Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Australia and Now California - Have a Carbon Reduction Plan

It has received almost no media attention in Australia, yet California, which is said to be the world's 8th largest economy, has late last week, passed the final draft of a "cap and trade" program to provide financial incentives for polluters to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Some parts of the plan will commence in 2012, major parts including compliance for some of the worst polluters, including power plants, commence in 2013, and others to commence in 2015. The plan will cover 85% of the emissions in California.

The broad thrust of the Californian scheme is generally similar to that proposed for Australia, with the start of the market mechanism, after a few years of the mandated carbon price, planned for mid 2012.

With California's economy being considerably larger than Australia's, this is a big step for them, and some hope the rest of the USA might follow in time.

I am amazed that this move in California continues to receive such little attention from the media and pro carbon adherents in Australia to add weight to their arguments.

More media information from the US here - http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/21/business/energy-environment/california-adopts-cap-and-trade-system-to-limit-emissions.html

and here -

There are quite a few sceptics, believing it will not work, but many think it might.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Stunning - Rapid Uptake in Indonesian Abattoirs

Pre slaughter stunning is rapidly being introduced into Indonesian abattoirs, with about 70 expected to have the operations in place by the end of the year, whereas only seven were using the technology earlier in the year.

Some delays have been caused by bureaucratic issues in Indonesia, and security requirements /concerns over the equipment, but the stun gun equipment is being deployed quite quickly.

By early next year [remember most of the live export trade to Indonesia slows dramatically between November and February] around 90% of animals will be stunned before slaughter.

Not surprisingly, there has also been a boost in positive responses from local workers involved in the abattoirs citing productivity improvements , superior animal processing speeds, and ease of animal handling.

More detailed information is here - http://qcl.farmonline.com.au/news/nationalrural/livestock/cattle/stunning-turnaround-in-cattle-welfare/2327943.aspx?storypage=0

While 2011 has been a real problem year for the northern beef industry and live exports, these improvements could see a better year ahead.

Sound common sense and a joint desire between Australian beef producers and Indonesian lot feeders and processors [ of which many involve Australian companies too] to see the trade continue may see this trade grow in 2012, and with superior animal welfare in place.

Totally banning the trade, which is the avowed aim of some, is still possible but is really a bit silly given the minuscule animal transport losses and improved animal welfare in Indonesia. Afterall, the animals are destined to be slaughtered for consumption. We just need to do it as sensibly as one can.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

First Stage of Legislation for a Carbon Tax Passes Today.

The lower house of the Australian Federal Parliament has passed the 18 pieces of legislation that will constitute the carbon tax laws in Australia. the current opposition has vowed to rescind the laws if elected to government. It will be interesting, to say the least.

Following that, the legislation was then introduced into the upper house [ Senate] and is expected to pass through there next month.

Lots of media coverage online........and they have the space to have a lot of words too!

For example - here http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/carbon-plan/green-light-for-carbon-tax-red-flag-for-industry/story-fn99tjf2-1226164872713
and also here - http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-10-12/uhlmanns-interview-with-greg-combet/3555570 .

Will it make a difference to carbon emissions worldwide? Absolutely not!

But it places Australia on a path towards lowered carbon intensity, and it is believed it will generate jobs in newer low carbon industries, seen as industries of the future.

Time will tell who is correct.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A US Farmer's View on Biotech

Too often the urban public attack farmers and agriculture - as producing too much, too little, or poor food sources.

A farmer has hit back - quietly and with dignity.

Read more here - http://westernfarmpress.com/print/government/gmos-biotechnology-offer-agricultural-blessings?page=1

pointing out a few fundamental flaws in some of the arguments used to condemn farmers and the crops and livestock they grow.

Well worth a brief read.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Fixing Salvinia Issues at Gunn, Palmerston, NT

Salvinia is a nasty, super spreading – even choking – weed.

Over the past few years an infestation has been developing at the lakes at Gunn, in Palmerston, and is now quite significant, covering the lakes [ see lowest lake below]. The lakes are designed as a stormwater buffer, so water levels can rise and fall quite a lot in the wet season.

Late last year Palmerston City Council instigated using their aquatic weed muncher to remove much of the debris across these lakes. Unfortunately, some salvinia remained.

A program which we ran, was used to spray and mop up the balance. That was the theory...... but then it rained and rained, with last wet season being extraordinarily wet, and consistently wet. Too wet for regular satisfactory spraying.

