Blog - New Internationalist Australia - Fair Trade, climate disruption and social justice news

Finkel and the Australian climate deadlock: still not heading towards zero emissions

At least we got cheap electricity...
June 16th, 2017 by

In their submission to the Finkel Independent Review into the Future Security of the National Electricity Market, the Climate Council made it clear that a rapid transition to net zero emissions is the priority:

To protect Australians from worsening climate impacts (eg more destructive storms, intense heatwaves and worsening bushfire conditions) and in line with our Paris Agreement commitments and carbon budget constraints, Australia needs pathways to transition as rapidly as possible away from coal, oil and gas to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

But the Finkel review has little to say about our Paris Agreement commitments. Instead it focuses on ensuring a reliable electricity grid and reducing the price of electricity.

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Salamander LED solar torch and powerbank. Prepare for next blackout…

Salamander solar torch powerbank
May 11th, 2017 by

There’s a severe storm. Power lines are down and the lights go out. The ground floor is flooded. What do you need most? A reliable, rechargeable torch and something to charge your phone. We’ve got you covered. It’s the POWERPlus Salamander, a bright LED flashlight and emergency powerbank all in one solar-charged package:

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24-hour solar on demand: an update on Solastor plans for Port Augusta

Solastor: Jiangyin plant in operation
March 31st, 2017 by

In June 2016 I reported on the launch of the Solastor 24-hour solar-on-demand project that was planned for Port Augusta in South Australia. At the time of the launch the plan was to have a pilot plant in operation by the end of the year. In November 2016 Solastor advised that they were likely to go ahead with the main project rather than doing the pilot first.

Today I checked in with Steve Hollis, CEO of Solastor, for an update on progress.

Brian:  Your Port Augusta plans outlined in your June 2016 launch were for 1,700 collector tower modules which were expected to generate 110MW in winter and 170MW in summer. Is that still the plan?

Steve:  The proposal is now to stage the project starting with a 100MW power station with 800 modules. This would do just under 50MW for 24 hours in winter and over 70MW in summer. More importantly, it will do 100MW for shorter times per day (peak hours) which is when the need is greatest.

This configuration could (would) be “cut and pasted” 5 times to give 500MW and completely replace the old to power station. (more…)

Five paradoxes about the state of the media

NI CSO
March 23rd, 2017 by

We are living in a time full of threats – and unprecedented possibilities, especially when it comes to the state of the media. Let’s consider five paradoxes, in no particular order.

Is print dead or reviving?

Rumours of the death of print magazines and newspapers have been circulating for years – but many of us are still here. What’s more, we are seeing signs of a renaissance in independent, alternative print magazines and hyperlocal newspapers.

The internet, that great disrupting technology, has prompted print’s decline, cannibalizing the revenue of publishers. After all, why buy news in print when you get it all for free online? The proportion of readers actually prepared to pay for news online (nine per cent) cannot replace those who used to buy print.1

But the internet has also been amazing for media like ours. In the days before the worldwide web, we never imagined that two million people a year would be reading our content and getting our kind of journalism, rooted in social, economic, global and environmental justice. (more…)

Snowy Hydro gets a boost, but ‘seawater hydro’ could help South Australia

Cultana, South Australia
March 18th, 2017 by

The federal government has announced a A$2 billion plan to expand the iconic Snowy Hydro scheme. It will carry out a feasibility study into the idea of adding “pumped hydro” storage capacity, which it says could power up to 500,000 homes. The Conversation

Hydro is one of the oldest and most mature electricity generation technologies. And pumped hydro storage – in which water is pumped uphill for later use, rather than simply flowing downriver through a hydro power station – is the dominant form of energy storage globally.

But there are limitations to how much freshwater hydro can be accessed, so it’s worth looking at what alternate approaches are available. One promising prospect is to use seawater instead of rivers. This tactic could potentially help South Australia resolve its highly publicised energy problems. (more…)

A new model for the future of independent media

New Internationalist Community Share Offer
March 1st, 2017 by

It’s a huge day for our colleagues in the New Internationalist office in Oxford UK. That’s where the magazine’s editorial team is based and where New Internationalist books and the famous One World Calendar are produced.

Today they are launching their #factsandheart Community Share Offer. It’s a fascinating new model for the ownership of independent media, and a chance for supporters of the New Internationalist to become co-owners.
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We need to talk about undies

Etiko undies
February 21st, 2017 by

Yes, your undies are a very private thing. Comfort and style are immensely important, and no doubt you’ll have a strong personal preference. But we do need to talk about undies.

Do you know what nasties are riding along with your favourite undies?

Residual chemicals in clothing

It’s a significant issue in clothing, particularly for people with sensitive skin, and especially in underwear that hugs our skin so closely. So much so that Choice recommends:

wash any new clothes twice before wearing, although washing won’t remove certain types of chemicals

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A chat with Sir Tim Smit – co-founder of the Eden Project

The Eden Project
February 16th, 2017 by

Today I had a chat with Sir Tim Smit, serial entrepreneur and co-founder of the Eden Project, ahead of his forthcoming presentation for the Planet Talks at WOMADelaide 2017.

In the prologue to his book, Eden, two sentences stand out, and they sum up the spirit of our chat: “Neither do I make any apology for being optimistic about the future. I am.”

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The government is right to fund energy storage: a 100% renewable grid is within reach

100 percent renewables are within reach

In a speech to the National Press Club, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull declared that the key requirements for Australia’s electricity system are that it should be affordable, reliable, and able to help meet national emissions-reduction targets. He also stressed that efforts to pursue these goals should be “technology agnostic” – that is, the best solutions should be chosen on merit, regardless of whether they are based on fossil fuels, renewable energy or other technologies.

As it happens, modern wind, solar photovoltaics (PV) and off-river pumped hydro energy storage (PHES) can meet these requirements without heroic assumptions, at a cost that is competitive with fossil fuel power stations.

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FactCheck: What are the facts on Australia’s foreign aid spending?

January 31st, 2017 by

Robin Davies, Australian National University

Aid was at its highest under Menzies, at 0.5% … when per capita income was much lower. – World Vision Australia chief advocate Tim Costello, quoted in The Sydney Morning Herald, December 28, 2016.

A news report highlighting the fall in Australia’s foreign aid spending quoted World Vision Australia Chief Advocate Tim Costello as saying aid was at its highest under Prime Minister Robert Menzies, at 0.5% of gross national income – at a time when per capita income was much lower.

Is that right?
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