27 December, 2014

Food for Thought

The Harvard Business Review recently ran an interview with Robert B. Shapiro, chairman and CEO of Monsanto, on the subject of sustainability.

Sustainable development is the term for the dual imperative—economic growth and environmental sustainability—that has been gaining ground among business leaders since the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. 

As Shapiro puts it, “We can’t expect the rest of the world to abandon their economic aspirations just so we can continue to enjoy clean air and water. That is neither ethically correct nor likely to be permitted by the billions of people in the developing world who expect the quality of their lives to improve.”

The interview with HBR editor-at-large Joan Magretta, discusses how Monsanto has moved from a decade of progress in pollution prevention and clean-up to spotting opportunities for revenue growth in environmentally sustainable new products and technologies.

HBR: Why is sustainability becoming an important component of your strategic thinking?

Robert B. Shapiro: Today there are about 5.8 billion people in the world. About 1.5 billion of them live in conditions of abject poverty—a subsistence life that simply can’t be romanticized as some form of simpler, preindustrial lifestyle. 

As many as 800 million people are so severely malnourished that they can neither work nor participate in family life. That’s where we are today. And, as far as I know, no demographer questions that the world population will just about double by sometime around 2030.

Without radical change, the kind of world implied by those numbers is unthinkable. It’s a world of mass migrations and environmental degradation on an unimaginable scale. At best, it means the preservation of a few islands of privilege and prosperity in a sea of misery and violence.

Far from being a soft issue grounded in emotion or ethics, sustainable development involves cold, rational business logic.

Current agricultural practice isn’t sustainable: we’ve lost something on the order of 15% of our topsoil over the last 20 years or so, irrigation is increasing the salinity of soil, and the petrochemicals we rely on aren’t renewable.

Most arable land is already under cultivation. Attempts to open new farmland are causing severe ecological damage. So in the best case, we have the same amount of land to work with and twice as many people to feed. It comes down to resource productivity. You have to get twice the yield from every acre of land just to maintain current levels of poverty and malnutrition.

Now, even if you wanted to do it in an unsustainable way, no technology today would let you double productivity. With current best practices applied to all the acreage in the world, you’d get about a third of the way toward feeding the whole population. 

The conclusion is that new technology is the only alternative to one of two disasters: not feeding people—letting the Malthusian process work its magic on the population—or ecological catastrophe.

We don’t have 100 years to figure that out; at best, we have decades. In that time frame, I know of only two viable candidates: biotechnology and information technology. I’m treating them as though they’re separate, but biotechnology is really a subset of information technology because it is about DNA-encoded information.

How does biotechnology replace stuff with information in agriculture?

Shapiro: We can genetically code a plant, for example, to repel or destroy harmful insects. That means we don’t have to spray the plant with pesticides—with stuff. Up to 90% of what’s sprayed on crops today is wasted. Most of it ends up on the soil.

If we put the right information in the plant, we waste less stuff and increase productivity. With biotechnology, we can accomplish that. It’s not that chemicals are inherently bad. But they are less efficient than biology because you have to manufacture and distribute and apply them.

I offer a prediction: the early twenty-first century is going to see a struggle between information technology and biotechnology on the one hand and environmental degradation on the other. 

Information technology is going to be our most powerful tool. It will let us miniaturize things, avoid waste, and produce more value without producing and processing more stuff. The substitution of information for stuff is essential to sustainability. 

B.t. Cotton. In ordinary soil, microbes known as B.t. microbes occur naturally and produce a special protein that, although toxic to certain pests, are harmless to other insects, wildlife, and people. If the destructive cotton budworm, for example, eats B.t. bacteria, it will die.

With products like B.t. cotton, farmers avoid having to buy and apply insecticides. And the environment is spared chemicals that are persistent in the soil or that run off into the groundwater.

The Roundup molecule has smart features that contribute to sustainability. It is degraded by soil microbes into natural products such as nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and water. It is nontoxic to animals because its mode of action is specific to plants. Once sprayed, it sticks to soil particles; it doesn’t move into the ground-water. Like a smart tool, it seeks out its work.
How do you react to the prospect of the world population doubling over the next few decades? First you may say, Great, 5 billion more customers. That is what economic development is all about.

That’s part of it. Now, keep going. Think about all the physical implications of serving that many new customers. And ask yourself the hard question, How exactly are we going to do that and still live here? That’s what sustainability is about.

