carry this link via reporter Richard Farmer to The Independent newspaper in the United Kingdom. It's worth extracting in full because it appears to flatly contradict a claim by Piers Akerman on ABC Insiders last Sunday (25 May 08 via this page) by way of a graph he was holding up to the screen. Akerman argued the volume of oil from Iraq was at the same level as pre the invasion in March 2003. But see the bold added below from an expert saying 3.5 million barrels before and 2 million after the Iraq war today.

Who is telling the truth, who is playing with statistics? And notice the 10 extra oil fields also referred to in bold which this expert says never proceeded.

Time will tell in this hot debate but here in the meantime is the story from The Independent:

 Oil: A global crisis

The Iraq War means oil costs three times more than it should, says a leading expert. How are our lives going to change as we struggle to cope with the $200 barrel? Geoffrey Lean reports

Sunday, 25 May 2008

The invasion of Iraq by Britain and the US has trebled the price of oil, according to a leading expert, costing the world a staggering $6 trillion in higher energy prices alone.

The oil economist Dr Mamdouh Salameh, who advises both the World Bank and the UN Industrial Development Organisation (Unido) [bold added], told The Independent on Sunday that the price of oil would now be no more than $40 a barrel, less than a third of the record $135 a barrel reached last week, if it had not been for the Iraq war.

He spoke after oil prices set a new record on 13 consecutive days over the past two weeks. They have now multiplied sixfold since 2002, compared with the fourfold increase of the 1973 and 1974 "oil shock" that ended the world's long postwar boom.

Goldman Sachs predicted last week that the price could rise to an unprecedented $200 a barrel over the next year, and the world is coming to terms with the idea that the age of cheap oil has ended, with far-reaching repercussions on their activities.

Dr Salameh, director of the UK-based Oil Market Consultancy Service, and an authority on Iraq's oil, said it is the only one of the world's biggest producing countries with enough reserves substantially to increase its flow.

Production in eight of the others – the US, Canada, Iran, Indonesia, Russia, Britain, Norway and Mexico – has peaked, he says, while China and Saudia Arabia, the remaining two, are nearing the point at of decline. Before the war, Saddam Hussein's regime pumped some 3.5 million barrels of oil a day, but this had now fallen to just two million barrels.

Dr Salameh told the all-party parliamentary group on peak oil last month that Iraq had offered the United States a deal, three years before the war, that would have opened up 10 new giant oil fields on "generous" terms in return for the lifting of sanctions. "This would certainly have prevented the steep rise of the oil price," he said. "But the US had a different idea. It planned to occupy Iraq and annex its oil." [bold added]

Chris Skrebowski, the editor of Petroleum Review, said: "There are many ifs in the world oil market. This is a very big one, but there are others. If there had been a civil war in Iraq, even less oil would have been produced."

David Strahan: What happens next? The expert's view

At just under 86 million barrels per day, global oil production has, essentially, stagnated since 2005, despite soaring demand, suggesting that production has already reached its geological limits, or "peak oil".

Recession in the West may not provide relief on prices. There is increasing demand from countries such as China, Russia and the Opec countries, whose consumers are cushioned against rising prices by heavy subsidies. The future could unfold in a number of ways:

Oil price collapses

Fuel subsidies could suddenly be scrapped, dousing demand. Cost pressures have forced Malaysia, Indonesia and Taiwan to cut them, but China is hardly strapped for cash. Opec producers are under no pressure to abolish subsidies; as the oil price rises they get richer. Prospect: very unlikely.

Peace could break out in Iraq, the long-disputed oil law agreed, and international oil companies start work on the world's largest collection of untapped oil fields. Prospect: vanishingly unlikely.

Oil price stabilises or moderates

Deep recession in the West might cut oil consumption enough to offset growth in the developing world and Opec, or even engulf them too, softening prices. Prospect: unlikely in the short term.

Oil price soars

Russian oil output has gone into decline; Saudi Arabia has shelved plans to expand production capacity, and advisers to the Nigerian government predict its output will fall by 30 per cent by 2015. More news like this, expect oil at $200 a barrel. Prospect: likely.

Big oil producers will increasingly divert exports for home consumption. Opec, Russian and Mexican exports expected to fall, pushing oil to $200 by 2012. Prospect: highly likely.

The writer is author of 'The Last Oil Shock', John Murray, lastoilshock.com

Peak oil

After 150 years of growth, the oil age is beginning to come to an end. "Peak oil" is the common term for when production stops increasing and starts to decline. At that point what have been ever-expanding and cheap supplies of the resource on which all modern economies depend become scarcer and more expensive, with potentially devastating consequences.

