Friday, July 22, 2011

Climate Change - Are Renewables Going to Make a Difference

The Dane, Bjorn Lomborg is a well known, and respected climate sceptic.......or he was. I recall reading that he was now accepting of climate change, but the following article does call into question the economic pathways most suitable to achieve a lot' with using renewable energy. Especially the economic policies used to achieve take up of the concepts.

He seriously questions the role that renewable energy systems can play in reducing fossil fuel use, and ultimately carbon emissions. Particularly the economic costs of using renewable energy such as wind and solar. Many others might agree directly with this view, and others strongly support the same general view by suggesting that carbon capture and storage must be made to function, as coal will need to play a role in stationary energy production, including electricity, for many years yet.

Here in Australia, a monster user and producer of coal, there has been a degree of support for the develpment of the zero emissions stationary energy plans developed over the past several years and formalised in a document available here -

I would agree they do seem economically and conceptually feasible, but significant changes must be implemented in regard to distribution networks for example. And more investment is now going into that area, but not necessarily to meet this concept plan. Lack of vision is a serious impediment to implementation of this concept. Spain has been investing in base load solar systems successfully, as shown in the photo.

Many would argue that nuclear energy will be needed around the world to meent energy needs. And that is low carbon emissions. Recent events eg Fukishima in Japan, will affect ideas on that too.

The Chinese are moving to develop thorium nuclear reactors. They have several notable features that could lead to wider interest. They do not generally have self sustaining fission- ie need some nuclear fuel to keep them going, and they produce very modest radioactive level and relatively short half life waste products [a strong point]. Curiously, Australia has a lot of thorium resources, and even more curiously it can occur with rare earth minerals and Chinese are investing in some of the mines with rare earth/ thorium resources too. Is this coincidence??

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Genetics and You

Lets have a slighlty more light hearted look at the world of agriculture today. No more live cattle trade issues today!

Modern genetics traces back to the work of Gregor Mendel in the mid 1800s on the heritable colour traits in peas.

Modern plant breeding has achieved a huge improvement in plant performance of our major food crops. We all benefit from that work of agricultural scientists and allied scientists, and food today is a much smaller cost percentage in our budget.

Even Google must think this is something worthwhile........see their "adjusted" logo celebrating Mendel's 189th birthday on July 20.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Live Cattle Trade to Indonesia - One Month After THE Ban

The article on the ABC web site is absolutely a terrible coverage of the real issues and facts. While I think the article is quite cleverly written it is long on Australian political rhetoric and short on real coverage. Some clever words that add little to the issue.

Many of the comments cover the real issues - driven by the need for more beef by the Indonesian consumer. This will NOT come from Indonesian cattle for quite some time [ as identified very correctly with a bit of maths on the breeding herd of Indonesia by several comments].

See here -

Australia's northern cattle producers are on notice to improve slaughter methods in Indonesia. There is a strong commercial imperative for this, if meat quality is to be improved, and a higher proportion of unbruised meat to be available. This is in addition to any issues of animal cruelty. is Indonesia, not Australia and through all the rhetoric it is obvious that Indonesia is far, far from happy over how the whole issue was handled. It will bite back.......possibly in an unexpected way, with consequences for Australia.

The whole issue is a disaster for beef production in the north, while at best a topic of conversation over a latte for a few days, for the urban dwellers of the south of Australia. It has not gone away.

And it will take quite some time to fix. Even with best intentions.

It does seem though that relations between the local producers and Indonesian feedlot operators is still strong. They do have a common cause..........retaining the live cattle trade. It is a plus for both, and they will strive to see it continue.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Australia Will Have a Carbon Price - It's Official!

As of about four hours ago Australia will have a carbon price of $23 a tonne, and it will commence in July 2012.

Has been an open secret all week, but it is now confirmed. No doubt there will be more details to come, both in the near term as well as before next year.

Read a brief overview here:

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Indonesia Issues Import Permits for Australian Live Cattle

It was going to happen........eventually. The need in Indonesia for these live cattle to meet the demand for meat is considerable and their recent absence has seen meat prices rise significantly in Jakarta.

It will still take some weeks though for the trade to actually recommence. Vessels have gone elsewhere, cattle are no longer readily available to ship and possibly of equal importance, some may even have put on weight here in Australia and now be overweight for the trade [remember max weight is 350kg live weight].

Indonesia is claiming that the national herd is rising in numbers and that 2014 will see them self sufficient in cattle numbers, according to a recent cattle census. Given rising beef demand, I am not so sure. And I am fairly certain that many Australians close to the trade would agree with my views. Investment by both Australia and Indonesia in the industry is likely to increase. is good news. And maybe a bit of jolt - there is a need for more markets to be developed and other options for handling the northern cattle herd.

More detail here -

What a giant stuff up by the Australian Agriculture minister. A performance well suited to a dummy spitting kindergarden pupil, not a minister of the crown. Diplomatically inept is being polite.