The Coal Seam Gas Industry

Quite the clearest, balanced description I have read-

World-first export LNG bonanza poised to set sail

Gas bonanza poised to set sail
Methane Rita Adrea enters Gladstone Harbour yesterday to take on the first shipment of LNG gas from Curtis Island. Picture: Murray Ware Source: Supplied
AUSTRALIA’S export liquefied natural gas industry on the east coast has begun with a large ship berthed in Gladstone Harbour filling up with the first batch of LNG made from coal-seam gas in western Queensland.
The British Gas-owned Methane Rita Andrea is bound for Asia when it leaves Gladstone in the next few days, its final destination depending on who is willing to pay top dollar for its liquid cargo.
Australia exports about 24 million tonnes of LNG worth about $14 billion from the North West Shelf off Western Australia, but what is happening in Queensland is a world first: converting coal-seam gas to LNG for export.
Combined, the two industries, one off the west coast and the other one the east coast, have the potential to make Australia the biggest exporter of LNG .
The federal government has forecast that LNG exports could rise to 80 million tonnes by 2018, valued at $60bn.
The new Queensland industry promises much. A 2013 study claimed it would deliver $22bn in revenue to the state government through royalties and payroll tax and $162bn in revenue to the federal government over the next 20 years.
The BG plant is the first of three $20bn plants being built at Curtis Island on the northern shore of Gladstone Harbour that will convert the coal-seam gas to liquid natural gas. The other two are set to come on stream in the next year.
While the output of the other two plants will largely be sent to specific destinations, BG is a large spot trader and already sends ships into Asia carrying liquid natural gas. The specific destination of the Methane Rita ­Andrea will be guided by which buyer needs the LNG next week.
The construction of the three giant plants has led to 40,000 people being employed; after the construction phase tapers off, the industry estimates it will employ up to 18,000 in long-term jobs.
The industry looms as Queensland’s economic saviour. At a time when coal prices are down and the coalmining industry is shedding jobs, the arrival of the coal-seam gas into liquid natural gas industry is forecast to lift the state’s economic growth from 2.5 per cent this year to 5.75 per cent in 2015-16, taking Queensland from one of the slower growth rates to the fastest.
It is also an industry that many see as putting groundwater in farming areas at risk and possibly contaminating much of Aus­tralia’s most productive farmland.
So far, about 5000 farmers have signed access agreements with coal-seam gas companies that will allow the companies to place wells, many only the size of a basketball court, on the farmer’s property. There are 6000 wells on Queensland’s western Darling Downs, but as the industry grows, more wells will be drilled as others dry up — in total, there could be up to 40,000 wells sunk in the gasfields around Chinchilla and Roma over the next 20 years.
The movement of Australian gas into the global market will also push up domestic gas prices. People overseas are prepared to pay more for gas than in Australia, so local prices will also rise.
Gas has been running through the specially-built pipeline from the gasfields to Gladstone for about a year, and once it reaches Gladstone, it is placed in what is effectively a giant freezer and converted to liquid form for transport. When it reaches the other end, the process is reversed and the liquid is heated until it turns into gas again.
A spokesman for BG Group, which came into the industry when it took over Queensland Gas in 2008, said the mechanical testing of the plant had finished and the storage tanks were yesterday being cooled, ready to produce and store sales LNG.
“This is done by cooling the gas to -162C. The process reduces the gas by about 600 times its original volume, making it easier to transport economically over vast distances. There remains work to do, but we are on schedule to start loading LNG into the first ship to carry a cargo from Curtis Island.”
It’s taken about 10 years to get the industry to this point, after coal-seam gas was seen as a far more environmentally friendly fuel source than coal as its greenhouse gas emissions are considerably less than coal.
The original proponents of an export coal-seam gas industry were all Australian companies, but all have partnered with large overseas energy giants to make the projects viable.
The opposition to the industry has come together under the banner of Lock the Gate, and its president, Drew Hutton, said there had been an unseemly haste to push the industry.
“In years to come, people will look at the decisions made now and the way we’ve sacrificed good farmland and water for an industry which has such a limited ­future,” he said.
“Coal-seam gas, like coal itself, will end up as a stranded asset as people realise that the future is in renewable energy … what we’ll see in the next 20 years is the ­impact on the underground water supply, which will put at risk some of our best farming land.”

18 December, 2014

Christmas Greetings and 2014 Review

Once again we use the "late and easy" way by conveying our Christmas greetings electronically. Gail and I sincerely wish all our friends a very happy Christmas and a healthy and successful 2015.

