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Thursday, 21 January


Canada taking its time to consider TPP text AFTINET

While there has been talk that the official TPP signing ceremony will be held in the first week of February, reports suggest that Canada has not yet decided whether or not to participate.

It appears that Canada’s new Government is taking its time to consult with stakeholders and fully understand the contents and impacts of the deal before making any commitments. Read the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation article here.

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Wednesday, 20 January


Huge penalty charges loom as renewable investment remains at standstill Renew Economy

The standstill in renewable energy investment means 4,400MW of new capacity needs to be committed this year to avoid a shortfall. If not, consumers will pay a penalty price, and it could total nearly $2 billion.


Expressions of interest to establish a small scale communal living eco housing development near Uralla Sustainable Living Armidale

Hi interested ones, let me know if you would like to get together to talk about purchasing a small piece of land, near Uralla so as to build a low cost ecologically designed communal home and establish a food forest. Please contact me via email - a brief bio would be appreciated. Looking forward to [...] full article »


When will private sector learn that age of fossil fuels is over? Renew Economy

Germany says the private sector needs to wake up to reality that the age of fossil fuels is over. That view is supported by new data that shows a much higher than expected fall in coal consumption from the world's biggest user, China.


IRENA takes $46 million stab at the heart of fossil fuel Renew Economy

IRENA announces funding for renewable projects that either replace existing diesel generators, or provide clean electricity to off grid communities that previously had none.


Solar customers launch a class action lawsuit against NV Energy Renew Economy

Solar customers in Nevada are taking legal action against NV Energy in response to controversial changes to the state's net-metering program.


California’s Aliso Canyon methane leak: climate disaster or opportunity? Renew Economy

While fixing the leak must be a high priority for local, state and federal officials, it should also provide the impetus to tackle the dispersed sources of methane from the oil and natural gas industry.


AGL says new renewable plants hinge on closure of coal generators Renew Economy

AGL formally opens Australia's two largest solar plants, but says future developments depend on an exit strategy for old, highly polluting coal plants.


Hard cash and climate change: repost from 2005 John Quiggin

While thinking about decarbonizing transport, I dug out this old post from 2005. It’s interesting to see how the debate has evolved (or not) since then.

The big change has been that the prospects for technological alternatives like alternative energy sources and electric vehicles have improved dramatically. As regards transport, I don’t see much reason to change the analysis I presented in 2005. Unfortunately, while some progress has been made along the kinds of lines I suggested, it’s been very limited compared to the radical changes in electricity generation. So, we are only at the beginning of the process of decarbonizing transport.

Tim Worstall gets us past that pesky NYT paywall to link approvingly to a John Tierney column arguing that the way to encourage energy conservation in the US is not to fiddle with standards but to raise prices. Broadly speaking I agree. At a minimum, getting prices right is a necessary condition for an adjustment to sustainable levels of energy use. Nevertheless, the rate of adjustment and the smoothness with which adjustment takes place can be greatly enhanced by the adoption of consistent pro-conservation policies, or retarded by the adoption of inconsistent and incoherent policies.

This is as good a time as any to restate the point that, given a gradual adjustment, very large reductions in energy use and CO2 emissions can be achieved at very modest cost. Rather than argue from welfare economics this time, I’ve looked at the kind of adjustments that would be needed to cut CO2 emissions from motor vehicle use (one of the least responsive) and argued that price increases would bring this about over time, without significant pain.

With the price of gasoline in the US passing $3/gallon and most of the remaining sceptics now conceding the reality of human-caused...


The government really is instrumental in creating growth Bill Mitchell – billy blog

Sometimes one reads a press article that is so obviously misleading that it is hard to know where to start with it. But perhaps the conclusion is the best place to start sometimes. Such is the case of a Bloomberg article (January 15, 2016) – What #ResistCapitalism Gets Wrong – written by American academic Noah Smith. Basically, the article attempts to attribute all of the post-Second World War prosperity to the “free market economy”, which he says is “a term many use synonymously with ‘capitalism’”. By the end of the article we learn that in fact that prosperity does not come from ‘free market’ liberalisation and that strong governments are essential for growth and reductions in inequality. The “boring old mixed economy” where, in Noah Smith’s words “government really is instrumental in creating growth”. Start with the conclusion and read backwards is my advice in this case.

The argument presented by Noah Smith is that “leftist” movements including “the rhetoric of politicians like presidential candidate Bernie Sanders — who proudly declares himself a “democratic socialist” — has revived general interest in the question of which economic system is best.”

He claims that “fall of the Soviet Union and the successful economic liberalizations in China and India would have ended the debate over whether capitalism is the best economic system.”