No one wants or condones the animal cruelty shown on TV. Given other news today about journalistic horribleness in the UK, let us hope this is not a slide to the bottom of the gutter in reporting, as there have been questions over the methods of obtaining and reporting on the video footage used in the Australian TV program. Indonesian abattoirs were awful operations last time I was in one, a few years ago. But nothing like the cruelty shown on TV.

If this new era can improve slaughter performance - that has to be positive for less animal cruelty.

On an economic basis, efficient rapid slaughter improves carcase quality, with less damage and better meat.

It should be a win - win outcome.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Renewable Energy Gets a Boost in Australia

Announced today, Australia is to get a new major renewable energy entity. The Australian Renewable Energy Authority, ARENA. See the major news channels for more details.

see here -

There has also been some very interesting comments on the whole approach, by experienced commentators.

see here -
and here -

These are very early days, but with a carbon price set to be announced in a few days, maybe the wheel is turning a few more cogs.

There are a lot of renewable energy technologies - going far past the wind and solar thinking, to wave and tidal power, into algal biomass for fuels, weed and waste plant biomass for energy, anaerobic digestion, composting and many more.

Watch the performance of the new ARENA with interest. It has a clear mandate - renewable energy.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Australia Lifts Live Cattle Export Ban to Indonesia

Welcome news announced 6 July, that limited resumption of live cattle trade will recommence.

Short on much detail and curiously comes after media reports that Indonesia has announced significant reductions in possible import licence number as they say their own herd has increased. They also announced reductions in boxed chilled beef imports fom Australia as well.

Maybe it has, maybe not......but demand for beef in Indonesia continues to grow.

Some more details on both parts of the equation are here: for live cattle trade Indonesian beef imports from Australia to be reduced

This saga is far from over and there will be much more to come yet. It may get off the front page of news broadcasts but it has not gone away. With northern producers already missing over a month of exports, and only limited resumption of animal shipments, there will be an awful lot of angst around, and many will still be losing a lot of money over the issue, and substantially reduced animal numbers will be exported in 2011.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

A Letter from Indonesia on the Live Cattle Issues

This letter was originally penned around the middle of June 2011, but has appeared in several different media sources. It was in the NT News newspaper in Darwin on Saturday July 2, as one of several articles on the live cattle export and slaughter debacle.

It is a sensible and rational response, based around practical and pragmatic actions to redevelop the live cattle trade to Indonesia.

This is a very major issue, with Indonesia no doubt feeling VERY miffed over the whole issue. The name Australia is not a top flavour there. What other issues will it next effect?

Read the letter in full at this link:

Several other versions seen online have comments and responses, with some very negative to his views. Search on "Scot Braithwaite letter" for many more sites with the letter published, and responses.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

More Live Cattle Issues - Culling will Start Soon

Apparently now deferred, but not cancelled. A WA grazier was about to commence culling of 3000 cattle tomorrow, as he needs to reduce stock numbers on his property and now cannot sell them to Indonesia.

Sad, but more culling will also follow.

If animal welfare was an issue in Indonesia, watch north Australia over the next 5 months, especially after September as feed and water disappear, at the end of the dry season. Shooting cattle to reduce their suffering WILL be needed. A lovely animal welfare issue, right here in Australia.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Zoysia tenuifolia - Use as Ornamental Grass

Think of zoysia and you think of fine, good looking turf areas. They are seen as an option for replacement of other warm season grasses due to their low maintenance and low fertiliser demands.

But there is another zoysia that offers an alternative for grass cover that really needs no mowing, or well, almost no mowing or cutting!

This option may be well suited to median strips, roundabouts and other areas such as rockeries where the landscaping needs to be very low maintenance. The grass may also be suited to small Japanese gardens, courtyards within commercial buildings, and similar areas. There may be particular options where the species could be well suited to use on green roof developments in the tropics and sub tropics.

It is VERY slow growing, which is both a plus and a minus. Slow growth will certainly be an issue trying to establish an area of the grass, unless there is an adequate supply of plugs, stolons or even established plants used from small pots to give you a high plant density at planting. The slow growth is a virtue once you have it planted though – very low maintenance.

Zoysia tenuifolia – sometimes called no grow grass, slow grow grass, petting grass – usually has a puffy appearance once established, almost like ‘hills and valleys”, which can be quite attractive. It provides extremely high ground cover, with virtually no mowing or cutting required. Leaves are short, and often a little stiff / spikey.

On the other side of the ledger...........when you do need to cut the area, it can look awful, as you tend to expose the deep mat of stolons below the grass surface, showing the cut edges. This cutting is often an annual or biennial event.

It is well suited to tropical and subtropical areas, and maybe on protected sites in warm temperate areas. It is strongly shade tolerant . You occasionally see this grass being sold as “petting grass” for use as an indoor plant.

Low maintenance, low to medium water use, shade tolerant, low growing – medium to high potential for wider ornamental use.