Tim Blair


New Criterion



Wednesday, March 05, 2003
UNCLE HAS BEEN SULKING for some days after being accused by a Mr Parish of Darwin of a "gentlemanly" response to a display of naked group-thinking by 44 "international lawyers".

Nothing could have been better designed to spoil my enthusiasm for blogging, except, perhaps, a severe dose of haemorrhoids.

Now, if you want to read a gentle response to these meretricious, illogical, deeply stupid, malicious, hateful corrupters of our body politic you could go to Janet Albrechtsen.

OTHER PEOPLES' MEDIA WATCH has failed yet again in its duty to examine its publicly-funded colleagues.

David Marr seems content to be the All-in Wrestling of media commentary.

A flabby over-weight, under-punching poseur of a program. Should be put down before it demonstrates narcolepsy on camera.

AUNTIE'S ENVIRONMENTAL PULPIT, Earthbeat, knows you have to play dirty when the faith is under challenge.

There are these dangerous people who are developing technology to lock away - or "sequester" - the carbon dioxide produced by burning fossil fuels. They aim to save the planet from global warming without destroying much of the prosperity built on fossil fuels.

Without forcing the prosperous into hair-shirts and the marginal into starvation. What bastards.

The technology’s called geosequestration, and it’s the latest buzzword exciting the minds of government ministers, captains of industry and senior scientists. But is geosequestration really a solution to avoid climate change, and is it being supported at the expense of energy sources that don’t produce carbon dioxide in the first place?

You see, it's just logically impossible to do good without pain. Why are these researchers persisting?

It is, of course, a conspiracy. In Australia the chief conspirator is Australia's Chief Scientist, Robin Batterham.

Batterham is an engineer who heads research for Rio Tinto and, incidentally does two weeks' work for the government for two days' pay each week. He has the support and admiration of the overwhelming majority of Australia's scientific researchers.

Earthbeat's green brat, Mark Horstman knows better.

Batterham must be a stooge of the fossil fuel industry totally without integrity whose support for sequestration research proves that the idea is a false hope that just sucks money out of all those good ideas for renewables that just can't get money.

The trouble is, Batterham thinks that renewables should grow up before they're allowed to rule the world. Unlike Communards.

We want to see renewables, that’s for sure. I want to see also a lot more research in renewables to bring on some of the breakthroughs so that they totally compete with the existing energy sources, which they don’t do at the moment. They do for a limited number of cases and good luck to all of us, of course we should see even more encouragement for the cases where they can come in and compete.

But Horstman is on to him:

I asked Robin how he manages to keep his two jobs separate, especially when there is so much overlap between the interests of government and the interests of Rio Tinto on an issue like climate change. How does he physically divide his mind up between the two?

And answers himself: They would appear to be separate, apart from the Foundation for Sustainable Minerals Industry a minor operation on the Board of which Batterham represents Rio Tinto.

Must do better. Let's try an operative from Greenpeace. Never been known to lie.

Frances Macguire: Well in a letter from Rio Tinto to Greenpeace, Rio Tinto stated that they believed that ratification of the Kyoto Protocol is a matter for governments and not companies, so that’s one of their first and opening statements. Then they finished their letter saying that they’re concerned that the deadlines established by the Protocol mandate emissions reductions before some of the key enabling technologies, e.g. carbon capture and disposal, will have been demonstrated at scale.

Mark Horstman: Now what does that mean in plain English?

Frances Macguire: Basically what they’re saying is that they really don’t want to see the Kyoto Protocol in place until they’ve sorted out technologies like sequestration for soaking up carbon dioxide at what perhaps they see as least cost to them. I think the problem we’re facing at the moment is that the vested interests...

In the universe inhabited by Earthbeat's Communards and Greenpeace, costs float off in the ether, separated by ideology from the pockets of both the poor and the prosperous citizens of the planet.

Mark Horstman: We’re bound to hear a lot more about geosequestration. But it begs the question, doesn’t it? If we’re smart enough to capture our excess carbon dioxide and bury it deep under ground, then aren’t we smart enough to avoid making too much in the first place?

Perhaps, Mark, we're smart enough to do both. And to do it without impoverishing the people of the world.