And he claims that the “support for a ‘free market economy’ … remains high in almost all countries and regions of the globe”.

Note here the use of the term ‘free market economy’ and Smith’s selective quoting of an October 2014 Pew Research Center report –...

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Tuesday, 19 January


Europe’s future is bleak with an ageing population and policy failure Bill Mitchell – billy blog

I read an interesting article that was published on December 18, 2015 by the Center for Global Development, which is one those centrist-type research and advocacy organisations that lean moderately to the right on economic matters. The article – Europe’s Refugee Crisis Hides a Bigger Problem – discusses what it considers to be “three population related crises”, two of which at the forefront of public attention (because they are moving fast) – the “refugee crisis” and the “terrorism crisis”. The third is “Europe’s slow moving and in inexorable ageing crisis”, which is largely being ignored in the public debate. The article provides a basis to link the three crises together – in the sense that “Europe actually needs millions of migrants a year to mitigate its ageing crisis”. While I have some sympathy with the article, there are many omissions that reflect the bias of the author. Two major issues – mass unemployment and productivity growth are ignored completely. The emphasis in the article is on whether the public sector can afford not to bring in more people to offset the ageing of the EU28 population. That emphasis discloses the bias of the author and diminishes the strength of the article.

The article argues that under “UN “zero migration” variant population projections by 2050, the labor force aged (15-64) population shrinks by 62 million in core Europe”, which is a substantial shift in 35 years in the composition of the population.

The other aspect of this shrinkage in the labour force is the projected rise of 45 million in the over 65 year age bracket.

The article says:

Never has the combination of fertility changes and improvements in longevity produced such dramatic inversions of the demogra...

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Monday, 18 January


Decarbonizing transport John Quiggin

I’ll be talking on this topic to the Victorian Transport Economic Forum on Wednesday, 10 February 2016 from 5pm at the Public Transport Victoria Corporate Centre, 750 Collins Street, Docklands. I’m still formulating my thoughts, so I’ll be happy to read those of anyone who’d like to comment. Here are a few observations to get started

* The process of decarbonizing electricity supply is well under way and, I think, just about unstoppable. To some extent at least, this process provides a template for an approach to transport. In particular, there’s a close analogy between cars and coal. Both have negative local effects (air pollution, congestion, negative amenity and so on) that haven’t been properly taken into account, in addition to generating CO2 emissions. Focusing on the local effects may be a more effective way of reducing CO2 emissions than attacking the problem directly

* By contrast, although we have the technology to greatly reduce the use of carbon-based fuels in transport, we haven’t made nearly enough progress, and it’s not clear what is the best way to go. Should the focus be on improving existing modes of transport (for example, with electric cars), or in switching modes (public transport instead of private) or in reducing the need for travel (with urban design, telepresence and so on).

* Relatedly, is it better to rely on prices, direct controls such as vehicle fuel efficiency standards, or on some other approach?

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Saturday, 16 January


Provocation John Quiggin

We’ve had a series of fatal and near-fatal one-punch assaults in Queensland recently, several captured on CCTV. An even worse case, except that by pure luck the victim managed to put out his hands and avoid a severe head impact was shown recently. One attacker holds the victim to let a second punch him, after which the first (much bigger) attacker delivers a “king hit” and walks off.

What shocked me about this was the alleged attacker’s lawyer, who claimed that he might have a defence of “provocation”. This medieval defence was scaled back after it was used, successfully, by a man who beat his girlfriend to death with a steering wheel lock in 2005 as a result of jealousy, but it apparently remains available to street thugs whose attacks don’t cause grievous bodily harm.

When combined with recent “one-punch” laws, the result is an absurdity. A thug who throws a punch in response to an insult* can’t predict what will happen next. If the victim falls the wrong way and dies, it’s a mandatory 15-year minimum. But if the victim is lucky, so is the thug – he can get off scot-free, or nearly so, with a defence of provocation.

Regrettably, but predictably, the Queensland Law Society has sought to maintain this barbaric defence at every stage. The Law Society’s determination to keep every possible defence open, no matter how anachronistic, undermines more reasonable concerns they have raised with respect to issues such as mandatory minimum sentences.

* Actual or claimed

Friday, 11 December


Labyrinth in Civic Park is complete Sustainable Living Armidale

[ Tuesday, 22 Dec; 7:00 pm; ] The labyrinth in Civic Park is now complete, with about 2740 white dots marking the edges of the paths. It is about five meters into the park from Dangar Street, opposite the Servies' car park, north of the duck pond. Everyone is very welcome to walk it whenever, and use it for personal or group walks. The [...] full article »

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