What is this shift to wind & solar?

How many times have you read something like this? Written by an experienced member of the press corps.

The shift to renewable energy is unstoppable and accelerating. The role for gas and coal will rapidly diminish as renewable technology advances to ensure a cheap, clean and reliable supply of power.

Fact checking: Where in the world has that happened, apart from Norway, which is practically built for hydroelectric power and the economy floats on exports of oil, gas and herrings?

Mark Mills reports that the reduction in the contribution of hydrocarbons to worldwide total energy consumption has declined from about 86% to 84% over two decades.  

This suggests that the shift has just about stopped, especially as some countries are getting back into coal (Germany) and many are accelerating their consumption (China, India and the rest of the developing world.)

In Australia the retreat from coal has hardly progressed since the closure of Hazelwood in 2017. See here for a shot of the Hazelwood towers coming to earth.

When Hazelwood closed, AEMO warned that we were travelling with dangerously diminished spare capacity. This meant that further reduction in coal capacity could be catastrophic and we have survived so far by heroic load shedding during critical periods (Jan 2019, June 2022) and (largely invisible) deindustrialization.

In the same year that Hazelwood closed, Audrey Zibelman arrived from the United States to head up AEMO and set the course for energy policy going forward. She was greeted as a breath of fresh air by  RenewEconomy.


Audrey Zibelman has only been in Australia and in her role as chief executive of the Australian Energy Market Operator for six weeks, but already her views on the changes needed to adapt rapidly to a modern grid and new technologies are being described – both within her organisation, and in the broader energy industry – as a breath of fresh air.

Never before has Australia had a senior executive in the energy industry being so up-front about the possibilities of new technologies, and so enthusiastic about the changes that lie ahead. She is convinced the gird will change dramatically, and will be cheaper, cleaner, smarter and more reliable. And focused around the consumer.


When she left in 2020 the Energy Minister, Angus Taylor, thanked her for her service, especially for her influence in developing the Integrated System Plan “to ensure that we will have affordable, reliable, clean and secure energy with record investment in renewables.”

Zibelman was a strange choice for the role, a failed software vendor with political connections, she was a potential Energy Secretary if Hilary Clinton had won the US Presidency. Her most visible contribution was to stump the country promising the trifecta of clean, cheap and reliable power and her most potent influence was to stack the AEMO with green zealots. That ambition was recorded in another interview with RenewEconomy shortly before she departed to conquer fresh fields of endeavour with Google X.  

She should probably be extradited and brought back to face a charge of leaving the scene of an accident. Her legacy project, the Integrated System Plan for the future of the national grid (the NEM) has been subjected to a forensic review by serious professionals and condemned as simply unworkable – certain to lead to energy shortages, high prices and perpetual subsidies. They say the plan fails to provide analysis of whole-of-system, whole-of-life costs and emissions, nor a proper comparison of alternatives. Attempting to reach Net-Zero with renewable wind and solar means much higher costs and impoverishment, especially for those on lower incomes. The renewables transformation of our electricity sector, driven by a doubtful need for Net Zero carbon emissions, is a monumental mistake.  Here are a dozen reasons.

Of course penetration of wind and solar has increased, in line with installed capacity, as AEMO likes to record with a new tab on the Data Dashboard.

However there is a world of difference between DISPLACING coal and REPLACING it.

Everyone needs to understand that the exit of coal is limited by the lowest level of wind and solar output on nights with little or no wind, as a convoy travels at the speed of the slowest vessel, the water penetrates the levee at the lowest point, a chain is only as strong as the weakest link and stock get out of the yard through gaps even if the rest of the fence is built to the sky.

As long as periods with effectively zero solar and wind power persist, 100% backup from conventional power will still be required, assuming that we want security of supply. This means that we will have to keep burning coal until nuclear power is on deck.

If the Zibelman appointment was strange, replacing her with Daniel Westerman was bizarre. He was one of the planners who guided the implementation of net zero policies in the British electricity system. Have a look at the cost and reliability of the British power supply at present with the eye of a car-buyer and ask yourself if you would want a second-hand energy policy from that yard!

