Environment

"An American-based company accused of bulldozing trees in koala habitats in Victoria has emerged as the buyer of Queensland's major forests in a $603 million deal with the State Government”, said the May 19 Courier-Mail. “The deal is the first major privatisation of state assets by the Bligh Government.” This is the first of several fire-sales of public assets, including forests, rail, ports and motorways, proposed by the state Labor government since last year. Unions and community groups have strongly opposed the privatisation plan.
Gunns Limited and the entire forest industry in Tasmania is in crisis. Gunns chairperson John Gay, and fellow board member and former state premier Robin Gray have resigned from the company’s board. They were pressured to resign by major shareholders after Gunns posted a 98% loss in half yearly profit in February this year, the April 23 Hobart Mercury reported. Their profit was just $400,000 — down from $33.6 million at the same time last year.
The decade-long campaign against the Bickham coal project, north of Scone in New South Wales, ended in victory on May 14, when NSW Premier Kristina Keneally announced the government would reject the proposed mine. The open-cut mine would have extracted 36 million tonnes of coal over 25 years. Keneally's decision came after the May 3 publication of the state Planning Assessment Commission's (PAC) report, which recommended the mine not proceed. It could be the first time the NSW government has ever blocked the development of a coalmine.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's proposed tax on mining industry super-profits has, to the surprise of no one, attracted a great deal of whining from the mining sector. Andrew Forrest of Fortescue Metals accused those who supported the tax of engaging in “class warfare” and threatened to sell his mining interests overseas if the tax goes ahead, reported the May 19 Herald Sun. On May 20, he said that he had shelved $17.5 billion in new mining projects as a result of the tax.
The crude oil belching out of the floor of the Gulf of Mexico since the explosion on BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig on April 20 has formed giant plumes beneath the surface of the water. That’s the latest nightmarish evidence that the gulf oil catastrophe, among the worst ecological disasters in US history, is much worse than either corporate giant BP or government officials have admitted.
The oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico is likely to be far worse than oil rig owner BP has admitted. Independent analysis carried out for the US National Public Radio (NPR) indicated the company has vastly underestimated the size of the spill. Experts told NPR on May 14 the spill could be 10 times bigger than the company says.
I have been selected as the Socialist Alliance federal election candidate for the seat of Gellibrand in Melbourne’s western suburbs. I have spent much of the last 13 years as a union activist here, working in the manufacturing industry. This is the “rust belt” — the old industrial heartland, and also one of the most ethnically diverse areas of the country.
Say what you will about coal, but at least it stays where it’s put. On its way to the user, coal doesn’t gush from the rail trucks, spreading itself through the atmosphere and warming it at about 70 times the rate of carbon dioxide. Natural gas is different. A new draft study provides evidence that, in the US, enough natural gas leaks into the air to give gas-fired electricity, megawatt-hour for megawatt-hour, a bigger greenhouse impact than electricity from good-quality steaming coal.
An ex-oil worker has told the May 12 Huffington Post that oil giant BP often faked reliability tests for equipment meant to stop spills such as the Deepwater Horizon spill, which began on April 20. Mike Mason, an oil worker in Alaska for 18 years, said he personally witnessed more than 100 occasions when BP employees manipulated tests on safety valves designed to cut off oil flow in case of emergencies. He said the tests would determine whether the valves could withstand certain amounts of pressure for five minutes at a time.
The following is an abridged speech by Bolivian President Evo Morales to a meeting of the G77 and China, which brings together 130 developing countries, at the United Nations on May 7. The World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth was held in Cochabamba, Bolivia over April 19-22. For more information on the conference, and for the full resolutions adopted, visit PWCCC.org. * * *

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