Not sure that I want to bore you with our health issues and somewhat mundane activities over 2014, so will strive for brevity as I did last year. However, the year did have its highlights-

  • an enjoyable, albeit sad, weekend in Bourke in May to mark Swire's final withdrawal from the agricultural industry, following the sale of the Barwon/Darling River cotton farms,
  • the removal of my colostomy bag and closure of the stoma in June,
  • various Tandou events during the year culminating in a fascinating Snowy Hydro conducted tour of the Snowy Scheme in November-see my Blog,
  • election to Chairmanship of the McGarvie Smith Institute in mid year,
  • August saw the loss and funeral of our very good Walcha friend Sue Archdale, after the bravest fight with cancer that one could ever see; a brief visit to the ever impressive Australian Cotton Conference, a trip to Gunnedah with son Mike for AgQuip, and 2.5 weeks at Moololaba,
  • a great five days in Adelaide last week for the India Test Match,
  • two excellent school reports for our two eldest grandchildren-Mike and Georgie's- Charlie and Heidi- followed by Charlie's election yesterday as School Captain of Mosman Primary,
  • the diagnosis yesterday of what can most simply be described as a very large hernia below where the colostomy was closed, which will almost certainly involve further surgery to repair; the good news is that there is no sign of cancer.
Sorry if I have offended anyone by not including something that they thought was important!

19 November, 2014

Morals and Fossil Fuels

Review: Alex Epstein, The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels, Penguin Publishing, November 2014; 248 pages; ISBN-10: 1591847443, ISBN-13: 978-1591847441, $20.89 on Amazon.
In his new book, The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels, Alex Epstein makes one of the most compelling arguments for the moral value of fossil fuels and the need to increase their use I have ever read.
Epstein is an ethical humanist; for him, the well-being of human life is the standard of value public policy should maximize. This ethical theory goes back to the ancient Greeks and went virtually unchallenged as a basis for judging right and wrong throughout human history, at least until recently.
Unfortunately, many prominent environmental writers have rejected humanism, instead embracing a biocentric philosophy that views human changes to the environment as morally wrong and unnatural. For those biocentrists, minimizing human impacts on the environment is the primary moral goal. As such, biocentrism is a prescription for human poverty, disease, starvation, and premature death - in other words, an endorsement of the world as experienced by all but the wealthiest individuals for the vast majority of human history.
Epstein points out the development and use of fossil fuels have benefitted the poor far more than the rich, making available to the person of average means, food, goods, and services which even the rulers of old could hardly dream of.
Chapter by chapter, through clear and concise analysis, Epstein demonstrates why fossil fuels are the greatest energy technology of all time; why renewable energy sources like wind and solar power are in no position to replace them; why concerns about global warming are overstated and largely misplaced; how fossil fuel use actually improves environmental quality; and why, with more than 1.3 billion people in the world today without access to electricity and the labor and life-saving bounty it makes available, it would be immoral to artificially restrict growth in the use of fossil fuels to prevent climate change.
Assuming human welfare is one’s primary moral standard, a number of important takeaways from this book arise. I’ll list three:
  • One should look at the big picture when determining the value of using fossil fuels - not just the costs or potential harms to humans. If one has an open mind, it is apparent fossil fuels provide important benefits to humankind, unmatched by any other fuel source at current prices with current technology. The benefits of fossil fuels far outweigh the harmful by-products resulting from their use, even if one believes they contribute to global warming.
  • “Climate is no longer a major cause of deaths, thanks in large part to fossil fuels. … Not only are we ignoring the big picture by making the fight against climate danger the fixation of our culture, we are ‘fighting’ climate change by opposing the weapon that has made it dozens of times less dangerous. The popular climate discussion has the issue backwards. It looks at man as a destructive force for climate livability, one who makes the climate dangerous because we use fossil fuels. In fact, the truth is the exact opposite; we don’t take a safe climate and make it dangerous; we take a dangerous climate and make it safe. High-energy civilization, not climate, is the driver of climate livability.”
  • Even if human-caused CO2 emissions do pose a significant threat of dangerous climate change, the way to deal with climate danger is to develop technologies that allow humans to adapt to, mitigate, or prevent climate harms.
Restricting or ending fossil fuel use is a recipe for disaster. It would set human civilization back centuries - a true death knell for present and future generations. The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels makes this point as well or better than any other book I recall reading. The book is easily readable by anyone who has passed high school freshman English, and I encourage all those interested in learning about the threats of global warming and the relative benefits and harms of fossil fuel use to read it with an open mind. It will give you much to think about.

05 November, 2014

Inland Water Management

It is music to my ears to see the recognition that the key characteristic of our climate is not so much dryness, although there is plenty of that, but variability. Dorothea Mackellar got it so right with her "droughts and flooding rains". She might well have added "and not much in the middle!" The Millennium Drought followed by record wet years is an excellent recent example. 

I continue to contend that in responding to this fact, two words need to dominate our response-conserve and flexibility. In respect to the latter, storages need to be constructed so that under very dry downstream conditions, the option of allowing small flows to pass is available. It requires acceptance of 'adaptive management'. The variability fact, makes the concept of setting single figure Sustainable Diversion Limits, albeit with adjustment provisions, nonsensical.

