infrastructure

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Indigenous Resistance Instrumental in Stopping High-Profile Fossil Fuel Projects, Says Report

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 14/09/2021 - 6:12am in

"The longer you fight them, the better chance you have."

There’s One Surefire Way to End Big Sewage Spills: End Big Sewage

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 12/09/2021 - 7:55pm in

Massive, centralized facilities make for massive, centralized catastrophes — and the risk of public health and ecological disasters.

Removing Urban Highways Can Improve Neighborhoods Blighted by Decades of Racist Policies

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 09/09/2021 - 8:25pm in

Urban planning has been used to classify, segregate and compromise opeople’s pportunities based on race. Highway removal can improve urban neighborhoods.

Northeast Pummeled with Colossal Flooding, Destructive Tornadoes

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 03/09/2021 - 5:27pm in

Ida's epic flooding is likely to become part of an extreme weather new normal.

The Fragility of the New York City Subway System

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 31/08/2021 - 8:25am in

What if Hurricane Sandy was only the beginning?

The China push for a cleaner and cooler planet

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 16/08/2021 - 4:56am in

Not a day passes without our media damning China for some imagined infamy or other. So many stories, so many column inches, and nothing positive to be found. At the same time, our television screens are full of other images; real images of a disaster that is enveloping us all.

We see our planet ablaze, lashed by violent storms, lives disrupted, and our very survival being threatened by climate change. The expert advice is that things are getting worse as emissions grow. China does head the global list as the highest emitter of CO2 and by some distance. Statistically, however, its emissions per capita are half those of the US or Australia. It is still building coal-fired power stations, although is committed to cutting emissions by 65 per cent by 2030 and achieving a net-zero target by 2060.

Those figures might not please everybody but, if those who spend their time stirring up anti-Chinese sentiment would pause, for just a moment, they might just see what can be done about climate destruction and what is being done in China.

The world knows that our future does not lie with fossil fuel and nor can the future of transportation be based on fossil fuel. President Biden has spoken strongly of shifting the focus from petrol to electric cars and has called for 50 per cent electric being sold in 2030 to be electric. This is to his credit, although he does acknowledge that the figure is in no way to be seen as binding. But what about public transport and electric buses? As of today, there is just one city in the world whose bus system is entirely electric. It is Shenzhen in China. Its public transport fleet runs 16,000 buses. There are also 22,000 electric taxis operating in Shenzhen. In a very short space of time, nine more major world cities will be added to the list of all-electric cities. All of these will be in China. By contrast, London and Santiago, the next best users of electric transport, each run about 200 electric buses and there are 300 in total in the US.

There are now over 400,000 electric buses operating across China. What this means for emissions is important. One thousand electric cars save 15 barrels of oil per day. By way of contrast, 500 barrels of diesel are saved when 1,000 electric buses take to the streets. The Chinese initiative has meant that 270,000 fewer barrels of diesel are being consumed every single day! This adds up to a reduction of more than 98 million barrels a year, which will see 42 million tonnes less CO2 being released into the atmosphere or the equivalent of 10 per cent of Australia’s total CO2 emissions.

There are moves in other countries to ramp up conversion to electric buses which is encouraging but no country is coming anywhere near the figures from China. This begs the question, why? Governments are so often conflicted things. On the one hand, is an existential need to resolve a crisis and on the other is an economic imperative. All too often short-term economic factors override the social good. The Chinese example shows that this can be reversed. Each Chinese electric bus comes with a price tag of a little over $100,000. This money is granted to the public transport provider by the state. The social good obviously outweighs any consideration of cost and there is no profit margin to be considered.

Earlier this year, the Chinese government launched its 14th Five Year Plan. This has important implications for its response to climate change and to how business is conducted. The five-year period until 2025 will see total CO2 emissions drop by 18 per cent. China Baouwu (the world’s largest steel company) will see its CO2 emissions peak in 2023, as will the emissions from Sinopec (the world’s largest oil refiner).

