Monday, July 02, 2012

Japanese reactors restarting

Germany next?

Dozens of protesters have shouted and danced at the gate of the first nuclear power plant to restart since Japan shut down all of its reactors for safety checks following the Fukushima disaster.

Ohi nuclear plant's reactor No.3 returned to operation despite a deep division in public opinion.

Last month, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda ordered the restarts of reactors No.3 and nearby No.4, saying people's living standards can't be maintained without nuclear energy.

Many citizens are against a return to nuclear power because of safety fears after the Fukushima accident.

Tens of thousands of people have gathered on Friday evenings around Noda's official residence, chanting "Saikado hantai", or "No to nuclear restarts".

All 50 of Japan's working reactors were gradually turned off following last year's massive earthquake and tsunami, which sent the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant into multiple meltdowns, setting off the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.

But worries about a power crunch over the hot summer months have been growing. Oil imports are soaring. Officials have warned about blackouts in some regions.

The government has been carrying out new safety tests on nuclear plants, and says Ohi No.3 and No.4 are safe to restart.

Protesters such as Taisuke Kohno, a 41-year-old musician among the 200 people trying to blockade the Ohi plant, aren't so sure. He said protesters were facing off against riot police and planned to stay there day and night.

"It's a lie that nuclear energy is clean," he said. "After experiencing the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, how can Japan possibly want nuclear power?"

Kansai Electric Power Co, the utility that operates Ohi in central Japan, said on its website that a nuclear reaction restarted on Sunday afternoon at the No.3 reactor, a key step for it to begin producing electricity.


Government must share financial risk of new British nuclear plants

The Government must subsidise or loan money to support the construction of new nuclear power stations to ensure Britain has a reliable electricity supply in the future, an eminent panel of experts will say this week.

Britain needs to rebuilt as a “nuclear nation” rather than relying too heavily upon renewable energy sources such as wind power, according to a report by the Birmingham Policy Commission to be released on Monday.

The Commission, a group of leading energy experts chaired by former Labour secretary of state for energy and climate change Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, will warn that industry is unlikely to invest the billions of pounds needed to build new nuclear power stations by itself.

Instead it will say that the Government must be prepared to share some of the financial risk with taxpayers’ money.

The report will warn that delays in making a decision to build new nuclear power stations over the past decade have resulted in the country falling behind other countries in research and expertise on nuclear energy.

Successive governments have agonised over approving the building of new nuclear power stations due to the high costs involved in decommissioning and disposing of nuclear waste. Concerns over safety following the Fukushima disaster in Japan also introduced delays.

The new report will, however, call for the establishment of a statutory Nuclear Policy Council to establish a long term road map for nuclear energy in the UK. It will also urge for greater incentives to encourage communities to host geological disposal sites for nuclear waste.

It will say: “Rebuilding the UK as a suitably qualified nuclear nation, capable of building new stations and developing new technologies is a priority.

“The lack of certainty and clarity in the UK Government policy on energy, and the hiatus while the Electricity Market Reform bill is drafted and put into law, is producing a sense of drift in which energy companies lack the conviction to invest in new plant construction.

“The financial risks associated with building new nuclear power stations are beyond the balance sheets of many of the utilities. These risks need to be shared between the public and private sectors.”

The Birmingham Policy Commission, whose members include prominent nuclear scientists, energy experts and environmental advisers, was established in September last year by the University of Birmingham to explore the future of nuclear power in the UK.

The report warns that by the time the current nuclear power stations reach the end of their lifetime in 2035, Britain will have lost around half of its ability to produce electricity as many coal fired power stations are also due to close within the next decade.

Environmental campaigners last week were celebrating after plans to build the first new coal-fired power station in the UK for 40 years were abandoned following a campaign.

The Commission’s report will warn that while renewable energy can supply some of the shortfall, “one drawback of renewable energy sources is that they need a lot of space”.

Instead, it will say, the Government must make concrete plans for the role nuclear energy will play in the future of Britain’s electricity supply.

Lord Hunt said: “When you look at the challenge we face, I am convinced that nuclear has a strong role in the future. The longer you leave it, the longer it takes before you get new nuclear power stations up and running.