Further central issues which strike me are-
  • acceptance of the option of using salt water rather than fresh water to maintain levels in the Lower Lakes, 
  • ensuring Snowy management is required to optimise water conservation as well as electricity generation-particularly with Eucumbene Dam the largest storage in the Murray Darling Basin.

03 October, 2014

Global Warming-US Senior Official's Epiphany

Physicist Steven Koonin says climate science is far from settled and we are a long way from having good enough knowledge to make wise climate policy.
That view is not news to climate skeptics, but it may seem surprising coming from Koonin, who was undersecretary for science in the Obama administration’s Energy Department in the president’s first term.
Koonin says the crucial question isn’t whether climate is changing, which is a settled matter: It is changing and always will change. The crucial question – how will climate change over the next century as a result of both human and natural influences – is more complex and unsettled.
Although human activities could have a powerful effect on climate, they are and will be small in relation to the climate as a whole, Koonin argues. For instance, he notes human additions to atmospheric carbon dioxide will enhance the natural greenhouse effect by just 1 to 2 percent by the middle of this century.
In addition, he writes, ocean cycles and feedbacks can dramatically amplify or mute the climate’s response to human and natural influences, and we neither understand nor can model either of these factors well enough to trust our knowledge when forming public policy.
Concerning climate models, Koonin notes the IPCC uses 55 different models:
Although most of these models are tuned to reproduce the gross features of the Earth’s climate, the marked differences in their details and projections reflect all of the limitations that I have described. For example:
The models differ in their descriptions of the past century’s global average surface temperature by more than three times the entire warming recorded during that time. Such mismatches are also present in many other basic climate factors, including rainfall, which is fundamental to the atmosphere’s energy balance.
Whereas human CO2 emissions have risen 25 percent over the past 16 years, temperature has remained largely flat, a result none of the models predicts, Koonin notes. In addition, average sea level rise hasn’t changed from the level experienced more than 70 years ago, contra the models’ estimates.
Koonin says it will take decades before sufficient, accurate data are available to accurately assess human effects on climate and any dangers they might pose. Accordingly, society must make choices based on uncertain knowledge of future climate, meaning policy actions should be prudent, not radical. Modest, “no regrets” policies are reasonable, he argues. Large-scale, economy-changing policies could be more harmful to people than the climate changes they are meant to prevent, he notes.
“Our tolerance for risk and the priorities that we assign to economic development, poverty reduction, environmental quality, and intergenerational and geographical equity” must have greater influence on our policies than model-based climate prognostications, he argues.
Only by recognizing, rather than ignoring or trying to deny, the limits of our knowledge can society make productive decisions with regard to climate policy, Koonin concludes.

30 September, 2014

Health-An Update

For all those who over the last 12 months have expressed concern and support with my health issues, I would like to say a very heartfelt thank you.

For the record, I was diagnosed with bowel cancer on 9th October last year. I had some 11 inches of my colon and rectum containing three malignant tumours removed on 29th October. Wore a colostomy bag for eight months whilst I had chemotherapy, then had the stoma reversed (“re-connected”) on 26th June this year. Including the original colonoscopy I have now had four general anaesthetics in the last twelve months.

In the last seven days I have had a whole body (chest and abdomen) CT Scan, a blood test for every malady known to man and another colonoscopy this morning. I am probably still “high” from the anaesthetic!

I am delighted to report that the outcome of all these observations is positive. No trace was found of any cancer or other issues of concern and I have been given a clean bill of health. Ongoing monitoring will continue.

I will be forever grateful for many things. I thank God that we live in an age of extraordinary technology with skilful, caring medical practitioners and we are surrounded by caring thoughtful and prayerful friends.

David Boyd

14 July, 2014

George Christensen Ridicules Australian Policies on Climate Change/Global Warming

Well worth a read. http://www.scribd.com/doc/233126123/140701-GC-SP-Climate-Change-Conference-Slides