Pessimists believe that production has passed its peak. Optimists say it may be 20 years or so away – which would give us some time to prepare – but are now muted. Last week the hitherto optimistic International Energy Agency admitted that it may have overestimated future capacity. Chris Skrebowski, editor of 'Petroleum Review' and once an optimist himself, believes that the world is now in "the foothills of peak oil". Prices may ease a bit over the next few years, but then the real crunch will come. The price then? "Pick a number!"


Oil provides 95 per cent of the energy used in transport, so this will be hit hard and soon. People are likely to go on using their cars, but airlines are expected to be the first to suffer. On Thursday, British Airways' chief executive Willie Walsh declared that the era of cheap flights was over, suggesting that those environmentalists who have made them their main target for combating climate change may have been wasting their breath.

At least three carriers have already gone bust this year. Last week, American Airlines said it was cutting routes, laying off staff, and charging US passengers $15 to check in a bag because of a $3bn rise in its fuel bills. Even Michael O'Leary, chief executive of Ryanair, says the oil price is "really hurting". On Thursday, Credit Suisse analysts said his company would slip into the red if oil prices rose just a little more, to $140 a barrel.


The world's biggest oil well, it is said, lies beneath Detroit. US vehicles get an average of only 25 miles per gallon. Dramatically improving this would do more to ease the oil crunch than any likely new discovery. But new measures recently approved by Congress would increase the average only to the 35mpg already being achieved by China. Europe does better, if not well enough, at 44mpg.

Rising fuel prices are already beginning to drive change. Sales of 4x4s are plummeting in both the US and Britain, and those of hybrids – which do 60mpg are soaring. As the price climbs further, manufacturers will unlock long-prepared plans for much more efficient vehicles. "Plug-in" hybrids, charged up with electricity overnight, save another 45 per cent in petrol consumption. Further down the line is the "hypercar" – made of tough, light plastic – which could cross the US on a single tankful.


All new houses in Britain will have to be zero carbon – burning no fossil fuels such as oil – by 2016, the Government announced, and housebuilders are struggling to meet the target. At present the standard can be reached only at great expense, but the industry is confident of bringing the cost down as mass production kicks in. It is even more important to adapt existing homes.

The key step is to super-insulate the house to make it as energy-efficient as possible – and only then to provide renewable energy sources. Solar water heaters, ground source heat pumps and boilers powered by wood pellets are favourites. Rooftop windmills do not work well enough yet. Photovoltaic panels, which get electricity from the sun, are expensive but their price should come down. Britain has lagged behind other countries. Soaring energy prices should shake things up.


Effectively, almost everything is partially made of oil, and so is going to get more expensive. About 10 calories of oil are burned to produce each calorie of food in the US, and farming a single cow and getting it to market uses as much as driving from New York to Los Angeles. Some 630g of fuel is used to produce every gram of microchips.

The cult of local, seasonal produce will enter the mainstream, as everyone learns about food miles and a modern-day Dig for Victory grips gardeners – bad news for the farm workers overseas who provide 95 per cent of our fruit and half our vegetables. Trips to out-of-town supermarkets will seem extravagant, heralding a high street renaissance and a new surge in online grocery shopping, and soon we'll all be eating our own potatoes.

Third World

Poor countries and their peoples will be hit by a devastating double whammy as both their fuel and food prices increase. Last year, when oil cost only about half as much, countries from Nepal to Nicaragua were hit by fuel shortages. At least 25 of the 44 sub-Saharan nations are facing crippling electricity shortages.

As oil is used in agriculture, its increased cost will also drive up the price of food, making more and more people go hungry. Worse, expensive petrol is bound to increase the drive towards biofuels made from maize and other crops, which then brings the world's poorest people into competition with affluent motorists for grain – a contest they cannot win. Just one fill-up of a 4x4's tank with ethanol uses enough grain to feed one person for a year.

Emerging economies

China and India and other developing countries will help to drive up demand for oil and compete for scarce supplies. This has already helped to raise prices: demand for oil from Western countries has actually fallen over the past two years, but the emerging economies have more than made up the slack. And they have the money to do so.

Chinese and Indian consumers have so far been insulated from the effects of the price increase by heavy government subsidies, and their industrial revolutions and rapid growth are largely fuelled by oil. There is little sign that the growth in demand will slacken These countries are also likely to follow the time-honoured Western tradition of making deals with oil-exporting countries – and backing unpleasant regimes – to try to secure supplies.


