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What can (and should) we be doing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

 
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Governments, industry and individuals could be doing a lot more than they are. Many options will save money and improve our life-styles as well as reducing greenhouse gas production.


Main headings on this page

Personal actions to reduce greenhouse
Industrial actions to reduce greenhouse
Government actions to reduce greenhouse
What is Australia doing about climate change?
Nuclear option
Jobs

On other pages...

Neither of the big political parties will do much about greenhouse/climate change, vote smart.
Australia should have a Carbon tax. Why you should support wind power developments. Keep cool passively, build a cellar.
 
 

Index

Greenhouse gas saving ideas; on this page...
Agricultural pyrolysis
Air conditioners: government
Air conditioners: personal
Air coolers: government
Air coolers: personal
Bicycle
Biodiesel
Broom
Buy no more food than you can eat
Calculate your greenhouse gas production
Car pooling: industry
Car pooling: personal
Car washing
Cars
Change laws and save electricity
Climb the stairs
Computer
Consume less
Cordless telephones: government
Cycling: government
Distributed generation: government
Do you really need to go?
Drive more slowly
Drying clothes
Eat fresh foods
Eat less meat
Eat locally produced foods
Educate drivers
Educate yourself about energy
Efficient lights
Electric car conversion
Electric clothes driers
Electric jugs and kettles
Electrical appliances
Electricity generation: government
Electricity transmission lines
Embodied CO2
Embodied energy
Energy audit
Energy education: government
Energy efficient home
Energy standards on accommodation: government
Ethical investment
Evaporative air coolers
Fan
Fluorescent lights
Fridges and freezers
Fringe benefit tax
Gas heated clothes driers
Government actions to reduce greenhouse
Government car fleets
Green electricity
Green label
Greenhouse: what should be done?
Home heating and cooling
Home heating-cooling audits: government
Home heating-cooling audits: industry
Hot water
Import duties
Incandescent lights
Industrial actions to reduce greenhouse
Insulation
Introduction
Invest ethically
Jobs
Join a group
LED lights
Lighting: industry
Links
Lower speed limits
Microwave oven
More flixible electricity pricing
New car
Nuclear option
Passive home heating and cooling
Personal actions to reduce greenhouse
Population size
Power buy-back
Power tools
Price responsive load electricity supply
Product life
Public transport
Public transport improved: government
Radiant heating
Rail transport encouraged: government
Rating of batteries: government
Ration fuel
Recycled paper
Remote control
Renewable fuel heating: government
Research
Reverse cycle air conditioners
Roads and paths
Save electricity
Second hand or recycled
Shopping list
Solar power
Solar water heating
Standby power consumption
Star ratings
Street lights
Sustainable electricity generation
Taxes
Test quality and publish: government
Thermostat setting
Think
Transport: industry
Ultralight vehicle: government
Use a trailer
Using your car less
Vehicle emission statndards: government
Vehicle payload ratio
Vehicle registration fees
Walking
Walking and cycling paths: government
Walking bus
Water heating
What is Australia doing about climate change?
White roofs
Wood fire heating
Work from home
Year-by-year goals: government

Introduction

Created as a separate page 2007/07/04, modified 2016/05/27
Contact: email daveclarkecb@yahoo.com

There is now undeniable evidence that the man-made increases in atmospheric greenhouse gasses are causing climate change and ocean acidification. Climate change is causing the warming of the air and oceans, melting of glaciers, ice caps and ice sheets, more frequent droughts, heat-waves, floods, and hurricanes; and fires of unprecedented ferocity.

Many of the suggestions listed below, while reducing greenhouse gas production, could be implemented at little or no cost. A number of them would save money and others would boost the economy.

I have kept entries as short as possible, there are many references to other pages where the ideas are dealt with in more detail.

We are facing Peak Oil, and many of the actions that we can take to reduce greenhouse gas production will also reduce our use of petroleum and so make living with a diminishing supply less traumatic. The first and most important thing that the Australian government should do is to impose a carbon tax. At present greenhouse gasses are probably the only major pollutant that industry can dump into the Australian environment without penalty. The proposed emissions trading scheme will be more complicated, slower to produce the desired effect, and less effective than a simple carbon tax. It also will take longer to plan and introduce. Hydrocarbons are already heavily taxed, why should coal be exempt?

The Federal Government should be giving all possible encouragement to renewable energy and should immediately cut out all subsidies to the fossil fuel industries. The MRET should be greatly increased; the newly elected Rudd Government has promised to do so, but as of late 2008 has done nothing more.

Many commonly used products use more energy than we might realise or be poorly designed and inefficient, but buyers have no way of knowing how much energy they use or whether they are energy-efficient. Buyers have a responsibility to educate themselves, but government can also help by enforcing better product labelling. Buyers should be given this information before making the buying decision, see Green label, below.

The South Australian government recently (2007) produced a book titled "Tackling Climate Change"; it makes numerous suggestions on ways that individuals can reduce their greenhouse impact and paints a rosey picture about what the SA government is doing. This page lists many of those suggestions and adds a lot more, including many that the SA government would prefer were not mentioned because they do not want to act on them.

The ethics of greenhouse

If you went to a birthday party where there were six people, would you eat half the birthday cake? One of the great tests of whether an action is ethical or not is to consider what would happen if everybody took that action. Australians are each responsible for many times as much greenhouse gas as is the average Indian or Chinese. If everyone in the world produced as much greenhouse gas as the average Australian the climate change problem would be far worse, even, than it is.