Greens mugged by reality

In north Queensland the useful idiots of the not-so-green environmental movement have been mugged by reality at Chalumbin. After spending years closing down forest-related industries and putting their neighbours out of work they find that the not-so-green wind industry is coming to get their trees and wildlife. You could say it serves them right.

Short films of environmental destruction in Queensland.

Saving the planet?

Kaban film particularly instructive.

Upper Burdekin  https://vimeo.com/706882264

Kaban   https://vimeo.com/633451905

Chalumbin   https://vimeo.com/582415839


Not for the faint-hearted.


Due to the Iron Triangle that locks conventional power in place ( if you want to keep the lights on.)

The triangle, three laws of power supply.

1.There has to be continuous input, like the unbroken fence if you want to keep stock in (or out).

2. Due to wind droughts there will be “breaks” in the fence and on nights with little or no wind there is effectively no wind and solar power.

3. There is no feasible and affordable, grid-scale storage in sight.

 Until that changes all our conventional power will have to be maintained and supplemented by nuclear power.

End of story.

South Australia is indeed the wind-leader because it regularly demonstrates the failure of wind and solar to replace conventional coal and gas. For example this morning at sunrise SA was importing 44% of its consumption from Victoria where over 80% of the power was being generated from brown coal.

Rabz’ Radio Show February 2023: Electronica

The term “electronica” is used in this thread to define music that largely utilises electronic instruments, as opposed to placing it in any particular timeframe or referring specifically to any group of artists (as Wikipedia does). The use of electronic instruments and the creation of synthesised music has it roots in the early twentieth century. The term “electronic music” is also relevant here.

I first became vaguely aware of electronic music during the new wave period from roughly 1977 onwards. The contemporary progenitors of this style included the purveyors of “Krautrock”, for example, Can, Tangerine Dream and the legendary Kraftwerk. Krautrock had its spiritual origins in German Avant-Garde and the Bauhaus school of the Nineteen Twenties and Thirties (before it was, of course, shut down by the nazis).

Other styles related to electronic music included the mainly dance and nightclub-oriented sub genres such as Chicago House, Techno, Jungle, Acid House, Rave and Trip Hop.

Also related is the Ambient genre, popularized by the also legendary Brian Eno, who has managed to be a central figure in some of Rock’s most epic and groundbreaking releases, both as a musician and a producer. His work with David Byrne on albums such as “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts” and the “Catherine Wheel” is among my favourite music, the latter being an absolutely epic musical journey originally used as a soundtrack for a Twyla Tharp Broadway dance production. Incredibly, I somehow managed to overlook it in last month’s thread on Albums.

Anyway, here’s a truncated list of some of my favourite electronic bands/artists:


Brian Eno

Massive Attack

The Crystal Method

Chemical Brothers


The Human League

Heaven 17

Groove Armada

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark

Danny Tenaglia

Franky Knuckles

LCD Soundsystem

The two intro tracks for this month include:

Kraftwerk – Europe Endless

Groove Armada – Groove is on

Dishonourable mention: “Metal Machine Music”, Lou Reed (1975).

Again, barely scratching the surface here, Cats. No doubt there’s a whole heap of other bands artists that you’re just waiting to nominate in the comments thread. So, break out the Rolands and Theremins and go for it Cats, you know you want to!

The death of “old Australia”? Perhaps that’s premature.

‘Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated,’ is a well known quote from Mark Twain. This quote came to mind while reading Craig Emerson’s column – Why Australia Day will just die of old age – in Monday’s edition of the Australian Financial Review.

Emerson’s column argues that the Grim Reaper of demographics is stalking old Australia, its people and its national day. A new cohort of settlers will arrive to replace us and usher in a republic, he asserts. When, you may ask, will this happen? The answer: sometime in the middle of this century.

Reading Emerson’s column reminded me of another prophet of doom, aka a frustrated republican. Some decades ago, the author Thomas Kenneally blamed the lack of movement on an Australian republic on an older generation. Musing about the coming death of that generation, who he saw were holding back republicanism, Kenneally’s appeal was to their children who he thought would readily throw off the “colonial shackles,” once their parents were gone.