The Five-Year Plan has acknowledged that the shift to a net-zero emissions regime will have significant impacts on all sectors of society and specifically in those areas that are currently reliant on coal. Coal is being phased out. The Chinese have stressed that operations will, in all likelihood, be shifted to regions of the country where renewable energy sources are more cost-effective. The social and demographic dislocations are being factored in as the country seriously accepts its responsibilities to the world and its people.

While all of this is going on in real-time, the world continues to hurtle toward the abyss. The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow this November is being seen as a crucial meeting. Emissions must be cut by 45 per cent in the next decade if the global temperature rise is to be no greater than 1.5 degrees, but there are ominous signs that they will continue to rise along with the temperature. Few have any optimism that such a target can be achieved.

Fatih Birol, the executive director of the International Energy Agency, recently admitted that the statistics are “shocking and very disturbing. On the one hand, governments today are saying climate change is their priority. But on the other hand, we are seeing the second biggest emissions rise in history. It is really disappointing.”

No nation is exempt from criticism. Governments and corporations share the blame for the destruction. Significant changes are clearly needed. Our television screens remind us of this every night. The future is perilous, but surely it is only right and proper to give credit where it is due. Is it too much to expect that our media might take a day or two out from its work of damning China with no justifiable cause instead and giving it some praise for what it is actually doing?

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How a National Infrastructure Program Would Protect Americans From Hurricanes

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 13/08/2021 - 5:52pm in

Biden's infrastructure plan includes defending flood and hurricane vulnerable areas, when saving all of them may not be the right answer.

US History Shows Spending on Infrastructure Doesn’t Always End Well

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 12/08/2021 - 7:28pm in

Despite promoters' claims, infrastructure projects often aren't great public successes.

Newcastle Port decision: overreach, misunderstanding or both?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 12/08/2021 - 4:53am in

The Federal Court’s rejection of the ACCCs case against Government-imposed penalties facing Newcastle Port seemed to misunderstand transport policy matters and give more weight to the Government’s latest excuses than to logic and observed actions.

Since 2016, posts in Pearls and Irritations have drawn attention to a secret NSW Government scheme to hinder Newcastle port’s wish for a container terminal. One effect is to seemingly hamstring attempts by the world’s largest coal port to diversify and deal with global (climate) policy realities.

The scheme has Newcastle Port paying a penalty to compensate the privately owned Port Botany for every container moved through Newport’s terminals.  Somehow, a call by bidders during the privatisation of Port Botany for assurance that the Government wouldn’t develop its own terminal at Newcastle morphed into penalties for any terminal – including the privately funded Newcastle Port.

The Federal Government and Opposition failed to do anything about this trade impediment.  Without those politicians pulling their weight, in 2018 the Australian Competition and Consumers Commission instituted proceedings alleging a breach of the Competition Act’s anti-competitive laws.

The Federal Court – Justice Jagot – ruled against the Commission.

The decision hinged on Crown immunity.  To explain, the scheme was secretly included in the privatisations of Port Botany (2013) and Newcastle (2014).  The Court said privatisations are not business activities.  As the Competition Act applies only to business activities the deal was ‘immune’.

This article is not interested in that.  Rather, it is interested in the Court’s further musings: the scheme is not anti-competitive; a container terminal at Newcastle is ‘fanciful’.

Anti-competitive?

The Court argued the scheme sought to maximise revenue from the sale of Botany, rather than stifle competition.

I don’t understand that.  The only way to maximise revenue from the Botany sale was to restrict potential competition.

Further, the Botany bidders – themselves container port experts – and the Government consistently act as if Newcastle has the potential to compete without some such scheme.

The Court seemed to give more weight to the Government’s latest excuses than to logic and observed actions.

Fanciful?

This comment was part of the Court’s reasoning to overcome the fact a container terminal in Newcastle would attract trade from Botany.   The Court said because it could never happen, anything to reduce the prospect of it happening could not be anti-competitive.  One reason it supposedly could never happen is a Government policy.

The policy: Botany’s container capacity is to be exhausted before another terminal in NSW is built.

Why the Government should keep such a policy post-privatisation – which is intended to remove Government influence on port business – escapes me.

