Earth News

Chain Reaction #115, August 2012,

Bike Futures Conference

The fourth annual Bike Futures conference will be held in Melbourne on October 18−19. Workshop themes for the conference will include: new and innovative bicycle treatments, bicycles and public transport, motor vehicle speeds, bike planning, shared paths and spaces, cycle tourism and bike separation.

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Hunting in NSW National Parks

NSW residents − please take a minute to write to your local minister to express concern about Premier O'Farrell's announcement that hunting will be allowed in NSW national parks. The Premier's plan opens up 79 national parks and reserves, covering close to three million hectares or 40% of all NSW parks and reserves. You can send an online letter at:

Lynas defamation action against residents group

Lynas has been accused of attempting to gag free speech with its defamation action against a residents group opposed to the company's rare earth processing plant in Malaysia. Lynas wants to move 33,000 tonnes per annum of rare earth concentrates from its mine through the port of Fremantle in Western Australia to the port of Kuantan in Malaysia to its hazardous, energy intensive and highly controversial processing plant, the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant.

More information: and

Australia seventh-worst polluter

WWF's Living Planet Report ranks the world's biggest polluters and puts Australia in seventh place. The world's top 10 polluters: Qatar, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Denmark, Belgium, United States, Australia, Canada, Netherlands, Ireland. The results were calculated by comparing renewable resources consumed against the Earth's regenerative capacity. The report found that high-income countries have an ecological footprint on average five times that of low-income ones.

Mining industry subsidies

The federal government gives just over $4 billion in direct subsidies to mining companies each year, mainly in the form of cheap fuel and tax breaks for building roads and railways, a report by the Australia Institute states. The biggest single subsidy comes in the form of fuel-tax credits, formerly named the diesel fuel rebate, which were valued at $1.89 billion in 2009-10. The Australia Institute report only covers federal government subsidies, meaning that the true figure would be higher if state subsidies were taken into account.

The report, 'Pouring Fuel on the Fire', is posted at

Vale voted world's worst multinational company

Vale, the Brazilian mining company that operates in 38 countries and is the largest iron-ore mining corporation in the world, came first out of six finalists for the Public Eye Award, which annually elects the worst company in the world by popular vote. Vale's 70-year history is tarnished by repeated human rights abuses, inhumane working conditions, pillaging of the public heritage and the ruthless exploitation of nature. TEPCO, owner of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, came second, followed by Samsung, Barclays Bank, Syngenta and Freeport.

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Peacenik medical scientist Tilman Ruff honoured

Associate Professor Tilman Ruff, former President of the Medical Association for Prevention of War, currently Australian Chair of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, was awarded a 'Member (AM) in the General Division of the Order of Australia' in the Queen's Birthday 2012 Honours List. The AM was for 'service to the promotion of peace as an advocate for the abolition of nuclear weapons, and to public health through the promotion of immunisation programs in the South East Asia-Pacific region'. Tilman has been active, and effective, in the campaign against nuclear weapons continuously since his student days.

Report on women human rights defenders

The Global Report on the Situation of Women Human Rights Defenders is an initiative of the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition to articulate the challenges faced by women human rights defenders and how best to respond to them. The use of 43 cases studies illuminates trends and experiences.

The report is posted at

World wind power reaches new record in 2011

Wind energy developers installed a record 41,000 megawatts of electricity-generating capacity in 2011, bringing the world total to 238,000 megawatts. With more than 80 countries now harnessing the wind, there is enough installed wind power capacity worldwide to meet the residential electricity needs of 380 million people at the European level of consumption. China led all countries in annual wind power gains for the third straight year, installing 18,000 megawatts for a total wind capacity of 63,000 megawatts.

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Economic benefits of wind power

The Clean Energy Council launched a report in June into the many economic benefits of wind power, particularly for regional communities. It's the first time this information has been brought together, and it shows substantial benefits for the towns and regions around wind farms.

The report, 'Wind Farm Investment, Employment and Carbon Abatement', is posted at

Solar intermittency: Australia's clean energy challenge

Intermittency is one of the biggest barriers to the uptake of solar energy, however CSIRO and partners are now on the path to solving the challenge with the completion of a world-first analysis of solar intermittency in the Australian context. The study provides a greater understanding of the effects of solar intermittency on electricity grids, directly addressing the concerns of market and grid operators, solar installers and investors. The project found that:

  • With knowledge and tools, such as solar forecasting and energy management, CSIRO can provide the information required to manage solar intermittency.
  • Solar intermittency is not uniform; different sites, regions and countries require individual solutions.
  • If large amounts of solar energy are to be used as a power source we need a flexible grid designed with renewable energy sources in mind.

The report is posted at:

Clean energy cut carbon emissions in 2011

Renewable energy has helped Australia to cut its total carbon emissions for the second year running, according to figures published by the federal government. Clean Energy Council acting Chief Executive Kane Thornton said the analysis from the Australian National Greenhouse Accounts showed that overall greenhouse emissions had dropped about one per cent in the year to September 2011, largely led by the electricity sector.

Thornton said: "Electricity emissions dropped 3.2 per cent during this period. Hydroelectric power was up just over 10 per cent due to the excellent rainfall in key hydro areas, while coal and gas generation both dropped. Better energy efficiency and the increased use of technologies such as solar power, wind power and solar hot water were some of the factors that the government said contributed to the strong result."

But ... green energy alone won't save the Earth

A study by Richard York of the University of Oregon finds that rather than displacing fossil fuels, green energy sources have proven to be mostly additive. York found that on average each unit of new energy from non-fossil-fuel sources displaced less than a quarter of a unit of energy use from fossil-fuel sources.

Why don't the new sources replace the old to a greater extent? York identifies two key reasons: the inertia of a huge existing fossil-fuel infrastructure, and the power and influence of the coal and oil corporations. He states: "The most effective strategy for curbing carbon emissions is likely to be one that aims to not only develop non-fossil energy sources, but also to find ways to alter political and economic contexts so that fossil-fuel energy is more easily displaced and to curtail the growth in energy consumption as much as possible."

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Marine sanctuaries

The federal government announced in June that it will establish the world's largest national network of marine reserves. The International Fund for Animal Welfare supported the announcement but expressed concerns. Campaigner Matthew Collis said: "The Environment Department has had its hands tied throughout the whole process in any attempts to address the threats to marine life from the oil and gas industry. The network, for the most part, addresses areas only where the industry doesn't operate or isn't looking to operate in the future."

The Centre for Policy Development has released a report on the economic footprint of the unique marine resources to be protected by the proposed Commonwealth Marine Reserves Network.

The report, 'Preserving Our Marine Wealth', is posted at