“The foundations have been laid for new nuclear power stations, but I think the worry is that the companies involved are reluctant to commit to investment.”

The Coalition Government recently announced plans to introduce a feed in tariff to help subsidise green energy. This will see consumers paying a premium on their electricity prices to help cover the higher costs of producing green energy.

It is expected that nuclear power will also benefit from these green energy subsidies. The Commission’s report will warn, however, that substantial up front sums will be needed to build new power stations and these consumer subsidies may not be enough.

A nuclear power station costs an estimated £5 billion to build.

The report will say: “In the current economic climate, the challenge is not simply predicting lifetime economics but also how to raise the billions needed up front.”

There has not been a new nuclear plant built in the UK for more than 20 year and there have been rumours of energy companies planning to pull out due to the lack of clarity on government energy policy.

Earlier this month, however, EDF Energy awarded a £2 billion contract to start developing the design and building a new power station at Hinkely Point in Somerset.

A spokesman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change said: “Nuclear is a mature technology and with our market reforms in place we don’t believe there is a need for public subsidy.”


How is Creating Green Jobs Like Banning Tractors to Create Farm Jobs?

Todd Myers uses sarcasm to expose profound economic illiteracy

Recently the “Political Economy Research Institute” at the University of Massachusetts released a graphic purporting to show “green” technologies create more jobs than traditional energy sources. The graphic has been distributed widely by advocates of creating “green jobs.” This is a common assertion from the environmental left.

As I note in my book Eco-Fads, this claim is made by many on the left.

One Seattle Times columnist wrote approvingly of a study that found spending on ‘green’ projects “produced more ‘job hours’ than tax cuts or traditional infrastructure spending.” This, they claim, is a good thing.

The left, however, is halfhearted in its application of this approach. If they really want to create more jobs we can do much better.

For example, the graph shows 14 jobs are created per $1 million invested in solar energy, twice the amount created from coal. But we can do better. We can generate 500,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) of perfectly clean energy (enough to power 80 houses for an entire year!) while creating hundreds of jobs.

I’ve modified the original graphic, which ended with the “Mass Transit/Freight Rail” row to include the best option of all – generating electricity using bicycle generators. Pedaling ten hours a day on a stationary bike, each person can generate 1 kWh. Investing $1 million in bicycle generators and paying people the going rate for the energy they create, we could create 1,610 jobs.

There is another benefit: these are not part time jobs. These are full-time jobs for an entire year, unlike many of the temporary jobs often included in “green” jobs calculations.

The reason solar power creates more jobs per $1 million is that solar is extremely inefficient, requiring more workers to do more as they produce less. We could easily apply this to other sectors.

If we want to create more farm jobs (after all the percentage of farm jobs in the economy has fallen dramatically in the last century), we could ban tractors. Think of all the jobs we’d create for farm workers!

Of course, the cost of farm products would rise dramatically, making it more difficult to buy food, especially for low-income families. But do we want to create jobs or not?!

If you’ve done the math by now, you may have figured out that I am paying my green-energy producing bike riders only 10 cents a day – the average rate for generating one kWh of electricity in America. So, let’s pay them $10 a hour. The cost per kWh would rise from 10 cents to $1,000. This might make it more difficult for manufacturers to buy the electricity, but it hardly seems fair to demand our bike riders earn less than a living wage, and wealthy investors like Warren Buffet can certainly afford to pay a bit more for electricity.

You may think that environmentalism and concern about resources means doing more with less. According to the Political Economy Research Institute and the environmental left, you would be wrong. They believe the way to create jobs and help the environment is by doing less with more – substituting high-cost solar power for low-cost natural gas. Using more resources (human and otherwise) and returning less energy.

And there are real-world examples of the “success” of this strategy. In 2008, Spain was widely lauded for its efforts to create a new, green economy. Today their unemployment rate is 25 percent.

The Pew Research Center ranks Oregon as the top state for “green jobs” in the country. Their unemployment rate has been above the national average every month for the last four years. Number three on the list is California, with a current unemployment rate of 10.9 percent. Last on the list? Natural gas rich North Dakota, with a current unemployment rate of 3 percent.