Nonetheless, there is a fatal flaw – which the Court failed to appreciate: Botany’s capacity, like ports in many metropolises, is limited by road traffic outside the port precinct – not by terminals or berths.

That was the point of the National Ports Strategy – cited by the Court.  In that, Governments agreed policy should treat ports as a function, not a place.  The difference: the former requires planning for land transport to the port, of which Botany was an example of what to avoid.

The Court underestimated Botany’s – and Sydney’s – land transport problems.

It cited a claim only 2% of traffic on the M5 east relates to Botany.  Drivers on the M5 – and elsewhere – would think that an understatement, as evidently does the Government e.g., the Sydney gateway project.

The reason: 2% (probably) refers to truck numbers rather than the effect of trucks on traffic.  Those trucks likely use over 12% of space on that, and other, roads.  In heavy traffic that greatly adds to congestion.

More to the point, the relevant issue is the converse – the impact of congestion on trucks.  Botany is, and will remain, amid some of the heaviest road traffic in Australia.

The effect is compounded by the distances port trucks travel.  The Court accepted a claim 80% of Botany’s containers end up within 40km of the port.  Apart from inherent circularity, data problems, ignoring a lower – 57% – figure from Transport for NSW, the distance being as the crow flies, and it seemingly being negated by Sydney’s freight precincts moving west since first made (2005) etc. – it is not a proxy for freight costs, which of course, would include time lost due to congestion.

More recent, and relevant, data shows average port trucking costs in Sydney higher than elsewhere in Australia – half of all export-import container costs – $20 per teu more than Melbourne, $100 more than Adelaide.  That was prior to the opening of – and substantial new truck tolls on – WestConnex and NorthConnex.

Strategic mess

Like at the national level, strategic freight policy in NSW is a mess.  It fails to understand basics like ‘freight follows least-cost pathways’.

The picture the Government presents for the Botany-first policy: preventing a Newcastle terminal avoids a queue of trucks carrying containers over 150km to western Sydney.  This was put to, but not accepted by, a Parliamentary Inquiry in 2019.

The reality: with a Newcastle terminal many container trucks running between Botany and Newcastle via central Sydney would be redeployed to carry cargo from Newcastle to the Hunter and northern regions.

The present run through central Sydney is exacerbated by the lack of a sensible designated freight route.  The route designated by the Government adds over 40km – and several expensive tolls – to a truck trip between Botany and Newcastle.  The gap in the freight network will remain after WestConnex is completed.  So much for NSW ‘strategy’.

There is no public information capable of supporting an anti-Newcastle policy, and plenty of public information suggesting such policy is wrong.  The Parliamentary inquiry (above) said it was given contradictory information on the key land transport issue – hardly an endorsement of the policy or data on which it is supposedly based.

Policy sustainability?

The Court mused the policy was developed along lines sought by Infrastructure Australia’s project assessments.  That is not so.  Assessments require demonstration of problems; options; a business case; ex-post review.  There has not been any demonstration of any of these.

The Court also argued the policy is likely to continue as it has been operating for some years.  That may be so.  However, more significant was the Court noting it originated in 2012 – the same time NSW embarked on other strategic transport stupidities: Sydney Metro; Transport Asset Holding Entity; opposition to Badgerys Creek airport.

It appears the Court thought the NSW Government has a role in ascertaining the financial merit – or supporting construction – of a Newcastle terminal.  Such thinking is wrong.  The Government’s role, if any, is merely project regulatory approval.  As such approval is not the same as the initiation of a project and Government opinions about viability should be discarded.

Hence NSW policy against a Newcastle terminal can only have one aim.  Bidders for Botany believed without that aim a terminal at Newcastle may go ahead because of Sydney’s landside constraints.

The aim?  To shield Botany from potential competition from Newcastle by an opaque non-regulatory method.

Conclusion

The Court’s discussion beyond Crown immunity – of a Newcastle container terminal – could be read as being needless and misunderstanding basic issues.

Little wonder it attracted criticism.

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It’s Time for a New International Space Treaty

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 02/08/2021 - 11:55pm in

With satellite traffic increasing and space tourism set to take off, the laws governing space are due for an overhaul.

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