With still no actual movement for change on the horizon, Emerson realises a “Plan B” will be needed. To see in an Australian republic and deliver the coup de grâce to our constitutional monarchy and national day, immigration, he argues, will be that weapon.

Quoting from the most recent Intergenerational Report, Emerson writes:

‘It’s not that the citizens who oppose change to any of these absurdities will have changed their minds by 2050, it’s that there won’t be many of them around.

net overseas migration is projected to contribute a whopping 75 per cent of Australia’s population growth in 40 years’ time.

The two biggest source countries for immigrants nowadays? China and India. And the fastest growing countries of birth between the 2016 and 2021 census periods were India, Nepal, the Philippines, Vietnam and China. Not many monarchists there.

To assert that our Constitution and national day will not last, because we will not last, shows how unconvincing is the republican case for change.

Moreover, the lack of grace to his fellow Australians and exultant wish to replace our people – our families, friends and neighbours and those who have fought for this nation, who have protected its people from natural disasters and from wars and conflicts- to bring in a republic, is distasteful.

Distasteful as well and also presumptuous, is to assert that new immigrants, wherever they may come from, will not share a regard for our institutional arrangements, traditions and culture. What Craig Emerson forgets is that some of the most ardent supporters of this nation and our way of life are its most recent arrivals who see a just people and place of opportunity and safety. But like all collectivists, Emerson does not accept that everyone is an individual and differences of opinion can and do exist.

On one thing Emerson is right: death (like taxes) is certain. But he should know that nothing else in life is inevitable. I can think of many things that were claimed about the future, until they were not. And what about Global Warming in all this? Are we not all due to expire well before mid century, thereby making a future republic academic?!

Left out of Emerson’s presumptions about what Australia will be like mid century is that medical advancements and better nutrition have greatly increased the span of human years and made old age a much more active and engaging experience. Maybe our immortality will be just around the corner, to the chagrin of every republican who, with Craig Emerson, desires to be rid of us all and the old Australia!

Popper on Rules and Orders

The catastrophic state of the gas market in Australia demonstrates the failure of Labor’s new economics practically before the ink is dry on Jim Chalmers’s forthcoming manifesto in The Weekly. A piece in the Fin Review today tells the grisly tale. If you think we had problems with power prices last year, you ain’t seen nothing yet!

This illustrates a principle that Popper briefly expounded in The Open Society and Its Enemies, that is the distinction between using rules and orders for public administration.

The particular concern is the reasonable price provisions that are proposed.  Who is going to make the call on “reasonable prices”? 

Given the blatant return to central planning we can only fear the worst

Popper offered some telling comments  on the kind of legislative and administrative arrangements that are required for the state to intervene without allowing dangerous discretionary powers to be assumed by politicians or bureaucrats, especially when they are representing various special interests. Possibly influenced by correspondence with Hayek, Popper proposed that state intervention should proceed by way of protective laws and a legal framework instead of empowering organs or agents of the state to act as they see fit to achieve the ends laid down by the rulers at the time.

The introduction of piecemeal reforms permits the application of the method of trial and error to make adjustments in the light of experience in slowly changing the permanent legal framework. In contrast discretionary decisions by politicians and civil servants are short-term, often reflexive and opportunistic, and are not usually subjected to public discussion and scrutiny before they are launched.

The legal framework should be designed to be understandable and predictable, providing a degree of certainty and security in social life.  So in Popper’s view, when the framework is altered, allowances should be made, during a transitional period, for those individuals who have laid their plans in the expectation of its constancy.

Popper concluded “As opposed to this, the method of personal intervention [think of Presidential executive orders over the head of Congress in the US] must introduce an ever-growing element of unpredictability into social life, and with it will develop the feeling that social life is irrational and insecure. The use of discretionary powers is liable to grow quickly, once it has become an accepted method, since adjustments will be necessary, and adjustments to discretionary short-term decisions can hardly be carried out by institutional means. This tendency must greatly increase the irrationality of the system, creating in many the impression that there are hidden powers behind the scenes, and making them susceptible to the conspiracy theory of society with all its consequences – heresy hunts, national, social, and class hostility.”