Energy smart meters are a threat to privacy, says watchdog

European Data Protection Supervisor warns 'massive collection of personal data' could be accessed without safeguards

Hi-tech monitors that track households' energy consumption threaten to become a major privacy issue, according to the European watchdog in charge of protecting personal data.

The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) has warned that smart meters, which must be introduced into every home in the UK within the next seven years, will be used to track much more than energy consumption unless proper safeguards are introduced.

The EDPS warns that "while the Europe-wide rollout of smart metering systems may bring significant benefits, it will also enable massive collection of personal data".

It said the technology could be used to track what "households do within the privacy of their own homes, whether they are away on holiday or at work, if someone uses a specific medical device or a baby monitor, or how they spend their free time".

It claims the vast amount of information collected by the new generation of devices could have serious consequences for consumers and what they pay for their energy.

"These patterns can be useful for analysing our energy use for energy conservation but, together with data from other sources, the potential for extensive data mining is very significant," said Giovanni Buttarelli, assistant director of the EDPS.

"Profiles can be used for many other purposes, including marketing, advertising and price discrimination by third parties."

The European commission is now under pressure to consider whether legislation should be introduced to ensure that smart meters do not breach data protection rules.

All homes are expected to have their old meters replaced with the new technology by the end of 2019. The installation of smart meters will cost an estimated £11bn in the UK. However, few consumers are aware of the new technology.

"Many consumers don't know anything about smart meters, despite a nationwide rollout from 2014," said Zoe McLeod, head of smart and sustainable energy markets at Consumer Focus. "As with any new technology, there are potential benefits such as accurate bills and opportunities to help you save money on your energy bills, but also new issues that customers should be aware of."

Anna Fielder, consumer rights advocate and campaigner at Privacy International, which campaigns against commercial and state intrusion, said consumers in other countries were starting to question the roll-out of smart meters. "Research in Germany, for example, has found that consumers say it's really creepy and they don't want Big Brother in their houses," Fielder said.

She added that a key issue for privacy watchdogs would be the frequency at which information would be collected from the new meters. "If you collect energy information from a household very often, particularly live, even a few things at the end of each day, you get an awful lot of information about people's lifestyles that can potentially be abused in a number of different ways," Fielder said.

The EDPS recommends that states issue guidance on the frequency of meter readings, how long data can be stored and the use of sophisticated algorithms that allow companies to create profiles of their customers.


British Conservative politician has been "bought"

Bought not by Big Oil but by Big Green

For those who've missed it, Tim Yeo MP has been engaged in an online debate at the Centre For Policy Studies with former chancellor Lord Lawson on the subject "Is there an economic case for going green in an age of austerity"? As you'd perhaps expect from a man named "Politician of the Year" at the inaugural 2011 Green Business Awards, Yeo very much believes there is. We'll examine more closely why a Tory MP might feel so strongly about this in a moment. But let's first see what Lord Lawson has to say:
It is sad that fashionable obsession can lead an intelligent man like Tim Yeo into such a farrago of factual error and economic illiteracy. The reason why there is no economic case for ‘going green’ is simple. It is that green energy is hugely more expensive than carbon-based energy, it always has been and is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future.

That, and no other reason, is why the world relies on carbon-based energy – coal, oil and, increasingly, gas.

And that is why to ‘go green’ requires either a heavy tax on carbon-based energy, to make it less competitive, or a massive subsidy for wind power and other forms of green energy, to make them more competitive – and probably both. Either way, these represent a huge economic cost and a burden on the consumer that bears especially hard in an age of austerity, but which would be unjustifiable at any time.

Ouch. Anything else, Lord Lawson, to salve Tim's hurt feelings?
One of Tim’s more remarkable assertions is that “to delay Britain’s investment in low-carbon technology just when other countries are starting to accelerate theirs verges on the Luddite”. The trend is in fact in the reverse direction. Not only is the emerging world firmly committed to carbon-fuelled growth, but even in slower-growing Europe ‘green’ subsidies are being phased out. Spain, which went for wind power (in particular) in a big way, has decided to cut back drastically all its ‘green’ energy subsidies. In recent months, similar cuts have been announced in Italy, Greece and the Czech Republic. And Germany, Europe’s largest economy, is doing much the same. Meanwhile, in the United States, the solar power industry, once their renewable of choice, is mired in scandal and in a state of collapse.