Lomborg and Realistic Optimism

Just because it sounds good …

THE world has generally become a much better place during the last half-century. Sceptics will scoff, but the numbers don’t lie. The task now is to make the world even better.
In 1960, 20 million children under the age of five died. In 2011, with 40 per cent more children, deaths had declined by two-thirds, to 6.9 million.
In 1970, only 5 per cent of infants were vaccinated against measles, tetanus, whooping cough, diphtheria and polio. By 2000, the proportion was 85 per cent, saving about three million lives annually. Each year, these vaccines alone saved more people than world peace would have saved in the 20th century.
Air pollution, the world’s biggest environmental problem, has declined dramatically. Though there has been a small uptick in outdoor air pollution, the much larger problem of indoor air pollution — cooking and keeping warm with open, polluting fires — has declined precipitously. Since 1960, the risk of dying from all types of air pollution has been more than halved.
In 1962, 41 per cent of the world’s children were not in school — today that number is below 10 per cent. Worldwide ­literacy has risen from one-third to two-thirds.
Likewise, the number of those living in poverty worldwide has dropped from 43 per cent to less than 18 per cent since 1981. During that period, more than three billion people joined the ranks of the non-poor.
There are many reasons for this progress — not least rapid economic development, espec­ially in China. But there has also been a concerted international ­effort, reflected in the Millennium Development Goals, which the UN adopted in 2000 to make the world a better place by 2015.
The MDGs set 18 clear and mostly achievable targets in eight areas, including poverty and hunger, gender equality, education, and child and maternal health. In the period since 2000, development aid worldwide reached about $900 billion, of which perhaps $200bn was due to the MDGs.
The UN is now contemplating how to extend this target-setting process from 2015 to 2030. If the successor scheme, the Sustainable Development Goals, has a similar impact, it could ­determine the allocation of upwards of $700bn.
Obviously, this means everyone wants their favourite issue on the agenda, and more than a thousand targets have been proposed, which is tantamount to having no priorities at all. It would be useful, therefore, to get a sense of what really works, not just what sounds good. As Julie Bishop rightly points out, development dollars need to be spent “to the greatest effect”. That is why she has welcomed the new project from my think tank, the Copenhagen Consensus.
Here we have engaged with 57 teams of world-class economists to investigate 19 major areas and about 50 targets. Within each area we ask how much each target will cost and how much good it will do. This information will be ready by the end of this year, well before the UN decides on its SDGs late next year.
But negotiations have already begun, and the UN would like some information right now. So we asked our economists to give a quick assessment on 200 of the proposed targets. Some targets, such as getting broad access to family planning, are phenomenally good. That is because contraception is mostly inexpensive and can help both ­individuals and society. The bene­fits can rise as high as $150 for every $1 spent.
Similarly, we should focus on at least halving malnutrition, as there is robust evidence proper nutrition for young children leads to a lifetime of large benefits — better brain development, improved academic performance and higher productivity as adults. For every $1 spent, future generations will receive almost $60 in benefits.
But the UN draft says we should “end malnutrition”, and the economists warn that, while such an absolute goal sounds ­alluring, it is probably both implausibly optimistic and inefficient. We cannot achieve it, and even if we could the resources to help the last hungry person would be much better spent elsewhere.
Likewise, the UN would like to end HIV, malaria and tuberculosis. And, while reducing malaria and TB significantly is a very good deal, it is likely that eradication is unrealistic and uneconomical.
At the other end of the scale, some of the UN’s proposed targets are entirely unrealistic, like promising work to everyone. We do not know how to do that, and some low level of unemployment is necessary to have a functioning labour market from which employers can recruit. Instead, the economists suggest focusing on reducing barriers to employment, particularly for women.
Other poor targets simply cost more than the benefit they provide. Doubling the share of ­renewable energy by 2030 sounds good, but is an expensive way to cut just a little CO2. Instead, we should focus on getting more ­energy to poor people, a proven way to increase growth and TO reduce poverty. And to cut CO2 emissions we should phase out the substantial fossil-fuel subsidies that riddle much of the developing world, leading to wasteful consumption and straining government budgets.
The ultimate decision about which targets to set for the coming 15 years is a complex and deeply political discussion, and advice from economists will not magically resolve all complications. But providing evidence of what works really well and what doesn’t makes it more likely that good targets will be selected — and poorer ones left out.
Realistically, this approach may help to exclude only a few poor targets, or even just one, and it might generate enough tailwind to put just one additional good goal on to the final list.
But because the world is likely to spend $700bn on the SDGs, even a small change can do tens or even hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of good. That is why helping the UN narrow its priorities to include the best targets could be the most important thing any of us can do this decade.
Bjorn Lomborg is adjunct professor at Copenhagen Consensus Centre.

28 June, 2014


Last year I published three posts titled "Oh What a Feeling", "Cricket and Chemo" and "Contemplation" which gave the brutal facts of my flirtation with bowel cancer. The pathology tests on the eleven inches of removed bowel (sigmoid colon and upper rectum) revealed no less than three malignant tumours and a highly suspicious polyp. They also tested 21 lymph glands in the removed bowel and discovered one was carrying malignant cells. This resulted in my surgeon and oncologist advising that I would have to keep my stoma and colostomy bag for a total of eight months while I had six months of chemo.
The chemo was in the form of six identical tablets-three in the morning and three in the evening for two weeks then one week off, repeated eight times, with a visit to the Oncologist with a blood test before beginning each three week cycle. This means that I haven't used my rectum for eight months`. At one stage I described this procedure as a "pain in the bum", which of course in literal terms,  is exactly what it is not! I was very fortunate that the side effects of the chemo were negligible.