We have not only a personal responsibility to reduce our greenhouse gas production, but also a collective responsibility to pressure our governments into doing the same for our states and our country.
 
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Specific actions that will reduce greenhouse gas production:
Personal

This section concentrates on those changes which closely relate to private energy consumers.

In most cases reducing your greenhouse gas production, either by cutting the amount of energy you use or by consuming less goods, will save you money. In many cases it will make you fitter and healthier too.

If you already do most of these things then you could look at the government section and press your local member of parliament to act on some of those points. You could also inform me (email address at top of this page) if you can suggest any way I might improve this page. If you have similar pages on the Net you could inform me and I will add a link, and you could link to this page.

Think
Whatever you do, think about whether it is going to cause more greenhouse gasses to be produced. If so, is there a different way of achieving the same result without the greenhouse impact? Importantly, before you buy any product, think about the greenhouse implications in the manufacture of that product and how much energy it is likely to consume.

Invest your savings ethically
In Australia (July 2013) the big banks loan billions of dollars to coal miners. Not only is coal mining a horribly polluting and unsustainable industry, but some of these companies are placing the Great Barrier Reef at risk because of the new ports and pollution due to dredging, but will also lead to hugely increased shipping over the reef and then there's the fact that they are effectively funding faster climate change. As of 2013/07/18 it seems to me that Heritage Bank could be ethical in this sense, but it only has branches in Queensland and northern NSW. An organisation called Market Forces aims to provide some help in where you can ethically place your money.

Do an energy audit
For about $60 you can buy a power consumption meter. You can plug this gadget into any three-point power socket and then plug any other 240-volt appliance into it; it will tell you how much power the appliance is using. Not only will it tell you how much power your TV is using when on standby, but it can measure how much your fridge or freezer use over a 24-hour period. Knowing how much power things use helps to reduce unnecessary power consumption.

Green power
Changing to 100% accredited green power makes your electricity supplier buy sustainably generated power with which to supply you. I believe that this is the single biggest move we can easily take to reduce our greenhouse impact as consumers. My friends and I have been surprised at how little extra our power bills are; green power increases my domestic power bill by only about 13%.

Join a group
Join an environmental group that works toward making your town, region or country more sustainable.

Calculate your greenhouse gas production
To at least approximately calculate how much greenhouse gas you are personally responsible for releasing into the atmosphere does not take a lot of time or effort. I found it a useful exercise; my figures are elsewhere on this site. There is also a greenhouse impact calculator on this site.

 
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Consume less
Before you buy something you probably give a bit of thought to whether you can easily afford to pay for it. In the future try to also think about whether you really need it. Not buying it will reduce the amount of greenhouse gas production that you are responsible for by the amount that went into producing that good.

Bicycling
Try to use a bicycle rather than a car. Bicycling is probably the most energy efficient way of getting from one place to another. It has the added bonus of keeping you fit. Of course it does not require fossil fuels (except for building the bike). (On other pages is a discussion on Weight-to-power ratio and Payload ratio if you are at all interested in the technical aspects of low-weight or low-power vehicles compared to high-weight and high-power.)

Walking
Walking should be encouraged as a way of getting children to and from school, as a way of getting to shops, and as a way of commuting to jobs. Both walking and cycling will also reduce the obesity that is at present an epidemic.

Climb the stairs
It is better for your health and for the atmosphere if you climb stairs rather than using a lift. Generating the electricity consumed by the motor that runs the lift results in greenhouse gas production.

Gymnasium
Do you drive to work and use a gymnasium to keep fit or keep your weight down? Perhaps you drive to the gymnasium? Consider riding or walking to work instead, you will save the cost of running your car, and by keeping fit you might not need to go to the gymnasium, and save money there too.

Public transport
Use public transport rather than your own car; it reduces your greenhouse gas output. Less fossil fuel is burned, per passenger, by a bus or train than by a private car; also if more people travel by public transport then less money need be spent, and less energy consumed, on building and upgrading roads.

Solar water heating
Not only will you cut your greenhouse gas production, but you will save lots of money in the long run if you install solar water heating. To get hot water in the days when the sun doesn't shine either use a gas booster or, better yet, use an electric booster and buy 100% accredited green power.

Water heating
Whatever sort of water heater you have you can save energy by not heating the water to a higher temperature than you need. Most, or all, water heaters have a setable thermostat on them. Set the thermostat to get the water hot enough for a comfortable shower; maybe 55°C. (In some places the law may mandate a minimum temperature of 60°C to be sure of killing legonella bacteria.) If you need some hotter water for dish washing or whatever, you can always heat some in an electric jug.

Be careful with your hot water
If your water is heated by electricity or by burning fossil fuels you will cut the amount of greenhouse gasses you are responsible for by having either shorter or fewer showers and being careful to not use more hot water than you need when washing your hands, etc. Consider installing a solar water heater, it will save you money in the long run.

It could also be worth while looking into putting more insulation on your water heater tank.

Fridges and freezers
Do you have more than one fridge or freezer? Do you really need both? If your fridge or freezer is more than about 15 years old you should look into replacing it with a more energy efficient modern model. (My wife and I repleaced an old freezer and it will pay for itself in five years from electricity savings.)

Save electricity
Most of Australia's electricity is generated in green house polluting fossil fuel fired power stations. They produce a large part of Australia's carbon dioxide. Consider buying green power; this is by far the biggest thing that you can do in your home – for the least amount of trouble and for little cost – to reduce your greenhouse impact.