So the salvinia regrew.......and once again dominated the three lakes.

The weed eater is back in action , and the upper lake is now quite clear of salvinia, with the two lower ones likely to be cleaned up this week.

But there is a new activity........the salvinia weevil, a very potent biocontrol agent has today been released into the bottom lake with additional material to be added over the next few weeks in both the lowest and middle lakes, with some destined for the top lake as needed. Biocontrol of salvinia has been very successful at a number of locations around both Australia and in the Northern Territory.

To aid establishment a small amount of salvinia plants will be left behind during the weed munching, to provide a focus for the spread of the biocontrol agent, and these plants will be held in place with a floating boom. Over time, assuming the biocontrol agent establishes successfully, this plant mat will also disappear, and the weevil will spread out onto any remnant salvinia around the lakes.

The biocontrol agent will not necessarily totally eliminate the salvinia, but it will normally, over some time, reduce the salvinia to a small, almost negligible amount.

A monitoring, spray and clean up / collection program will also continue, but concentrating on the smaller scattered fronds that seem to congregate around the edges, readily blown by wind.

This combined program is hopeful of eliminating the salvinia over the next 12 months, and at worse, at least reducing the salvinia to a very minor issue.

The lakes may then bloom again with the stylish water lilies that are quite common, and salvinia will not be very noticeable.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Food Security Critical for China

A recent post highlights that Australia is selling off resources to China - land resources for agriculture especially.

[see - http://abovecapricorn.blogspot.com/2011/09/should-australia-be-selling-farm.html ]

Not all are happy over this issue.

China, as distinct from Australia has some clear policies around food security and imports of minerals, with a distinct focus on extra-terrritorial acquistion of the means of production - of both.

See more here - http://qcl.farmonline.com.au/news/nationalrural/agribusiness-and-general/finance/china-aims-for-selfsufficiency/2268434.aspx?storypage=0

In this article Prof Mike Berrell, Director WADEmatheson and Executive Dean, Holmes Institute, Australia, an expert on Chinese business practices says Australia’s lack of strategy and vision for a sustainable agricultural industry, was flagging in comparison to China’s global approach.

He said for the Chinese to be purchasing prime agricultural land outright entails risks for Australia due to loss of control in what is emerging as a global strategic industry.

This would be especially the case if the ventures were 100 percent Chinese invested, he said.

Despite China's recent efforts to reduce carbon emissions, China's current commitment to sustainability does not extend to agricultural practices, he said.

“Joint ventures in the area would be preferable to 100 percent Chinese foreign ownership - the latter of course suits China,” he said. “Australia must be absolutely clear about how such ventures are to move ahead and establish strict guidelines for ownership - perhaps make sustainable agriculture a strategic industry is the same way has China has its “strategic industries”, which fall outside normal investment guidelines.”

A significant issue in this is that most players from China are state owned, effectively an arm of the sovereign government of China. While other parts of the world have previously invested in Australian rural properties and industries, and many still do, [think the UK and the USA] they are almost always privately owned companies, or private individuals, and from countries where government intervention in industry is minimal.

This is a serious issue for Australia, a nett food exporter, with other sovereign countries owning our food production resources.

The image also shows that it is not just China - an example of the options that Singapore is pursuing in a similar fashion.

Should Australia be concerned over the whole theme of extra-territorial agriculture?

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Using Livestock to Reduce Carbon Emissions - YES!

Cows have been pilloried as the great methane producer, and as the most potent greenhouse gas emitter of all. There are a lot of cows around the world!

Recent thinking now says that it is not cows as the culprit, but rather their management, particularly when fire is included in the system, as it commonly is.

Reduce the use of fire, often used to remove excess forage, while enhancing the consumption of forage by livestock in a way that encourages regrowth eg Savory grazing system option may offer a smart option to actually reduce greenhouse gas production, even if the forage is of poorer quality at times.

It is known that higher digestibility forage does reduce methane production in the livestock gut system, although not all plants have high digestibility, particularly in the tropics. But independent of that, livestock act as the great recyclers of carbon, by consumption and manuring, rather than seeing it lost in a fire.

It is a complex argument, with more detail here -

But the essence of it is that cows might actually be useful in the soil carbon story!

About time there was some enlightened thinking, for livestock is definitely NOT going away anytime soon