Last week. the embattled Gordon Brown – "incredibly focused" on oil, according to his spin-doctors – began playing the blame game. "It is a scandal," he said, "that 40 per cent of the oil is controlled by Opec and that their decisions can restrict the supply of oil to the rest of the world."

Someone should tell him that he should be blaming geology – or God – and that, as oil production peaks, Opec countries simply will not be able to pump more. But he is not alone; four US senators warned Saudi Arabia that if it did not step up the flow, the US might withdraw its military support.

There will be much more of this as supplies tighten. Three years ago, a US army report predicted oil would soon peak, and security risks increase. Expect oil wars. But, of course, we have already had one – in Iraq.>

Archie Bland

Posted by editor at 8:05 PM NZT
Updated: Tuesday, 27 May 2008 8:37 PM NZT
Sunday, 25 May 2008
Sunday tv talkies: Howard's influence re emerges, Rudd light burns 'brighter'?
Mood:  caffeinated
Topic: aust govt

Picture: Lifted off Sydney Morning Herald main opinion page 2007.

Author’s general introductory note (skip this bit if you know this regular weekly column):

This is not a well packaged story. It’s a contemporaneous traverse of the Sunday television free to air political talkies indicating the agenda of Establishment interests: Better to know ones rivals and allies  in Big Politics and Big Media.

Indeed it’s the tv version monitoring task similar to what Nelson Mandela refers to here in his book Long Walk to Freedom (1994, Abacus) written in Robben Island prison (where he was meant to die like other African resister chiefs of history in the 19C), at page 208

“..newspapers are only a shadow of reality; their information is important to a freedom fighter not because it reveals the truth, but because it discloses the biases and perceptions of both those who produce the paper and those who read it.”

Just substitute ‘Sunday tv political talkie shows’ for "newspapers" in the quote above.

For actual transcripts go to web sites quoted below except with Riley Diary on 7. And note transcripts don’t really give you the image content value.

Media backgrounders

 - as predicted here on SAM the ‘perfect storm’ of factors relating to the Henson art exhibition have coalesced into several daily cycles of media scrutiny

[abc 7.45 am news didn’t run with cricket coverage instead? True coverage Australia v West Indies in WI]



9 Sunday 7.30 – 9.30 am

- backgrounder on McCain age question, humour to respond.

- tax tip

- petrol price rise political panic. Nelson getting traction

Feature on Liberal Party to come.

Feature story about cross cultural dance. Bangarra. Looks really impressive. Page brothers creative force. One of 3 died in 2002. Fantastic archival footage.

Liberal Party feature at 8.25 missed the start – Kroger/Victoria Baillieu. Peter Van Onselen is running the story.

Caught about 70% of it. Upshot is ‘reforms under way’, Howard is strongly involved to alarm of such as Christopher Pyne in the provinces (South Australia) but Hockey makes it clear he is involved. Gerard Henderson refers to ‘if he was in the party room’. Abbott reflects the democracy principle to bring the people with you. Julie Bishop is uncreconstructed from flushed WA lassiez faire mining economy boom re work choices and “fraud” ALP, lost the media battle she claims. Thesis is Party was states based needs a federal structure with orders implemented down from the top. Returning to autocratic hierarchy default position?

Hockey impressive on future interest in leadership, but not ready, not now.

Laurie Oakes with Jenny Macklin re indigenous issues. The problem is to find all the great things in indigenous community and promote them, as a resource, as a success, as a matter of pride. Like Bangarra. So their problems are no different to every other section of society has good and bad.

Art child protection controversy. Sexualisation of children is wrong. Children are being bombarded. Govt do anything? Avoided the question re art gallery. [Grattan has serious column in Fairfax too.]



 Picture: Archive of John Howard as PM 9th May 2007 which may have been when Peter Costello gave his "masterclass" budget speech, one photo in a series of snaps (see more below) off the web datacast of federal parliament suggesting to us Howard was a bit cranky, the better the speech by Costello sounded?

10 Meet the Press:  8- 8-30 am

Lead in re Liberals Turnbull and Minchin grab, press cover of Downer planning to stay. AWB inquiry planned again.