If your home heating and cooling is controlled by a thermostat then set the thermostat for the lowest comfortable temperature in winter and the highest comfortable temperature in summer. Wear warm clothes inside in the winter and cool clothes in summer. Turn off your heating and air conditioning when you go away for a while.

Do not use an electric or gas clothes drier if you can avoid it; spin dry and then hang your clothes outside to dry using natural air circulation and sunshine (if any). Converting water into water vapour require a huge amount of energy, 2257 kilojoules for each litre (Engineering Toolbox). It takes more than five times as much heat to convert boiling water to vapour than is needed to raise the same volume from freezing point to boiling point. Some artificially heated clothes driers are more efficient than others, but the best of them are responsible for huge amounts of greenhouse gas production.

When buying electrical appliances, try to buy those that have high star ratings and are energy efficient. Consider how much more power you will be using before you buy additional electric appliances; large-screen TVs can use as much power as a fridge.

When you buy a new computer, consider a lap-top (20 Watts) instead of a desk-top (90 Watts). But try to use the lap-top while it is plugged in rather than running it unnecessarily on its batteries; the battery charge/discharge cycle is only something like 50% efficient.

Use only efficient lights (fluorescent, compact fluorescent, and LED), get rid of all your old incandescent (tungsten filament) bulbs. LED (light emmiting diode) lights are becoming available to replace variable brightness halogen lights. Turn lights off when you don't need them. Don't turn on the light if natural light can be used.

Wait until you have a full load of washing before running your washing machine.

Don't boil more water than you need. This might seem trivial, but it is probably something you do often and bringing water to the boil with an electric jug requires quite a lot of electricity.

Microwave ovens
These can be an energy-efficient way of cooking; about half of the power they take from the wall socket goes directly into whatever they are heating. If they run on low power settings they cycle from full power to no heating at all; you can usually hear the changing. A microwave will probably use less power than a conventional oven because it is much quicker, but it may not be better than a cook-top.

 
Fan
This, Chinese made, 'Prima' fan uses from 37W to 46W, depending on the setting; much less than a refrigerated air conditioner.
Standby power consumption
Turn appliances off at the power point rather than leaving them on standby. The fan in the illustration uses 60W when running – whether set on low, medium or high – and still uses 30W if plugged in and not running. (This is the highest standby power consumption that I have measured for any of my appliances.) A lot of electricity is wasted when appliances are switched off but left plugged into a live wall socket.

Remote control
Whenever you buy an electrical appliance avoid remote controlled models if you can; they generally use significantly more power when left on standby (as with the fan in the image on the right) and the little bit of exercise you get by getting up to turn the manual models on or off will do you good.

 
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Solar power
Consider buying some solar panels to put on your roof. With the government rebates and feed-in tariffs grid-connected solar power is a very viable economic option. Even if your income is too high to allow you to receive the rebate, the feed-in tariff alone makes solar photovoltaic atractive.

Clothes drying
Both electric and gas clothes dryers should be avoided. It is much better to spin dry and then hang your clothes out in the open air. Try to choose a place that has good air circulation and sunshine if possible.

Recycled paper
Less energy is consumed in making recycled paper than in making paper from wood. It also conserves trees. Consider buying unbleached paper rather than bleached paper, its manufacture causes less environmental harm.

Buy second hand or recycled
If you can buy second hand or recycled goods you avoid being responsible for the greenhouse gasses released in producing the new product.

Eat less meat
Ruminants (sheep, goats, cattle) belch considerable quantities of methane, a strong greenhouse gas. Also, the way that many domestic animals (chooks, cattle, pigs in particular) are 'factory farmed' requires a lot of resources. Cultivating grain to then feed to stock is very inefficient and consumes large amounts of fossil fuels – leading in turn to the release of large amounts of greenhouse carbon dioxide. Eating open-range, non grain-fed meat, is less damaging to the atmosphere because since they find their own food less resources are required to produce each kilogram of meat.

Eat locally produced fresh foods
Transporting foods over long distances consumes a lot of fossil fuel and results in the release of corresponding amounts of greenhouse gasses. If you eat locally produced foods you avoid this. Processing foods also consumes fossil fuels; it is better if the food is heated just once. Generally fresh foods will be more nutritious than processed foods and locally produced foods will be fresher than foods transported over long distances.

Buy no more food than you can eat
Throwing out food that has gone stale before you can eat it is, in effect, producing greenhouse gasses unnecessarily (because of the 'embodied' greenhouse gasses in the food).

Roads and paths
Try to use roads less, bicycling and walking paths more. The more people who use them the more pressure there is on government to improve them.

 
4WDs not needed
Six big and heavy 4-wheel-drives and one small fuel-efficient car in the Flinders Ranges. Are the gas-guzzlers needed? Our little car (the Jazz on the left) weighs about half as much and handles the dirt roads with ease. It is also capable of towing up to one tonne.
Use a trailer
The little Mazda 121 is easily capable of towing a half-tonne bale of straw on a trailer
The car you drive
Can you get by with a smaller car than the one you have now? Could you buy a small one and just use your big car when you really need a big car? Consider the payload ratio of the car you drive. When you replace your car consider buying a hybrid or a fuel efficient small diesel model.

Don't buy a new car too often. A huge amount of energy goes into the building of cars. On the other hand, if your car is old and fuel-inefficient, it may be worth upgrading to a more fuel-efficient model.

