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In 2002 we took our 15 year old son and his best friend up to see the Great Barrier Reef.  I’m so glad we did.  Like the experience of standing on the beach catching whiting for dinner it might well end up being one of those “priceless” experiences that Mastercard can’t buy.

I get it that people voted against a Labor party that seems full of wankers with inflated egos and sense of entitlement.  I get it that spending the taxes of the person trying to make a living running a pizza shop on propping up a giant car manufacturer is government favouritism, and that there are very good arguments for low taxes and small government and leave free enterprise to work it out.  I get it that bureaucratic regulation and red tape is often ludicrously over the top, so wasteful of time and energy and creativity that it is head-bangingly frustrating.  I get it that there is a human spirit of competitiveness that can lead to amazing feats of triumph and creativity and ingenuity if it is let run. I get right wing politics.

But trashing the Barrier Reef to speed up the rate of mining, as if that coal is going to vaporise and lose all its value unless we get it out now….

Trashing the Barrier Reef to make mining magnates rich, in their lifetime, when it will all be gone into private jets and Dom Perignon baths by the time their kids get to amuse the gossip mags….

Trashing the Barrier Reef to fire up local coal fired power stations and save a couple of hundred dollars in power bills while it lasts…

Trashing the Barrier Reef and giving the finger to the world community trying to pull together some kind of alliance to fight the (very, very real) threat of whole nations going underwater, millions of desperate refugees.  Us, the nation that stepped up in two world wars…

We all deserve white feathers.


solar 98 percent

98% this morning.  That’s the charge on our batteries.  After all day yesterday running a computer, a slow cooker, a washing machine, and the charger for the plug in kit on our Prius, on top of the usual fridge, composting loo fan, and lights and TV for a couple of hours at night.

I can’t be bribed to betray the rest of the world, and my children’s world, by voting to let people dispose of their CO² trash by just chucking it out into the atmosphere.  Not because I’m saintly, but because I pay so little carbon tax that removing a carbon price will give me nothing, except dirty air.

The idea of pricing carbon is that people will put all their buying power into choosing goods and services and methods of production that make the least carbon pollution.  That’s free enterprise folks.  No rules telling you what to buy or how to make it, just a real price that reflects the real cost, the cost that otherwise everybody else has to pay.

I cannot believe that the liberal party is so un-liberal, or that it is getting traction by threatening not just to let people pollute for free, but paying them to do it less!  That’s like removing fines for drink driving, and then paying people who drink drive to only do it on alternate days! Paying them with my taxes! Pricing carbon is a way of harnessing human inventiveness and ingenuity and investment and effort into avoiding paying the price.

Late last year we bought a 4.5 kva solar system.  With the way solar panels have come down in price it was really affordable, and would have been even more so if we had power connected and could go back to grid.  But we have stand-alone power so we had to install batteries as well.

Within a week, we realised that even turning everything we own on at once, we couldn’t make a dint in the power on a sunny day.  “Everything we own at once” is not that huge a power drain.  After 30 years of living with solar power, we’ve just got hygienic about it.  We turn lights off when leaving a room without thinking about it, we have solar hot water with a wetback slow combustion stove to boost it in winter wet weather, a tiny fridge, LED lights, small LED TV.

So “everything we own” got increased. The big major change due to the new power system is that we bought a second hand Prius, again very affordable, and a 4kva plug in kit to allow us to use the excess power on sunny days to charge it.  We thought about a pure electric vehicle, but there just aren’t enough public charging points yet. But it means we are spending so little on petrol it will pay for itself in a few years.  For the first time I can use a slow cooker, again as a soak for shunt power, so I have a cooker of chick peas on at the moment.

And still, yesterday, with everything on at once, we only got the batteries down to 83% at the lowest point.

I picked up a second hand bread machine thinking I may be able to use it to bake my sourdough, and we’re thinking about a new high tank to use excess power to pump water up to a height to get lots of pressure for firefighting.  Human inventiveness and ingenuity and investment, all going towards paying no carbon tax.