Last Thursday (26th June) I re-entered hospital to be "re-connected'. Or in more professionals terms to have the ilieostomy reversed and a massive hernia around it patched up -"pushed back in". Everything seems to be going as planned, last night was extremely uncomfortable and sleep impossible. But I can now tell you that my bum works! My very direct, colourful surgeon told me this morning that the next few days wont be fun, but all is on track.

Wednesday 2nd July
The surgeon was dead right! The last four days and particularly nights have been bloody awful. Someone once told me that our intestines don't like being fiddled around with and are inclined to rebel.   They sure are rebelling. I am swollen up like a poisoned pup and any release of internal pressure, be it liquid, (bowel and bladder) or gas, is very welcome. The worse part is that the pain prevents sleep.The best part is that a new word has entered the Australian lexicon -"Kyrgios", an Australian tennis player, of Greek origin. In the wee hours I have watched his last three Wimbledon wins and he has played superbly. I truly thought Nadal would be too strong-but no way. His temperament is excellent.

My wound has taken to weeping considerable quantities of bloody liquid and is now being "packed" twice daily. What next?? Surgeon says I won't be out before the weekend.

Friday, 4th July
I am more comfortable, but have a gaping wound with a substantial hole under it where the stoma was. Not unusually it carries an infection. They are "packing" it with gauze which they change twice a day and am now on anti-biotics for the infection. The "inner me" is gradually getting back to more like normal-some way to go. Sleeping easier.

Monday, 7th July
I played down this hospital visit as a minor 2/3 day procedure. Twelve days later .......! The last two nights have been horrendous with complete lack of bowel control and much action! This is mostly attributed to the anti-biotic upsetting the system and the fact that the lower bowel has been out of action for eight months. Each night improved as the night went on.
Have had a good day today and it's continuing tonight. Move to once a day wound "re-packing" from tomorrow and have (most?) of my 15 staples removed. If tummy continues to behave expect to be discharged tomorrow or Wednesday.

Tuesday, 8th July
Surgeon agreed to my proposal that I should go home today. Susie and kids picked me up around 11:30 and am now ensconced once more at Arterial Road. Gail seems pleased! Sydney Home Nursing are booked to "re-pack" the wound each day. Hope to go to my Thursday Australian Club lunch and the Swire Lunch on Friday to farewell Mitch Abbo. Like attendance at the Adelaide Test last December the Swire lunch has been my aim this time.

Sunday 20th July
Getting better. Wound is almost healed. Didn't find the home nursing very satisfactory-never knew definitely when they were coming, so took up the alternative of going up to the hospital each morning to have the wound packed there. Bowel behaving better, but not quite back to normal. Am slowly gaining confidence, but don't like getting too far from a toilet. If in doubt I wear a "nappy". I have this sophisticated brief case that I bought in Argentina, which I take with me everywhere. All that is in it is spare "nappies"!!

Saturday 2nd August
My surgeon declared my wound healed yesterday. Bowel behaving well and am gaining more confidence. We did a 2km walk this morning!
Over and out!

28 May, 2014

Climate Change-Essay Summary From Nigel Lawson

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CCNet 27/05/14

Nigel Lawson: The Trouble With Climate Change

Climate alarmism is a belief system that needs to be evaluated as such

There is something odd about the global warming debate — or the climate change debate, as we are now expected to call it, since global warming has for the time being come to a halt.

I have never shied away from controversy, nor — for example, as Chancellor — worried about being unpopular if I believed that what I was saying and doing was in the public interest.

But I have never in my life experienced the extremes of personal hostility, vituperation and vilification which I — along with other dissenters, of course — have received for my views on global warming and global warming policies.

For example, according to the Climate Change Secretary, Ed Davey, the global warming dissenters are, without exception, "wilfully ignorant" and in the view of the Prince of Wales we are "headless chickens". Not that "dissenter" is a term they use. We are regularly referred to as "climate change deniers", a phrase deliberately designed to echo "Holocaust denier" — as if questioning present policies and forecasts of the future is equivalent to casting malign doubt about a historical fact.

The heir to the throne and the minister are senior public figures, who watch their language. The abuse I received after appearing on the BBC's Today programme last February was far less restrained. Both the BBC and I received an orchestrated barrage of complaints to the effect that it was an outrage that I was allowed to discuss the issue on the programme at all. And even the Science and Technology Committee of the House of Commons shamefully joined the chorus of those who seek to suppress debate.

In fact, despite having written a thoroughly documented book about global warming more than five years ago, which happily became something of a bestseller, and having founded a think tank on the subject — the Global Warming Policy Foundation — the following year, and despite frequently being invited on Today to discuss economic issues, this was the first time I had ever been asked to discuss climate change. I strongly suspect it will also be the last time.