To learn all about Popper’s critique of Marx, and other things

Listen to it. An audible version of a short guide to Popper’s The Open Society and Its Enemies.

Or read it on kindle.

Or read on paper in The Popper Guides.

WolfmanOz at the Movies #56

The Man in Lincoln’s Nose

Was the original title that Alfred Hitchcock initially thought of for his spy thriller North By Northwest where he envisaged the leading man hiding from the villains in Lincoln’s nose at Mount Rushmore and being given away when he sneezes.

Although I have already written about Hitch very early in my posts, after re-watching this film just recently it deserves it’s own post as I rate North By Northwest as one the most purely entertaining films ever made. It almost acts as an anthology of all the typical Hitchcockian situations; but made here with a polish and excellence where everyone involved were at the peak of their talents.

The film’s plot sees Cary Grant playing Roger O. Thornhill (the O stands for nothing !) a New York advertising executive who gets mistaken for another man (actually a decoy fake agent) and is then pursued across America by agents of a mysterious organisation led by Phillip Vandamm, played with silky menace by James Mason, as they try to prevent Thornhill from blocking their plans to smuggle microfilm, which contains government secrets, out of the country.

On the run he boards the 20th Century Limited train to Chicago where he meets Eve Kendall who hides him from the police. She is seductively played by the beautiful Eva Marie Saint who plays the Hitchcock cool blonde seductress better than anyone else ever did in a Hitchcock film (including Hitch’s favourite in Grace Kelly). The scenes between Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint just ooze sexiness and innuendo.

It turns out Eve is working undercover for the government and is actually Vandamm’s mistress and she tells him to be at a meeting at an isolated rural bus stop.

What follows is an absolute doozy of a scene as a crop duster tries to kill Thornhill. Of course, logically, it doesn’t make sense, but Hitch always prided himself in his ability to make the audience park their brain under their seat whilst watching his films.

Thornhill catches up with Vandamm and Eve at an art auction but in order for him to escape, Thornhill disrupts the auction until police are called to remove him. His last line in this clip to his would-be killer is simply priceless.

Ultimately, travelling in a vague north by northwest direction, Thornhill makes it to Mount Rushmore for the film’s memorable climax.

Even this final scene has a very strong sexual suggestion as Eve is hanging on to the mountain by her fingertips, Thornhill reaches down to pull her up, at which point the scene cuts to him pulling her, now the new Mrs. Thornhill, into an upper berth on a train, which then enters a tunnel as the final credits roll on. Hitchcock called it a “phallic symbol . . . probably one of the most impudent shots I ever made”.

I’d also say that Cary Grant probably gives his most definitive film performance in this movie showcasing his debonair demeanor, his light-hearted approach to acting, and his perfect sense of comic timing.

As an aside, Cary Grant’s grey suit worn throughout the film, was deemed to be the best suit in film history, and the most influential on men’s style according to a panel of fashion experts convened by GQ in 2006.

This is one of several Hitchcock films that featured a terrific music score by Bernard Herrmann plus an opening title sequence by graphic designer Saul Bass. This also featured Hitch’s trademark cameo as he is seen getting a bus door slammed into his face, just as after his director credit is seen leaving the screen.

The screenplay was written by Ernest Lehman who wanted to write “the Hitchcock picture to end all Hitchcock pictures” which I reckon he achieved in cramming in nearly all of Hitch’s favourite themes and motifs into this movie.

There was of course the MacGuffin which was Hitch’s term in describing a physical object that everyone in the film is chasing, but which has no deep relationship to the plot which is explained in the film as two characters converse at an airport where there is a loud noise of an aircraft which pretty much drowns out what they are talking about.

I could go on but I would just recommend you go and watch this masterpiece of suspense, ideally in a cinema, but if not then in the comfort of your own home – it is simply magnificent as one of the purest pieces of entertainment ever committed to celluloid.


and the tease for next weeks post . . . A love caught in the fire of revolution.