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Australia Pumping Empty

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Australia Pumping Empty
Fuel rationing may be just one of a series of shocks facing drivers and commuters in Queensland, Australia. Looming oil shortages will produce the biggest change in society since the industrial revolution, Sustainability Minister Andrew McNamara warned yesterday.

To underscore his concerns, Mr McNamara will appear in a documentary film premiering May 20th in which he says the days when Queenslanders could “travel on a whim” in oil-powered vehicles are numbered. The documentary, ‘Australia Pumping Empty‘, argues southeast Queensland is squandering billions on road, bridge and tunnel projects on which few will be able to afford to travel.

A report by Mr McNamara for the Queensland State Cabinet on the impact of the fuel crisis is expected to include recommendations on rationing, the future of public and private transport and sustainable population issues. It has been ordered on the premise that there is overwhelming evidence world oil production will peak in under a decade. It is expected to recommend risk mitigation measures such as cuts in fuel consumption and encouraging the development and use of alternative fuels, technologies and strategies. It will also outline demographic and regional changes as Queenslanders change travel, work and living habits.

“I think people are going to be in for a shock when they find it’s too expensive to drive their cars to work and then, when they get down to the station, they find the train is full and they can’t get on board,” Mr McNamara said. He will recommend the State Government focuses urgently on ways to cut private-car use. “I cannot overstate this – we need to adopt a wartime mentality. We’re going to face a level of urgency that will require dramatic change.” Private car use is expected to trend towards hybrid vehicles and then to electric. “But will we have enough electricity generating capacity when everyone comes home and plugs their cars in to recharge?”

Mr McNamara said no government would want to introduce fuel rationing but it could not be ruled out. It might become an option as fuel supplies run down and prices rise to avoid a situation where only the rich can afford private transport. “We face the need for a whole new economy, from the way we generate power, to how we deliver water, to how we live”.

It’s good to see that someone, somewhere, is taking all this seriously.

‘Queensland’s vulnerability to rising oil prices’ – taskforce report April 2007

Written by Pete Smith

May 18, 2008 at 8:38 am

Oz Ideas

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2020 summit

Today, April 19th, Australia’s Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has launched the Australia 2020 Summit, “an important initiative to harness the best ideas for building a modern Australia that is ready for the challenges of the 21st century”. 1000 expert invitees wll spend the weekend debating topics such as ‘Australia’s future security and prosperity in a rapidly changing region and world’, ‘Future directions for the Australian economy’ and ‘Population, sustainability, climate change and water’. The complete set of topics can be found here, and a list of participants in each discussion stream can be found here (PDF 120K).

The Australian government’s objective was to enable policy-making to break out of the traditional electoral cycle, and for this they should be applauded, if only for trying. All Australians were invited to make submissions to the Summit as a way of contributing to the discussion. A gateway to the published suggestions is here, but don’t get too excited, it’s indexed in a very clumsy way so that only the author’s name is listed, and you can only search by publication name or ID. If you want to search by keyword to zoom in on a particular concept, you’ll be out of luck, which is a shame. The Guardian reports that some of the rejected ideas include crayfish dinners for all and jukeboxes for nursing homes.

Meanwhile, some disgruntled Aussies are reacting to what they see as the elitist nature of the Summit by setting up their own alternative forums. Stephen Collins and Laurel Papworth initiated a 2020 Summit blog. Tangler created a 2020 Summit forum. Jim Rettew has created a Wiki called Oz Ideas. Jim writes:

“Kevin Rudd is inviting 1000 “experts” for the Australia 2020 Summit to come up with Australia’s next big idea. For the rest of the 20,699,000 people in Oz, here’s our forum to list and vote on the best ideas to improve Australia.

“It’s free. It can be anonymous, and I’m not doing it to make money. I just think mothers, tradies, and bloggers probably have better ideas for this country than the ‘experts’.”

Jim, I think you could well be right. All that’s lacking is a way of putting all those ideas into practice, and that’s where traditional power structures unfortunately get in the way.

Oz Ideas ‘Top ideas So Far’

Written by Pete Smith

April 19, 2008 at 5:17 pm