Use a trailer
Rather than buying a big car that you only really need once in a while consider getting a little car with a tow-bar; then you can tow a trailer whenever you need to carry a bigger load and keep your greenhouse emissions down all the other times (as well as saving on the cost of buying and the cost of running a big car).

Using you car less
If you can't walk, ride a bike or use public transport, consider car pooling. Can you get a ride with others who work in the same area, or give them a ride to work?

 
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If you drive your kids to school, consider starting a 'walking bus'. You will save greenhouse gasses and improve your health and fitness and that of your kids. (Organise a group of parents so that one adult will be available to walk with the kids to and from school each day.)

When you must drive, travel a bit more slowly, you will save both greenhouse gasses and fuel. (In my experience, travelling at 90km/hr rather than 110km/hr reduces fuel consumed per kilometre by about 15%.) Also avoid fast acceleration and unnecessary braking.

Before you drive, think whether you really need to go at all; consider walking or cycling.

Keeping a shopping list and going to the shops once every few days rather than several times a day will save you money and time as well as saving greenhouse gas production.

Educate yourself about energy
Learn how much power the appliances in you house use. Learn how various types of heaters work, and whether they are effective at warming you or whether most of the heat goes into the air and then the warm air rises to the ceiling and the heat is largely wasted (see graphic below). Learn about the various forms of energy and how one form can be transformed into another form. Learn what "energy efficiency" is all about.

Power tools
Don't use a power tool when you can use a hand tool. Don't use a power blower if you can use a broom. Use a bucket and sponge rather than an electric pressure pump car washer.

Building a home? Make it energy efficient
Consider installing and using all the passive home heating and cooling features listed below.

Build your house facing north.

Research all the energy saving options for new houses on the Net.

Home heating and cooling
First: as far as possible use passive methods.
  • To cool your house in summer, open all your windows and doors as soon as the evening temperature outside is cooler than inside; close your house up again in the morning as soon as it is warmer outside than in. To warm you house in the colder part of the year make similar use of any warm day.
  • Build a trellis on the northern side of your house and grow a deciduous vine on it. This will shade your northern wall in summer and let in the sunshine in winter.
  • Consider some of the commercially available reflective coatings that can be stuck to your windows; they reflect much of the radiant heat that would otherwise come in from outside.
  • Double glazing is very effective at cutting down on the heat that can go through your windows.
  • Some form of shutter could be installed outside of your windows; these greatly decrease undesired heat entry or loss.
  • Place insulation above your ceilings, or adding to the insulation you already have. There are several types of insulation, thick 'bats' of fibrous material can be placed on top of your ceilings, or sheets of material that reflect heat can be placed immediately below your roof (on an existing roof this will involve lifting and replacing the roof). Ideally do both.
Many of these jobs can be done by the home handyman, and the cost will probably be recovered by reduced heating and cooling bills in a couple of years.

 
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Heat only the part of the house that you are using rather than the whole of the house. Do you need to heat your bedrooms, laundry, toilet and bathroom at all?

Don't set the heating in winter any higher than it needs to be for people appropriatly dressed for winter (perhaps 20°C) and don't set the cooling in summer any lower than it needs to be for people appropriately dressed (perhaps 26°C) and consider using a fan, either on its own or in conjunction with an air-condtioner; a fan uses little power and moving air will cool you more than still air.

Consider using wood-fired heating (wood is, or can be, sustainable and greenhouse neutral). A wood stove can also heat your water in winter. (See solar water heating elsewhere on this page.)

 
Heat map of room Thanks to Australian Consumer's Association (Choice) for this illustration.
"This heat map of a test room clearly shows the stratification effect created by a convection heater when there's little air movement in the room: the yellow bar at the ceiling represents about 22°C, the purple bit (where your cold feet would be) about 14°C."
It is important to consider where the heat from a heater will go; warm air rises, cold air falls.
If you need to use electrical heating consider heaters that predominantly radiate their heat rather than heating the air in a room. Radiant heaters can heat you more than the rest of the room, thus saving power. Heaters that warm the air close to them without mixing it with the cool air in the remainder of the room are best avoided; the warm air simply rises and forms a layer close to the ceiling while the lower part of the room gets little benifit; see the heat map on the right. A convective heater with a fan is generally better than one without a fan because the former mixes the warm air with the cold.

Reverse cycle air conditioners can use much less power for a given amount of heating than many other types of electric heaters. For cooling consider using a much more energy-efficient evaporative air cooler, below.

 
Fan
This, Chinese made, 'Prima' fan uses from 37W to 46W, depending on the setting; much less than a refrigerated air conditioner.
Consider using a fan to cool you rather than an air conditioner; it uses much less power. A fan doesn't cool the air, but you feel cooler in moving air than you do in still air at the same temperature. A ceiling fan can also be useful in cold weather for bringing warm air from the top of a room (where it is of no use to you) down to where the people are.

Evaporative air coolers can use much less power for cooling than reverse cycle air conditioners, so long as the humidity in your area is usually low. To be effective an evaporative air cooler needs to have dry air comming in from outside and the moist air leaving the house; you will most likely need to have some windows at least a little way open. Be aware that many evaporative air conditioners and coolers are very poorly designed and inefficient.

Work from home
If you can work from home part (or all) of the time rather than commuting to work, do it. Travelling, even by public transport, is one of the greatest produces of greenhouse gasses.

Ethical investment
If you have investments, consider either pressing the companies involved to become sustainable or moving your investments to ethical and sustainable companies.