I regret, incidentally, the use of ‘Luddite’ as a generalized term of economic abuse, since it does in fact have a precise meaning. It refers to the movement in the early days of the industrial revolution to destroy machines in order to protect jobs. It precise analogue today is the attempt by the Tim Yeos of this world to persuade the government to move from comparatively cheap carbon-based energy to much more expensive green energy in order to create ‘green jobs’.

This also underlines the fundamental point that even if the whole world were to be converted to costly ‘green energy’ – which is not going to happen – there would still be a heavy economic cost, not to mention the human cost in those countries where a slower rate of economic development means unnecessary poverty, disease, malnutrition and premature death for hundreds of millions of people.

Tim, of course, confidently tells us that this is merely a temporary burden that will soon pass, since “despite the discovery of shale gas, the price of fossil fuels will continue to rise”, presumably making green energy thoroughly economic. I wonder how he knows this. As a former Energy Secretary, some 30 years ago, I have watched fossil fuel prices rise and fall as confident predictions regularly bite the dust. What we do know is that in the US, which at the present time is leading the way, the shale gas revolution has caused the price of gas to plummet, and this is bound to spread to the rest of the world before too long.

One last point. The one essential resource for onshore wind power – the UK’s (or at least the unlamented Mr Huhne’s) green energy of choice – is large tracts of land. I am constantly surprised that politicians who like to think of themselves as progressive support such a massively perverse scheme of income redistribution: a scheme that takes money from the pockets of the people and pays it out in subsidies to wealthy landowners.

Ouch and double ouch! Now let's see what arguments Tim Yeo can produce in response to Lord Lawson's analysis.
If we were to price in the true costs of CO2 pollution, even expensive low-carbon generation would look attractive.

Ah. OK. That old junk science theory about CO2 being a pollutant. Nice try. Anything else?
Investing in renewables, CCS and nuclear will not only improve the UK’s energy security and guard against rising fossil fuel prices, it could also help to rebalance the economy and create jobs if we can create the right conditions for low-carbon companies to flourish.

Oh. The "green jobs" gambit? Nope. We know that far from creating jobs, government "investment" in the renewables sector kills jobs in the real economy. Anything else?
So why are the Chinese investing so much? Partly it’s because climate change is a risk, but mostly because they believe that growth depends on a low-carbon economy.

Oh puh-lease. The Chinese don't believe for one second in the climate change myth. And the extent to which they believe in a low-carbon economy rests entirely on their ongoing ability to exploit Western credulity on this score by cashing in on the wind-farm and solar bubble (due to burst any second now as governments and taxpayers alike wake up to the fact that these industries are only sustainable through massive subsidy).

Hmm. I think there's an important element which Tim Yeo forgot to include in his impassioned defence of "green economics". Ah yes, here it is: from Tim Yeo's registered business interests at "They Work For You":

ITI Energy Limited; suppliers of gasification equipment.
AFC Energy; company developing alkaline fuel cell technology. Address: Unit 71.4 Dunsfold Park, Stovolds Hill, Cranleigh, Surrey, GU6 8TB. Undertake duties as Chair, run board meetings and keep in touch with senior management.
Received payment of £3,750. Hours: 10 hrs. (Registered 20 March 2011)
Received payment of £3,750, 9 May 2011. Hours: 11 hrs. (Registered 14 June 2011)
Received payment of £3,750, 13 June 2011. Hours: 12 hrs. (Registered 3 September 2011)
Received payment of £3,750, 11 July 2011. Hours: 11 hrs. (Registered 3 September 2011)
Received payment of £3,750, 22 August 2011. Hours: 11 hrs. (Registered 12 October 2011)
Received payment of £3,750, 12 September 2011. Hours: 10 hrs. (Registered 12 October 2011)
Received payment of £3,750, 7 October 2011. Hours: 8 hrs. (Registered 17 November 2011)
Received payment of £5,000, 14 November 2011. Hours: 10 hrs. (Registered 13 December 2011)
Received payment of £5,000, 13 December 2011. Hours: 12 hrs. (Registered 2 February 2012)
Received payment of £5,000, 10 January 2012. Hours: 9 hrs. (Registered 9 February 2012)

Aha, now your argument is starting to make sense, Tim. Anything else you want to tell us?