The BBC received a well-organised deluge of complaints — some of them, inevitably, from those with a vested interest in renewable energy — accusing me, among other things, of being a geriatric retired politician and not a climate scientist, and so wholly unqualified to discuss the issue.

Perhaps, in passing, I should address the frequent accusation from those who violently object to any challenge to any aspect of the prevailing climate change doctrine, that the Global Warming Policy Foundation's non-disclosure of the names of our donors is proof that we are a thoroughly sinister organisation and a front for the fossil fuel industry.

As I have pointed out on a number of occasions, the Foundation's Board of Trustees decided, from the outset, that it would neither solicit nor accept any money from the energy industry or from anyone with a significant interest in the energy industry. And to those who are not-regrettably-prepared to accept my word, I would point out that among our trustees are a bishop of the Church of England, a former private secretary to the Queen, and a former head of the Civil Service. Anyone who imagines that we are all engaged in a conspiracy to lie is clearly in an advanced stage of paranoia.

The reason why we do not reveal the names of our donors, who are private citizens of a philanthropic disposition, is in fact pretty obvious. Were we to do so, they, too, would be likely to be subject to the vilification and abuse I mentioned earlier. And that is something which, understandably, they can do without.

That said, I must admit I am strongly tempted to agree that, since I am not a climate scientist, I should from now on remain silent on the subject — on the clear understanding, of course, that everyone else plays by the same rules. No more statements by Ed Davey, or indeed any other politician, including Ed Milliband, Lord Deben and Al Gore. Nothing more from the Prince of Wales, or from Lord Stern. What bliss!

But of course this is not going to happen. Nor should it; for at bottom this is not a scientific issue. That is to say, the issue is not climate change but climate change alarmism, and the hugely damaging policies that are advocated, and in some cases put in place, in its name. And alarmism is a feature not of the physical world, which is what climate scientists study, but of human behaviour; the province, in other words, of economists, historians, sociologists, psychologists and — dare I say it — politicians.

And en passant, the problem for dissenting politicians, and indeed for dissenting climate scientists for that matter, who certainly exist, is that dissent can be career-threatening. The advantage of being geriatric is that my career is behind me: there is nothing left to threaten.

But to return: the climate changes all the time, in different and unpredictable (certainly unpredicted) ways, and indeed often in different ways in different parts of the world. It always has done and no doubt it always will. The issue is whether that is a cause for alarm — and not just moderate alarm. According to the alarmists it is the greatest threat facing humankind today: far worse than any of the manifold evils we see around the globe which stem from what Pope called "man's inhumanity to man".

Climate change alarmism is a belief system, and needs to be evaluated as such.

26 May, 2014

"When Will They Ever Learn"

"The Budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled,public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed, lest Rome will become bankrupt. People must again learn to work instead of living on public assistance." - Cicero, 55 BC
So, evidently we've learned bugger all over the past 2,069 years.