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Specific actions that will reduce greenhouse gas production:
Industry

This section concentrates on those changes which closely relate to industrial energy consumers. By taking up some of these options you can improve your business's green credentials and you public image. Many of the points relating to Personal actions to reduce greenhouse also relate to industry.
Transport
Rail transport is much more energy efficient than road transport when goods are to be moved over long distances. Rail freight should be seriously considered over long distances.

Lighting
Use only efficient lights (fluorescent, compact fluorescent, and LED), get rid of all your old incandescent (tungsten filament) bulbs.

Green electricity
Consider buying green electricity. You could use it to improve the green credentuals of your business and might be surprised at how little it costs, my friends and I were.

Car pooling for your employees
Can you encourage your employees to car pool when they commute to work? Perhaps you could set up a registrar of all those interested and help them get in touch with others who travel on about the same roots?

Become sustainable
Modify your operations so that your company/business is sustainable. In the case of public companies this will make you more attractive to investors.

Join an innovation group
Establish or join a collaborating innovation group of similar businesses and help each other reduce your greenhouse impact.

Provide home heating/cooling efficiency audits
On a fee-for-service basis provide infra-red and/or other home home heating and cooling efficiency testing and auditing.

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Specific actions that will reduce greenhouse gas production:
Government

This section concentrates on those changes which closely relate to matters of government. Much can be done without significantly inconveniencing anybody, but if people must be inconvenienced to reduce greenhouse gas production rates, for example, by reducing speed limits on the open road, then surely the result will be worth the cost.

Governments must spend tax-payer's money wisely. The Rann government in SA in particular has spent significant amounts of money on symbolic greenhouse gestures, rather than value-for-money projects.

Most Australian state governments have restricted water use due to the drought. Most Australians affected by water restrictions seem to have accepted their necessity; indeed, many Australians are going much further than they have to. They have changed their life-style to reduce their water consumption. Many have spent considerable sums of money on water conserving measures such as waste-water recycling and installation of rain-water tanks; others go out of their way to bucket water from showers or washing machines onto their gardens.

It is very unlikely that we would be having such a severe and long lasting drought if not for climate change; the drought is a symptom, climate change is the disease.

Research has shown that the majority accept the need for laws aimed at reducing greenhouse gas production.

Taxes
In conjunction with the introduction of a carbon tax, taxes on those renewable industries that compete against the fossil fuel industries and produce energy sustainably should be reduced. Electricity consumption is sensitive to electricity prices; the Australian Energy Market Operator's 2011 draft SA Supply and Demand Outlook report stated that a 4% rise in price would be expected to lead to a 1% reduction in sales and a 0.5% reduction in peak demands.

Electric car conversion
An article on conversion of an old conventional car into an electric commuter vehicle was printed in the ReNew magazine of October 2009 (No. 109). It suggested that if a government subsidy of the same amount as that for conversion to LPG (liquified petroleum gas) was available then such conversions would become economically viable. Electric cars, so long as they are recharged with non-fossil fuel-generated electricity, can be much more environmentally friendly than conventional cars.

Electricity generation
Building of any new fossil fuel fired power stations should be banned.

All subsidies on fossil fuel-fired, especially coal-fired, power generation should be removed.

The unfair advantage that fossil fuel power stations have, compared to sustainable power generators, in being able to release their polluting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at no cost to them, but huge cost to the world, should be abolished somehow. This might be by a tax on pollution or a subsidy to non-polluting power generation.

Encouragement to sustainable electricity generation such as wind, solar, and geothermal. One of the best ways is by building electricity transmission lines into the areas having the best wind resources; the wind farms will follow. Other assistance could be in the form of research assistance, modifying the regulations to make sustainable power generation easier, and/or subsidising sustainable power. Governments should ensure that the power distribution network is upgaded as and when needed for sustainable energy developments; this is not happening at present, and consequently some otherwise viable development are not being built.

Eventually a system in which the retail price of electricity will vary to match the level of supply and demand will be adopted. The sooner it is adopted the better.

Set year-by-year goals for sustainable power production. (For a government to set a single goal for, say, 60% sustainable power by 2050, on its own, is meaningless. All the governments between now and 2050 could leave the work for some other government to do, and whatever government is in power in 2050 could blame all those that came before for the target not being reached.)

Agricultural pyrolysis
This is the decomposition of agricultural waste using heat in the absence of oxygen. It produces char (mainly carbon), oily liquids, and flamable gasses. The char can be used to improve soils and very effectively sequester the carbon, while the oil and gas can be used as fuels. Government assistance is needed to establish methods and machines for farmers to use.

Distributed generation
Encourage home owners to generate their own power (solar photovoltaic, small wind turbines, micro hydro, etc.)

Legislate to make electricity suppliers pay an attractive price for power put back into the grid.

Make sure that electricity retailers provide consumers with the option to both buy green electricity and sell renewably-generated (eg. solar) electricity back into the grid. (I believe that only two retailers in SA do both in 2007, and it's not easy for householders to find out which. See Sa Electrical Retailers, on this site.)

 
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Fringe benifit tax
At least the part of fringe benifit tax that allows drivers to claim more benifits the further they drive should be abolished.

Government car fleets
Fuel efficient cars, and smaller cars, should be used unless there is a real need to provide other types.

Transport
Rail transport is much more energy efficient than road transport when goods are to be moved over long distances. Rail freight over long distances should be encouraged by government.

Public transport
Public transport should be improved. If more people travel by public transport then less money need be spent on upgrading roads.

Roads and paths
Instead of concentrating on making more roads for vehicles, and upgrading roads to carry more cars, bicycling and walking paths should be concentrated on.