Groupe Eurotunnel SA (non-executive) (of which Eurotunnel plc is a wholly owned subsidiary); company managing the Channel Tunnel. Address: Cheriton Parc, Cheriton High Street, Folkestone, Kent, CT19 4QS. My duties as a non-executive director include attendance at meetings of the Board and of the Environment and Safety Committee and advising senior management on a range of issues.
Received payment of £3,622.57, 9 May 2011. Hours: 6 hrs. (Registered 14 June 2011)
Received payment of £3,569.33, 31 May 2011. Hours: 5 hrs. (Registered 14 June 2011)
Received payment of £7,238.97, 28 July 2011. Hours: 11 hrs. (Registered 3 September 2011)
Received payment of £6,440.62, 12 September 2011. Hours: 16 hrs. (Registered 12 October 2011)
Received payment of £4,245.20, 14 October 2011. Hours: 4 hrs. (Registered 17 November 2011)
Received payment of £3,526.97, 21 November 2011. Hours: 4 hrs. (Registered 13 December 2011)
Received payment of £6,885.38, 31 January 2012. Hours: 8 hrs. (Registered 9 February 2012)
Eco City Vehicles plc, Hemming House, Hemming Street, London, E1 5BL; distributes and services London taxis. Duties include chairing board meetings and keeping in touch with senior management.
Received payment of £3,333.33. Hours: 10hrs. (Registered 20 March 2011)
Received payment of £3,333.33, 23 May 2011. Hours: 9 hrs. (Registered 14 June 2011)
Received payment of £3,333.33, 22 June 2011. Hours: 9 hrs. (Registered 3 September 2011)
Received payment of £3,333.33, 22 August 2011. Hours: 8 hrs. (Registered 12 October 2011)
Received payment of £3,333.33, 22 September 2011. Hours: 8 hrs. (Registered 12 October 2011)
Received payment of £3,333.33, 24 October 2011. Hours: 6 hrs. (Registered 17 November 2011)

Environment and safety? Gosh, what with all your enthusiasm for environmental issues I can see why it would make absolute sense for this company to pay such hefty sums for your expertise. Truly, you are Eco Superman! Busy saving the world from "global warming" – and jolly well being rewarded handsomely for it, as you surely deserve. But wait, what's this? Not more green business work you want to tell us about?

Chairman of TMO Renewables Limited, 40 Alan Turing Road, Surrey Research Park, Guilford, Surrey GU2 7YF. The company is developing and supplying technology for second generation biofuels. My duties involve chairing board meetings and keeping in touch with senior management.
Received payment of £4,987.75. Hours: 14 hrs. (Registered 20 March 2011)
Received payment of £4,166.66, 21 February 2011. Hours: 12 hrs. (Registered 29 March 2011)
Received payment of £1,666.73, 25 May 2011. Hours: 4 hrs. (Registered 14 June 2011)
Received payment of £4,166.66, 27 May 2011. Hours: 11 hrs. (Registered 14 June 2011)
Received payment of £1,666.73, 24 June 2011. Hours: 5 hrs. (Registered 3 September 2011)
Received payment of £4,166.66, 27 June 2011. Hours: 14 hrs. (Registered 3 September 2011)
Received payment of £4,166.66, 22 July 2011. Hours: 13 hrs. (Registered 3 September 2011)
Received payment of £1,666.53, 25 July 2011. Hours: 5 hrs. (Registered 3 September 2011)
Received payment of £4,166.66, 22 August 2011. Hours: 14 hrs. (Registered 12 October 2011)
Received payment of £1,666.73, 25 August 2011. Hours: 5 hrs. (Registered 12 October 2011)
Received payment of £4,166.66, 22 September 2011. Hours: 14 hrs. (Registered 12 October 2011)
Received payment of £1,666.73, 23 September 2011. Hours: 5 hrs. (Registered 12 October 2011)
Received payment of £4,166, 23 October 2011. Hours: 13 hrs. (Registered 17 November 2011)
Received payment of £1,666.73, 25 October 2011. Hours: 5 hrs. (Registered 17 November 2011)
Received payment of £4,166, 24 November 2011. Hours: 13 hrs. (Registered 13 December 2011)
Received payment of £1,666.73, 25 November 2011. Hours: 5 hrs. (Registered 13 December 2011)
Received payment of £1,666.73, 12 December 2011. Hours: 5 hrs. (Registered 2 February 2012)
Received payment of £4,166.66, 22 December 2011. Hours: 5 hrs. (Registered 2 February 2012)

Gosh Tim! I think I'm beginning to understand why you have such faith in the powers of the "green economy"! It's certainly something you've done very nicely yourself out of, eh mate?