Sydney Morning Herald had an article yesterday about how wind farms supplied more power to the  National Electricity Market in the week before than the total from Victoria’s brown-coal fired Hazelwood power plant, and just 10 per cent short of NSW’s giant black-coal Bayswater Power Station.  Serious quantities of clean wind power, and how AGL has stopped  plans for the 300-megawatt first stage of a $550 million wind farm development planned for Silverton, near Broken Hill, because of fears the Coalition will get in.

I really have sincere hope for the future.  I believe humans have an amazing capacity for adaptation.  It is the characteristic that has got us evolved to this point.  But I despair of policy that is so plain dumb the way it discards ingenuity, inventiveness, and investment and rewards craven greed and helplessness.  Not even a genuine reward, just a pea shuffle .



solar panels

Our new solar system.  So exciting, and it has been surprisingly affordable – solar technology is moving ahead so fast now. Eighteen 250 watt panels – way more power than we will ever use in the house, but enough, so the plan is, to run an electric car. Or van actually – this is the one we’re looking at.

We’ve lived with stand alone solar long enough to have learned how to be very frugal with electricity without sacrificing any quality of life things.  All our lights are now LED (with candles for dinner party mood lighting or quiet, listening to music evenings). The TV is 17 inch LED.  The computers are laptops.  Electronics are pretty good with electricity consumption so long as you turn them off when you’re not using them.

Electric motors can use serious power if you use them a lot. The food processor only gets used for seconds at a time, so it doesn’t count. I sweep rather than vacuum.  The washing machine is a twin tub – both water and energy efficient and very kind on clothes.  The fridge is a small (80 litre) and super efficient, and we eat mostly fresh food anyway.

The big energy guzzlers are heating and cooling – so solar hot water boosted by a slow combustion wood stove in winter, that also heats the house and is used for cooking. A gas stove and a little, stick burning Japanese barbeque for summer cooking, no kettle, no toaster (boil the kettle on the stove, cook toast under the griller).  In summer, we practically live on our north facing verandah, shaded in summer by a big deciduous pecan tree that works as a natural air conditioner. And the bloke’s latest project (actually ongoing for quite a while now, but finally getting to nearly there) is a reed bed filtered swimming pool – or more like a Japanese bath house really – for when it is really really hot.

So with nearly 5 kva, we will be so power wealthy we won’t know what to do with it until the van becomes a reality!

This is our old system.

our old solar system

See the tiny panel second from the top? That with a car battery was our original solar system. It’s now 30 years old, and has well and truly earned its cradle to grave power cost.  It powered a couple of lights (one at a time), a radio, a CB, and little black and white portable TV very occasionally.  No washing machine – I washed nappies in a little hand operated washing machine like this one. No fridge. We had a kero fridge for a while but it was so smelly and unreliable I just stopped using it.

They were hard days, but it also meant no power bills, and the money saved went into escaping the trap of not enough capital to afford the infrastructure to save the capital to afford the infrastructure to….

We added another little panel a few years later (which has moved on to powering the new swimming pool pump), then the two panels at the top and the bottom were added 22 years ago – enough power to run a very tiny 12 volt fridge and a computer.  Then, about 15 years ago we bought the eight middle panels second hand. Two of them have since died, but all in all we’ve come out way way ahead in power bills over the years.  And never any unexpected blackouts.

I watched a Foreign Correspondent episode about coal seam gas in USA a few days ago and it was shocking to see how sucked in they are. I live in a region being fracked for coal seam gas. Our road has declared itself Gas Field Free – Protected by Community, but unfortunately the air and water don’t recognise boundaries. Let alone the climate. It stuns me that people behave like fish, just taking dollar bait dangled in front of them, even when it is so painfully obvious that it’s a scam and they’re just going to end up flapping on the shore, losing their home, their environment, their life support system.  When it’s just so stupidly, stupidly unnecessary.  5 kva of electricity on our shed roof, powered by the sun and with no emissions at all.