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.
in SA in particular has spent significant amounts
of money on symbolic greenhouse gestures, rather than value-for-money
Most Australian state governments have restricted water use due to the
Most Australians affected by water restrictions seem to have accepted their
necessity; indeed, many Australians are going much further than they have
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
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.
- In conjunction with the introduction of a
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
- 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.
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
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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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.)
- 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
An education campaign should be implemented to inform people on
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
- 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
energy in Australia.
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
- How much energy is lost in recharging batteries?
How do rechargable batteries compare to non-rechargable environmentally and
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
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'
(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.
Set up a system of star ratings,
– the more stars the more energy-efficient the appliance –
or similar, on all electrical 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
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
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
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
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
Governments should ensure that consumers are informed about the efficiency
of all air conditioners on the market; they are failing badly in this
Large-screen TVs can use as much power as a fridge, but again
consumers cannot know how much they use.
Computer video display units should be rated on power consumption.
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.
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
All electric jugs and kettles should be clearly marked with the minimum
amount of water that they are capable of heating.
For a fuller explanation see my page
The average Australian car weighs about 1.5 tonnes.
Supposing it carries only a driver weighing 70kg, then the payload ratio is
(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
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
- A new registration class of
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
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
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.
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.
- 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
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
wood-fired heating should be encouraged as
an alternative to fossil fuelled heating (almost all the other forms of
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
- 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.