Still, you know what? I have to say that if I were a member of your South Suffolk constituency and my view had been blighted or my property values wiped out by one of those wind factories they're putting up to deal with this non-existent "carbon" problem you keep promoting – or if I were a constituent who had been driven into fuel poverty by all the taxes and tariffs your government keeps adding onto energy bills, I think I might start asking awkward questions, like: "This guy's supposed to be a Tory MP isn't he. So what's he doing trying to ruin the economy, destroy the countryside and drive up the cost of living?" In fact, worse than that? If I were a Tory in your constituency, I think I'd be agitating very strongly right now to have you deselected.


Australia's carbon tax came into force yesterday

Two comments below:

Labor Party government putting on a brave front about the carbon tax despite latest polls

100% wipeout of Federal seats predicted for Labor in Qld. -- and after a 90% wipeout in the State election, that's believable

It's grim reading for Labor in the polls this morning as well, as voter backlash against the carbon tax grows.

Speaking on the first business day of the tax, Ms Gillard said people could make up their own minds "not based on the claims of politicians but from by what they can see in their own lives".

"What people are going to see is tax cuts ... and people are going to see that the claims like the coal industry is going to shut down is all untrue," she told the Seven Network today.

Ms Gillard acknowledged there would be some flow-on effects from about 300 big polluters paying $23 a tonne on carbon, but said tax cuts would benefit seven million people.

A Nielsen poll published in Fairfax newspapers found opposition to the carbon tax had risen three points to 62 per cent.

Just over half of those surveyed thought they would be worse off as a result of the tax.

According to the latest Newspoll, Labor's primary vote in Queensland is down to just 22 per cent.

The results mean federal Labor MPs in the state are facing a swing against them of 10 per cent, which would unseat every Labor MP, The Australian reported.

But Ms Gillard said implementing a price on carbon wasn't about the polls. "This is about what is right for our nation's future," she said.

"We have had some very divisive debates in the past - the GST, universal superannuation, Medicare ... and when the dust has settled and people have had the opportunity to judge it all for themselves they recognised it was the right thing for the nation."

Ms Gillard said Opposition Leader Tony Abbott would create a "fiddle" and only pretend to scrap the carbon tax if he wins power.

But Mr Abbott said the Coalition would get carbon emissions down without saddling the coal and gas industries with extra costs.

Mr Abbott is today campaigning hard to convince people it will be all financial pain for no environmental gain.

He is warning it will kill off the gas and oil industries. "The whole point of a carbon tax is to use less coal, less gas, less oil," Mr Abbott told ABC Radio.

The Coalition would do things differently, he said. "We want to get emissions down without loading up the coal and the gas industries with these kind of additional cost imposts," he said.

Climate Change Minister Greg Combet said Mr Abbott could not and would not repeal the carbon pricing scheme. Mr Combet is confident the Government will be able to win back the Australian public's support once it has "lived" the carbon tax.

"We're taking a lot of the revenue from that paid by the largest polluters and using it to implement a significant income tax reform that will treble the tax free threshold from $6000 to $18,200 liberating one million people from having to pay tax and file a tax return," he said.

"As the message gets through and we keep arguing our case, I'm sure that we can win people's support back."


Australian climate views have moved on

THE Gillard government hopes Australians will change their minds this week, when the introduction of the carbon tax doesn't result in sudden and startling changes to the economy or their standards of living. But a close reading of Lowy Institute polling since 2005 suggests the government's hopes may be misplaced.