Minchin is talent – says he’s been talking to Downer last night, hasn’t made up his mind claims Minhin despite front pager. Hard man looks quite amused like it’s fun politicking like when it was back in govt enjoying the fleeting relevance. Footage of Downer ‘steely determination’, Minchin contradicts, very chuffed but grabs for petrol pricing against govt as a life raft in the interview. Bonge brings it back, footage Abbott with heir apparent is Mal Turnbull. Minchin stands off. Another story as Joe Hockey as leader. PB it's coming out of the Party?


Minch blames press gallery. Rising prices, interests, petrol, gallery should get a life. Bonge IS the gallery too, and put’s it back on Lib Party. Damning footage of Nelson and Turnbull hedging

Annabel Crabb (Fairfax, Sydney) and Mark Kenning Adelaide Advertiser (News)…..The Gallery! With AC facing up. Sure enough first question about medicare levy, senate will oppose. Serious policy debate after 15 mintues of the show – incentives to stay in private insurance versus capping Minch says is ideological.

Mark Kenny, extent of tax blocking in senate, medicare levy, alcopops ‘idiotic’, looking at car tax. Not voting against appropriation measures. Revenue measures. Quite a hard man is Minch and AC is not really quite up to the adversarialism.

Q&A is a little clunky. Petrol tax issue – Minchin talked to Greg Hunt – denies truth of press reportage Courier in Qld. Kenny get’s to it about control of the legacy of who succeeds, blocking by refusing to retire. “power broker” Minch smiles sheepishly. This is funny. Self criticizes for being impertinent.

Out take is Bill Leake theme of pythonesque wounds but self inflicted. Loss of limbs. Gruesome.



Sharon Burrow of the ACTU – strong woman and speaker, adverts about work rights, miners want uncapped hours. The game is still on. Rudd deliver on promises but also in parliament.

AC refers formal Labour Advisory Council in ALP rules to meet twice  year including later this month says Burrow. But this is separate conversation.  Discussion over shareholders maximum rights over executive salary. AC has a cute smile for the out take. Warmed up after a slowish start.

Meet The Press - Watch Political Video Online - Channel TEN.

Riley Diary 7, 8.35 am

High standard, clashed with Onselan on 9 same topic re Liberal leadership, and ‘love’ between leaders and deputies. Lots of Motown and 80ies soundtracks. Great footage. Strong analysis. One of the best but very big competition on 9 so missed a lot.



Insiders 2: 9- 10am

Intro about disjunct of Rudd promoting “entitlement” and closing door on hand outs regarding petrol prices. Unsustainable approach.

Swan rating compared to Turnbull after budget, missed the comparison presume it went up a lot.

Press round up re David Marr on

Talent is Joe Hockey in the kick off building on 10 MTP re Minchin questioned by Annabel Crabb. Footage of colleague and Minch (a laughing grinch). Talk about restructuring, still hold economic credentials. Ad hominem attacks on Swan. Populist discredit? Sticks to 5c promise. Always be cheaper under coalition as recurring rhetoric – does have traction but bad policy, and cynical low road politics in climate change world. [ALP looking at environment fro gst component on petrol.] Talk about pensioners etc and medicare surcharge, “deadly politics”.

Hockey uses big words like cascading and articulates quite well for a big chumpy guy. Obviously growing in his professional persona. Behind every great man ….

Moral panic over alcopops tax, versus moral panic over binge drinking. 2am lockouts discussion. [people hard wired to sleep at night … stick with that I reckon, 24 hr economy is a sick society].

Every person segment family with personal trainer, great coalition budget from a Labor Govt. Ouch. Left out renewable energy. Attractive jelly fish line, missed it. Damn. Reference to ‘done everything we can do’ – yeah, attractive jelly fish.

Akerman ramps up oil out of Iraq at same level as before the war started.

Big discussion on immigration policy issues re social harmony coming back refers to Doug Cameron speech, Howard’s huge increase “success” Left agrees with conservatives claims Marr, but not sure about that. It’s not the left of ALP against immigration. It’s the redneck right as opposed to the pro business/growth right of the ALP.  The left are pro refugee, pro sustainability, workers rights and conditions not be sabotaged by desperate underclass manipulated by $80M p.a. Macquarie Bank executives like Moss, [or Fairfax real estate/advertising businesses only concerned about their $150K pa cut?]

[missed a section]


Picture: Picture choice of PM Howard in the Washington Post in February 2007 when he sledged Barak Obama as the preference of Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden.