Bicycling
Cycling should be encouraged by making it safer and more pleasant. More cycling tracks should be built (rather than new roads). Cars in inner-city areas should be discouraged. Bicycles could largely replace cars in inner-city areas in Australia, as is being encouraged by administrations in Paris and Copenhagen where bicycles are made available to locals and tourists.

(Also see my pages on Weight-to-power ratio and Payload ratio if you are at all interested in the technical aspects of low-weight or low-power vehicles compared to high-weight and high-power.)

Education
Australians need to be educated about the need for personal responsibility in energy use and greenhouse gas production.

Government should encourage the testing of appliances for energy efficiency, product life, product quality etc. and the publishing of the results.

The great majority of Australians do not understand how heaters work; how, depending on their type and the way they are used, they can heat the people in a room – which is ideal – or how they might just produce a near useless layer of warm air adjacent to the ceiling. An education campaign should be implemented to inform people on this. Alternatively, or in addition, ineffective heaters could be banned or heaters could be star-rated on efficiency.

Educate drivers about economical driving. (Many drivers, especially city drivers, alternate between accelerating and braking. This greatly increases their fuel consumption and causes more wear in their vehicle's engines, brakes, transmissions and tyres.)

Electricity transmission lines
Sustainable energy development is held back because of the lack of high-capacity electricity transmission lines where the sustainable energy can be generated.

This is particularly a problem for wind power developments at present, but it will also limit and slow the development of solar and geothermal energy too, as these options become more economically viable with more research and development.

The US state of Texas is building power lines into areas having exceptional wind resources in anticipation of wind farm construction; Australian governments could be doing the same thing.

This subject is covered in more detail in my page on sustainable energy in Australia.

 
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Home heating/cooling efficiency audits
Subsidise or otherwise encourage infra-red and/or other home home heating and cooling efficiency testing and auditing. Work in with industry.

Research
How much energy is lost in recharging batteries? How do rechargable batteries compare to non-rechargable environmentally and financially? Where in Australia would it be better, from an energy point of view, to install reverse-cycle air conditioning rather than evaporative. It would help consumers decide how to spend their money if they new the answers to questions like these.

Population size
All else being equal, the more people in a country the greater the greenhouse gas emissions from that country. Also, if the population increases infrastructure must be increased to cope; building new infrastructure releases large quantities of greenhouse gasses. Government should minimise population growth by limiting immigration to no more than emigration and discouraging people from having more than one or two children.

Saving electricity
There are many things that government could do to help Australians save electricity. All these things would not only help to minimise greenhouse gas production, but would help people save money.

All electric appliances should have an 'environmental responsibility' label (or 'green label') on them to inform potential buyers about power consumption when in use, when on standby, etc. Information should also be provided on the amount of greenhouse gasses produced in the manufacture of the applance. This would allow buyers to compare between appliances.

 
Appliances that should be rated
Air conditioners/coolers, computers, television sets, video display units, pumps (electric and other), lights, any remote controlled devices, any appliances with a standby feature.
Set up a system of star ratings, – the more stars the more energy-efficient the appliance – or similar, on all electrical appliances.

Better than a star rating system would be a 'green label' system. To get a 'green label' (that can be placed on the appliance and/or its package) the manufacturer must have the appliance's energy efficiency, standby power consumption, etc. tested by an accredited independent body. The data measured by that body can then be printed on the 'green label'. Anyone buying an appliance without a 'green label' takes pot luck.

Poor quality products, such as electrical appliances and cameras that have short lives, should be discouraged and long-lived products encouraged, to reduce the greenhouse gas production involved in manufacturing. This could be done by mandating longer statutory warranties, or by informing the public about the quality of individual products.

Force advertisers of all electrical appliances that consume more than 50 Watts to state the power consumption of the appliance in the advertisement.

Establish an Internet site to provide consumers with information on how environmentally friendly (or otherwise) all sorts of consumer items are. For example; it would list all Electric jugs and kettles and, among other things, state the minimum volume of water that each is capable of heating.

Power consumption should have to be displayed on all new computers. (Newer computers are generally more powerful and more power hungry than older computers. Most users do not need this additional power. Lap-top or note-book computers use less power than desk-top computers, but battery charging is much less than 100% efficient.)

The sale of electric and gas clothes driers should be banned in all states other than Tasmania and Victoria, where they might actually be needed in the cooler half of the year. People should be educated to not use them unless they really need them. They are one of the most environmentally destructive and unnecessary of all household appliances.

Air conditioners and air coolers vary greatly in their energy-efficiencies and effectiveness, but how can consumers know which to buy? See green label, elsewhere on this page. (Another page deals with portable evaporative air conditioners in particular.) If people buy inefficient coolers then they are not only wasting their money, they are wasting electricity and producing unnecessary greenhouse gasses; perhaps even worse, they conclude that it is the principle of evaporative air cooling that is at fault, rather than the individual appliance. Governments should ensure that consumers are informed about the efficiency of all air conditioners on the market; they are failing badly in this duty.

Large-screen TVs can use as much power as a fridge, but again consumers cannot know how much they use.

 
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Computer video display units should be rated on power consumption.

Cordless telephones have the disadvantage, compared to old corded 'phones, of consuming power when they are not being used. The amount of power that they consume should be prominently marked on their packaging.

Electric jugs/kettles should ideally be able to heat as little as one cup-full of water. If users have to heat two cup-fulls to get one cup, energy is wasted. All electric jugs and kettles should be clearly marked with the minimum amount of water that they are capable of heating.