Our polling tells a strong story: that Australians supported tough action on climate change, and were prepared to pay for it, when they thought it was a real and pressing problem. But as they've come to see climate change as less of a problem, with no global solution in sight, they have steadily turned against action and are less willing to pay to address it.

When we began polling in 2005, Australians ranked improving the global environment equal second (with protecting jobs) as a foreign policy priority, more important than combating terrorism, countering the spread of nuclear weapons and stopping illegal migration.

In 2006 addressing climate change was thought to be the No 1 foreign policy priority and in 2007 the most important domestic policy priority.

In this mood, Australians supported strong action on climate change. In 2006 more than two thirds of the people we surveyed agreed with the statement , "global warming is a serious and pressing problem. We should begin taking steps now even if this involves significant costs."

There was daylight to the next most-supported proposition, with less than a quarter agreeing global warming would have gradual effects and should be dealt with gradually, using low-cost measures. Just 7 per cent opted for the wait and see option.

People were reasonably willing to contribute through electricity bills. In 2008 we asked people how much they were prepared to pay. The largest number (almost one-third) said they would be prepared to pay up to $10 a month, another fifth said they'd pay between $11 and $20 extra a month, and 19 per cent said they'd pay more than $21 a month. Seventy-one percent were prepared to pay something towards dealing with climate change, compared with 21 per cent not prepared to pay anything at all.

That was Kevin Rudd's first year as prime minister. Two-thirds of people we asked said his decision to ratify the Kyoto Protocol as one of his first actions in office hadn't solved the problem of climate change but was a step in the right direction. The following year, 60 per cent of people said the problem of climate change had become more urgent, while 80 per cent said that the prospects for a solution were either steady or improving.

Then things started to change. Australians' attitudes on climate change have shown remarkable variation over the nine years of Lowy Institute polling. In 2008, people still saw climate change as the second biggest threat we faced, on a par with terrorism, but dealing with climate change had slipped to fifth most important foreign policy goal, down 9 per cent from 2007. In 2009 it had slumped to seventh, down 10 per cent from 2008 and 19 per cent from 2007. Climate change dropped to the fourth most worrying threat, down 14 per cent from its 2008 levels.

People were losing their confidence in the government's ability and willingness to address the issue. When we asked people for their opinion on the most convincing option for reducing carbon emissions in 2008, the fewest were convinced by one of the government's most preferred options: carbon capture and storage. Renewables, biofuels, hydroelectric and even nuclear were considered more convincing. In 2008 51 per cent were not confident that the government could address climate change; by 2010 people gave the Rudd government a mark of five out of 10 for its handling of the issue. By last year, three-quarters of those we polled believed the Gillard government had done a poor job in addressing climate change.

Falling confidence in the government's handling of the issue drove further declines in the seriousness with which people took climate change. In 2010 and 2011, dealing with climate change ranked third last among 12 foreign policy priorities, down 29 per cent since 2007.

The majority of commentators argue the failure of the Copenhagen climate talks in December 2009 led to the sudden falls in support for action. Our polling suggests otherwise. In 2010, 72 per cent of respondents still thought Australia should act to reduce its carbon emissions even before a global agreement.

Our figures show two factors behind the erosion of public support for climate change action. The first is a steady slide of concern about the problem - from 75 per cent seeing it as a foreign policy priority in 2007 to just 46 per cent last year. The second is growing alarm about the economic impact of climate action, particularly as the global economy lurches from crisis to crisis. By this year's Lowy Institute poll, the number of people who thought global warming serious enough that we should act now even if it involves significant costs had fallen to 36 per cent from 68 per cent in 2006.

This combination of public perceptions is bad news for the government's hopes of a poll bounce now that the carbon tax has come into effect. The situation has exactly reversed from 2005-2007. Now, as they're less and less concerned about the problem, they resent the financial impact of dealing with it more and more. This means that even if the economic impact of the carbon tax is less severe than Tony Abbott suggests, there won't be a whole lot of returning warmth for a government whose major piece of policy is seen to be addressing a problem that most people don't see as a priority.



For more postings from me, see DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dozens of protesters have shouted and danced....

"I don't intend to be bored, even if the times are dull. But one isn't always selfish, and as soon as one isn't, one may grieve bitterly over it." - Vincent van Gogh (letter to Amice Rappard, 1883)