Ben Courtice

One outcome of last year's inquiry into the Morwell Mine fire in Victoria's Latrobe Valley was the discovery that the default plan for “rehabilitating” the mine would be to let it fill with water naturally, perhaps to become a recreational lake. The hitch: it would take more than a hundred years to fill naturally and the water quality would be terrible due to pollution from coal seams.

ENGIE, the French company that owns two of Victoria's coal power stations, announced on November 2 it will close the oldest, Hazelwood, by March, and is selling the other, Loy Yang B. The power stations are in the Latrobe Valley, east of Melbourne.

Proceedings in the latest in the United Nations’ ongoing conferences on Climate Change — the November 7–18 COP22 that just concluded in Marrakech, Morocco — were disturbed by the news of the US election result.

A belligerently anti-environmental president is set to take office in the world’s greatest greenhouse polluting nation at the same time a shaky international climate treaty is being pieced together that will need US involvement to be effective.

Hysterical anti-renewable headlines aren't necessarily a surprise from the Australian and other News Ltd publications. But the cynicism of the attack on South Australia's renewable energy industry in their pages is still astonishing.

On July 25, the Australian published Matthew Warren of the Australian Energy Council — a peak body for “major electricity and downstream natural gas businesses” — blaming renewables for “higher costs and increased risks around reliability” in South Australia.

Volunteer conservationists forced a last minute stay of execution for a section of forest near Toolangi that they had shown was home to the critically endangered Leadbeater's possum, which VicForests contractors were due to clearfell within days.

Despite finding evidence of the possum in mid-April, posted as a video on facebook, “citizen scientists” monitoring logging operations were alarmed on May 4 to find the Imperium logging coupe where the possum was found was due to commence logging any day.

The fault in the out-of-service Basslink power cable connecting Tasmania to mainland Australia has reportedly been found, and repairs are expected to be completed by June. Meanwhile, a battery of diesel generators has been deployed and a mothballed gas power station re-opened to supplement the state's dwindling hydro-electric dams which are below 14% capacity.

Australia's large energy companies appear to prefer to accept fines for not building renewable energy rather than build it and weaken their investments in coal and gas generation.

When the Tony Abbott government passed legislation to reduce the Renewable Energy Target (RET) by about 20% in June 2015, some supporters of renewables hoped that an end to policy uncertainty would free up finance for investment and get planned projects into the construction phase.

Why is the government so keen to reform Senate voting with the threat of a double dissolution election hanging in the air?

The government and the Greens are supporting legislation to enact some recommendations of a parliamentary committee into the 2013 election while Labor and most small parties and independents are opposing them.

Economics After Capitalism: A Guide to the Ruins & a Road to the Future
By Derek Wall
Pluto Press, 2015

Derek Wall, ecosocialist activist and international coordinator of the Green Party of England and Wales, has written a primer on the main strands of economic critique of globalised capitalism.

It is a short and easily readable book, well suited to someone looking for a starting place. For those already embedded in one of these strands, it provides a welcome introduction to some of the others.

Although about 99% of Victoria's volcanic plains grasslands have been destroyed by development, some outstanding remnants of this unique ecosystem persist, especially on the western fringes of Melbourne.

The grasslands ecosystem was listed by the federal government as critically endangered in 2008. But at the same time, the then-Labor government of Victoria was initiating an expansion of Melbourne's Urban Growth Boundary that would severely impact some of its best remaining areas.

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