Vehicles
 

Vehicle payload ratio

For a fuller explanation see my page elsewhere.

The average Australian car weighs about 1.5 tonnes. Supposing it carries only a driver weighing 70kg, then the payload ratio is 70/1500=4.7%. (That is, the weight of the payload, the person who needs to get himself from A to B, is only 4.7% of the weight of the vehicle; a very inefficient situation.) For comparison the payload ratio of a 70kg person on a 20kg bicycle is 70/20=350%. An ultralight vehicle could weigh around 200kg giving a payload ratio of 70/200=35%, much more reasonable than the 4.7% for the typical modern car.

A new registration class of ultralight vehicle should be created. There is an urgent need for very small, very light, very efficient electric, solar, or other cars, but current crash-test standards make them impossible to register on Australian roads. The Indian manufactured Reva electric car might qualify in this class. This would not be unprecedented; bicycles and motor bikes would not pass crash tests but are allowed on the roads. Consider the payload ratio point in the box on the right.

Registration fees for fuel-efficient vehicles should be reduced compared to fuel-hungry vehicles. Alternatively, or in addition, consider reducing registration fees and increasing fuel taxes; high registration fees discourage people from owning more than one vehicle. If taxation was moved from vehicle registration to fuel taxes, people could more economically keep a small car to use most of the time and a larger car to use only when they really needed a larger car. This would reduce fuel consumption and hence greenhouse gas production.

Vehicle emission standards should be tightened, especially on imported four-wheel-drive vehicles. Tightening emission standards is a way available to government to make a big difference to greenhouse gas production. California seems to be leading the world in the use of this tool; Australian standards on greenhouse gas emissions are comparitively lax.

Fees for cars containing only a driver entering central city areas should be considered.

Limit the power allowed in new vehicles. (Overpowering vehicles increases fuel consumption per kilometre. Running overpowered vehicles on the world's roads is a luxury that the environment can no longer afford.)

Ration fuel
No doubt this step would be very unpopular (courageous, in 'Yes Minister' parlance), but it would be very effective in reducing greenhouse gas production, would significantly reduce Australia's imports (and thus help the balance of payments and the economy) and would help make the remaining oil supplies go a little further.

We are running out of liquid fuel and the burning of liquid fuels is one of the main causes of climate change. Why not limit the amount of fuel individuals can use; force those who use it wastefully to cut back on their consumption.

Lower speed limits
Lowering speed limits on open highways would reduce fuel consumption and therefore reduce greenhouse CO2 produced per kilometre travelled.

Import duties
Import duties on heavy recreational four-wheel-drives should be much higher than on less fuel-thirsty vehicles.

 
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Houses, flats, units, cabins, caravans
All house plans should be rated according to the energy efficiency of the house. There could be a star rating system, and while giving an overall rating for the house it could also be catagorised and give a rating for individual aspects of the house, such as: wall insulation, ceiling insulation, solar alignment and windows.

Education campaigns should be run to inform builders and prospective home owners of the advantages of energy-efficient homes.

At present many local governments have bi-laws against white roofs. Exactly the opposite should happen, people should be strongly encouraged to have white roofs because they reflect heat in summer and help to retain heat in winter, reducing energy needs for heating and cooling.

Laws should be passed to force all new rental accommodation to be energy-efficient, particularly in things like insulation and summer shading of north and west-facing windows.

All new accommodation such as cabins in caravan parks should have to comply with a minimum standard of energy efficiency. (From my own experience I can say that insulation in many cabins is either non existent or at least inadequate.)

All new caravans should be insulated and the effectiveness of the insulation star rated.

Batteries
The power rating, and some indication of shelf life and use by date, should be marked on all batteries.

Solar water heating
A huge amount of electricity could be saved if all Australian homes had solar water heating. The government should run education campaigns and provide sufficient subsidies to make sure that that the great majority of homes have solar water heating. Not only would greenhouse gas production be reduced, but residents would save money in the long run.

Electricity price varied depending on availability
A system of price responsive load could be introduced. This would allow electrical consuming items such as air conditioners to automatically turn on or off depending on consumers' wants and on the instantaneous price of power. (Wholesale power prices vary depending on the balance between electrical supply and demand. In this system these variations could be passed on to retail consumers, giving greater incentive to reduce consumption at times of peak demand. This is being done in some parts of the world.) This would take some strain off the power supply system as well as make it more compatible with sustainable energy generators such as wind and solar.

Sliding scale on price of electricity
Domestic electrical pricing could be based on a sliding scale. The more power consumed, the higher the price per kilowatt-hour, so that people who are careful about their power consumption would be financially rewarded while those who are extravagant would be penalised.

Wood fire heating
Smoke-limited wood-fired heating should be encouraged as an alternative to fossil fuelled heating (almost all the other forms of home heating). Wood fires can also heat household water. So long as the trees that are cut to provide firewood are replaced, wood heating is greenhouse-neutral. Firewood is a renewable resource.

Wood stoves vary greatly in their efficiency. They also vary in how cleanly they burn. Consumers cannot know how good a particular stove is before they buy it. Stoves should be rated on heating efficiency and clean burning (lack of smoke) by some independent body so that consumers are able to make an informed choice.

Street lights
I remember that, when I was a child (I'm now 64 years old), the street lights in my home town were switched off at 2am. I don't recall this causing anyone any particular problem. The cost of the power needed to run street lights makes up a significant fraction of the total expenditure of many district or city councils. A huge amount of electricity would be saved if switching the lights off at some time near the middle of the night was to be re-introduced.