19 May, 2014


Cotton crop transforms a dry lake bed

Aerial view of the Tandou property, showing the scale of the operation. Picture: Stuart M
Aerial view of the Tandou property, showing the scale of the operation. Picture: Stuart McEvoy Source:News Corp Australia
THE fluffy fields of white cotton stretch endlessly towards the distant red sandhills as six giant green harvesting machines march relentlessly across the flat dry bed of former Lake Tandou in far southwest NSW.
Yet few Australians are aware that one of Australia’s biggest ­irrigated cotton farms is thriving amid the outback saltbush plains 100km southeast of Broken Hill, adjacent to the Darling River and fed from the Menindee Lakes water storages.
Even fewer realise that the remote Lake Tandou farm — ­labelled the most ambitious, visionary and risky irrigation project in Australia when first dreamed up in the 1980s — is today owned and run by one of Australia’s few publicly listed specialist agricultural companies, Tandou.
Or that it grows 8700ha of cotton crop annually, boasts one of the most sophisticated and modern channel irrigation systems in Australia, is as large in its 14,500ha of irrigated country as the much better known Ord River scheme in Western Australia’s Kimberley, runs its own cotton-processing gin and employs 50 permanent staff plus 30 contractors.
Tandou chief executive Guy Kingwill admits one of the most frustrating aspects of his job is trying to explain to potential investors, financiers and analysts exactly why the Lake Tandou farming operation that lies at the heart of the company’s business model is so special.
“The scale, the complexity, the strategy that underpins it all; it’s impossible to envisage or understand really until you come here,” he says.
“I try and start by saying that it’s not really a farm but a factory, an agricultural business on an industrial scale, where timing is everything but when, if we get it right, we do really well. But most people — until they see it for themselves — can’t get past the point of wondering how you can ever have a highly productive or profitable operation in such a remote part of the outback.”
From the air, it is easy to see why.
Outside the kidney-shaped ring of the Lake Tandou bed are caked hard clay pans, dry billabongs, the meandering, peripatetic anabranch of the Darling River with its pelican-filled lakes and creeks, and a few mobs of hardy sheep wandering the spartan, but currently grassy, pastoral plains.
Inside the ring of irrigation channels fed from nearby Lake Cawndilla, the most southern of the Menindee lakes filled by the Darling River, is the highest yielding cotton and wheat farm in Australia, which produces more clean cotton from every drop of its current 70,000-90,000 megalitres of annual irrigation water than any other Australian property, despite having an annual rainfall of less than 200mm.
But another source of Kingwill’s good-natured frustration is that Tandou is also much more than just a big cotton farm.
When Tandou first listed on the Australian Stock Exchange in 1987, after being converted in the late 1970s and early 80s by high-stakes agricultural pioneer Bob Smith from an outback pastoral lease to an irrigated horticultural and cropping farm, cotton growing was only in its infancy in ­Australia.
The public listing converted the operation into a serious, but very small, agribusiness player, with its irrigation areas able to be further developed and expanded, a cotton gin built and larger irrigated cotton and wheat crops grown on the 20,000 megalitres (or 20 billion litres) of water ­licence entitlements then owned by the company.
In the process of dealing with such large amounts of irrigation water to grow its crops, Kingwill says his company fortuitously became one of the early experts in juggling the economics of water availability and current water prices in the southern Murray-Darling Basin system against the economics of growing a big cotton crop at the Lake Tandou farm.
“We know if the cotton price gets north of $450 a bale (227kg), this is a cotton farm,” says Kingwill, happy in the knowledge that cotton prices for next year are already close to $500 a bale.
“But for four years between 2007 and 2010 when the drought was at its worst and water was scarce and expensive we grew zero crop on the whole of Tandou. Our logic was why grow cotton and get $150 profit for every megalitre of water used to produce it — plus put it all the effort of farming — when we could sell the same water allocation we owned to other farmers who needed it more for $500 per megalitre profit without having to do anything?”
It is a canny understanding of the economics of water use versus farming, plus a trading skill, that Tandou has now turned into its new business model.
Instead of remaining just a food and fibre producer, Kingwill — who has been managing director of the company since 2005 — has converted Tandou into an emerging but significant water owning and trading business, as much as a cotton company.
Tandou now owns more than 84,000 megalitres of permanent water rights across the southern half of the Murray Darling basin, making it one of the largest water holders, along with Singapore-owned Murray River almond-growing company Olam.
The water rights are sourced from various parts of the river system — including the Upper Murray, Murrumbidgee, Goulburn, lower Murray and Lower Darling.
Because water is now tradeable across the river systems, the water portfolio gives Tandou the flexibility to either choose to water its own crops, “move” the water across basins towards its Tandou farm, or sell the water when it is more profitable to do so to other farmers and water buyers.
The new focus on water has completely transformed the asset base of Tandou. Despite its current market capitalisation of $92.5 million — after a $25m capital raising completed last week to pay down debt linked to its Hay acquisitions — the company internally values its 84.5 ­gigalitres of water at $75m.
Kingwill says water assets now make up 60 per cent of Tandou’s asset base, while its land, crops and machinery at both Hay and Tandou are valued at about $50m. Company debt, before the most recent share issue, sat at $64m in March.
But the Tandou chief executive says most investors have not yet realised that Tandou now has the biggest, most actively managed water portfolio in Australia.
It trades water daily and in large amounts, with the daily trading — buying and selling of permanent water rights — as well as trading in available actual irrigation water to farmers, now generating profits for the company as great as the returns on its farming assets.
“A lot of people are scared of water trading because there are a thousand different rates and rules regulating it across different basins, but it’s an area we specialise in and understand,” says Kingwill.
“Our fundamental belief is that water is a highly undervalued asset that will only appreciate in value over time, especially if an El Nino is coming And we always have the choice to either utilise the water on our own farms or sell it depending on price; it complements our farming and is a very good business for us.”
Foreign investors appear to have caught on to Tandou’s pivotal water position ahead of locals. Its latest major shareholders, after the $25m capital raising offer, show the New York based Water Asset Management fund holding 10 per cent of Tandou.
Specialist NZ based agricultural investor, Selwyn Cushing, holds 21 per cent, while a Cushing associate and Tandou director Roger Findlay has amassed a further 13.6 per cent.
Other major investors include Australian private equity player Martin Foreman and his PF Agriculture vehicle with 8 per cent.