Zaetta smear debate, press problem going big naming her in false story, or as Akerman claims Defense Dept and therefore ALP minister is the problem her name in defense documents? – says to me it was a clumsy News Ltd attempt to attack an ALP minister after Ernies book about sexism on ABC tv news last week (re Sydney Writers Festival attacking conservative establishment). Zaetta as collateral damage in moral posturing by powerful institutions? We think so.

Henson art show framed as debate what is pornography, but this is false convenient frame by big media – it’s about follow up to Orkopoulos predation of children, and how he got away with culture of secrecy for so long. Akerman leans into this aspect re Patrick Power gaoled in case of child porn still supported by powerful figures. What is this culture of tolerance for exploiting children? Issues of child protection. Marr talks about the law on this that Henson work is not porn – not a practicing lawyer though qualified before in top law firm Allens (corrupt sharks?) so others give deference. Porn is likely in the eye of the beholder, even if not the intent of the image creator. [Issues of reckless or negligence if not criminality?]

Talking pictures – phallic Nelson, David Rowe classic again. Cartoonists ‘can’t shoot bambi’ re Nelson. etc


Home page is http://www.abc.net.au/insiders/




Posted by editor at 12:13 PM NZT
Updated: Sunday, 25 May 2008 12:45 PM NZT
Saturday, 24 May 2008
Photo of hot Aussie woman, censorship attempt at Sydney Writers Festival!?
Mood:  lyrical
Topic: independent media

Picture: 'Best thing on Wednesdays' said the compere, referring to Sydney Morning Herald opinion writer, and author, Liz Farrelly  who we do admire. Tutonic beauty, perfect posture, mild tones and girlish sunny mirth with courage and intimidating intellect. What a woman. Dire Straits put it like this on Vertigo/Wild West End "Made me feel nineteen for a while". Too shy at seat F14 to meet her gaze into the stage lights and the audience, entertaining our innocent fan-tasy. So this is the 'austere' Elizabeth in the flesh. All woman. A rare beauty of strength and sensitivity, and 'big hair'. Would she notice this fan? We felt humbled and indeed naked. Did she get our card with the Roman Colloseum heritage12 months back?



We should be flattered. Like the 'freak' full forward Gary Ablett, famous at Geelong Aussie Rules for being a marked man, too successful at his work of kicking goals, so we felt undue special attention. I was one of several taking photos at "A Simple Life" session at the Sydney Writers Festival yesterday, including one professional with a long range lense as long and fat as our Aussie Rules thighs, right hand aisle then left hand aisle standing up visible to all. "You're the only one I saw" marshall said in high motivation. Mmm. Who was I really talking to here? The Marshall or the proverbial labor luvvies, editor Marnie Cordell implicitly embraced in her introduction referring to "dark days of Howard" ?! Does this make it a twilight?


I said "you have your lawyers contact my lawyers [me]" and "I am a guest of New Matilda" [which was true]. At this point a silent quiver of uncertainty furrowed the brow of our charming ruthless officious marshall ... and I was away out of the suffocating ambush of my free speech, in the state of ALP.


The ironies were piling up. Equal measures of anxiety, sadness, mystery here about perceptions of clumsy censorship in my own centre left green milieu. 

Indeed it had been one of those strange days, involving cut phone lines mid conversation talking about web security issues with a client tackling Coca Cola Amatil whose own email is playing up, dead air air on pesky phone calls (marketers?), crashing of the Marrickville phone exchange at 10am 23 May 08 , suspicous rail officer, bag checks at supermarket.

What is this? When did I get the kick me sign? Does one inherently look subversive? One begins to see why Gary tragically turned to drugs to escape 'the unwanted attention'. Flattering then just simply intrusive and bizzare.


This is one of the photographs above yesterday we were ordered to delete by a marshall at a session hosted by New Matilda called A Simple Life. We refused point blank as any self respecting blogger would, not least for the empty chair on the stage ... at the same Writers Festival event (self awareness anyone?) and ACIJ advert on festival newspaper promoting, get this, "INDEPENDENT JOURNALISM". Well to be fair we are not a real 'journalist' whatever that is. More like a judicious critic of the sector and new media indy practitioner.


Picture: The empty chair at far left symbolic of censored, imprisoned writers. Like this blogger sought to be censored same session. Tsk tsk.


Picture: It's a toaster real estate (as below) kind of political economy in Sydney, obscuring truth and beauty, so it seems.



Picture: The Green Party's amusing annual Bad Developer Awards' "Golden Toaster".

Posted by editor at 9:09 AM NZT
Updated: Saturday, 24 May 2008 10:47 AM NZT

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