As an alternative to switching the lights off all together, using a movement detector to control them could be considered; the lights being switched on automatically when a pedestrian was present.
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What is Australia doing about climate change?
What are Australians doing about climate change?

The short answer is, very little.

 

Update – 2015/02/01

Tony Abbott has been Prime Minister of Australia for about 14 months. In that time he has abolished a productive carbon tax, stopped the development of wind power in Australia and more, but it does look like he is set to be removed from office by his own colleagues.
In early March 2007 it was announced that a new coal-fired power station is to be built at Loy Yang, in Victoria's Gippsland. We are assured that it will use 'clean coal' technology and will 'only' produce 70% as much carbon dioxide per megawatt hour of electricity as the older coal-fired power stations. The Federal and State Governments will subsidise the power station with several hundreds of millions of dollars each.

The Rudd government has committed to a Emissions trading scheme and to a 20% mandatory renewable electricity target (MRET) by 2020. The emissions trading scheme is deaply flawed and includes huge pay-outs to the big polluters, the MRET has been corrupted by the creation of huge numbers of phantom renewable energy certificates. A carbon tax would be simpler, more effective, and could be implemented much more quickly, than the proposed carbon trading scheme.

Of all the common fuels that may be used to heat our homes: oil, gas, electricity, coal briquettes and wood; wood is the only sustainable one and is by far the cheapest. (Of course electricity is not truly a fuel and whether it is sustainable or not depends on how it is generated. In Australia in the early 21st century most electricity is generated by burning fossil fuels and is therefore not sustainable.) This shows how little Australians value sustainability and how little they care about climate change. If they did care they would minimise their use of fossil fuel and increase their use of sustainable firewood. The relative prices show that they are not doing this.

Biodiesel

While the Howard Government has refused to countenance a tax on carbon, it has imposed a tax on biodiesel. A new company, the Australian Biodiesel Group, cited a new tax on biodiesel as one of the main reasons for its poor financial performance in 2006.

The Rudd government, too, has not seriously considered introducing a carbon tax.

 
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Nuclear option

In early 2007 the Howard Government seems willing to accept only one alternative to fossil fuels: nuclear power. Why the blindness to sustainable power? I can only suppose that there are two factors here:
  • PM Howard has fixed in his mind the idea that anything sustainable is 'left-wing greeny nonsense' and must be avoided;
  • Howard totally dominates the Parliamentary Liberal party to the point where his ideas, even those that are outdated and/or quite wrong, are accepted without serious questioning.
Nuclear power should be considered as an alternative to fossil fuels, but should not be given priority over sustainable alternatives. Sustainable options should be favoured because they are sustainable while nuclear is not, they can be brought on-line much more quickly than nuclear, they are more decentralised than nuclear, and because they do not leave the long-term problems associated with nuclear: that is,
  • The very high cost of decommissioning old nuclear power stations;
  • The possibility of some of the elements and/or isotopes created in the reactors being diverted for weapons, dirty bombs, etc;
  • The unresolved problems of the disposal of nuclear waste.
Another factor that must be taken into consideration, but seems almost universally neglected, is that nuclear power stations will provide a target for terrorist attack and also for an enemy in any future conventional or nuclear war. A bombed nuclear power station would release far more radioactive material into the environment than a nuclear weapon. (There are many tonnes of highly radioactive materials in any nuclear power reactor that has been running for a considerable period, at most only a few tonnes are produced by a nuclear weapon.)

Nuclear power stations make a much better target than solar or wind power stations in war time because so much can be destroyed by one or a few well aimed bombs. Solar and wind power must be, by their nature, spread over large areas; a single bomb can destroy, at most, one wind turbine or a few solar collector panels.

The Rudd government is opposed to nuclear power in Australia. This seems entirely motivated by nuclear's perceived unpopularity in the electorates.

 
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Jobs

Prime Minister John Howard has often said that he will not do anything to jeopardise the coal industry because there are too many jobs involved. He conveniently neglects the number of jobs that would be created in the renewable energy industry that would replace the lost coal industry. A quote from an article by Giles Parkinson in The Bulletin, of 2007/05/01...
Susan Jeanes, executive director of the Australian Renewable Energy Association, says suggestions that action on climate change would have a net loss of jobs were "just rubbish". She points out that wind power is actually more labour intensive than coal, and requires 2.5 time more units of labour for every MW of electricity produced. With a potential 6000MW of wind capacity on hold, as opposed to just 800MW installed, that translates into thousands of lost job opportunities in this country alone.
The same journal quoted Michael Müller, German parliamentary state secretary at the federal Ministry for the Environment as saying, "Renewable energies are an asset for Germany in terms of economic growth and employment".
 
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Embodied energy (and CO2)

This is the energy that is required to produce a product. When you buy the product you become responsible for the energy used in that product's production.

Similarly embodied carbon dioxide (CO2, the main man-made greenhouse gas) is the CO2 that is released in the production process; either directly from the production, or from the energy used in production. Since much of the energy used in the production of goods and services comes from the burning of fossil fuels, embodied energy is closely linked to embodied CO2.

When you buy the product you take on some of the moral responsibility for the CO2 released as a result of that production. For this reason (and others) it is ethical to minimise your consumption.

 
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Links

Many other links are scattered through the text above.

Green Resources: A number of useful home energy guides.

Green Guide for Kids and Adults at Home, by US Insurance Agents.


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