Fuel for the future
By Georgina Ker
Every day we are told to conserve energy. Most of these messages focus on the environmental degradation caused by fossil fuel usage. This is a very real problem. However, another, perhaps more urgent, danger is being overlooked — the possibility that we may exhaust the supply of fossil fuels before our planet manages to choke on their by-products. To put the problem in perspective, experts estimate United States oil reserves will last only 12 years (University of Oregon).
These figures are calculated using the ‘Hubbert Curve’ (defined by M. King Hubbert in 1956). According to this model, world oil production will peak when half of the supply has been found, and will then decrease rapidly, as the less oil there is left in a field, the more difficult and more expensive it is to extract.
L.F. Ivanhoe (1996) claims this peak has already been reached, and that we will face an oil crisis between 2000 and 2010 — only 10 years from now. Ivanhoe’s claims are based on the 1973 oil crisis, when supply dipped and oil prices rose steeply. This was fortunately shortlived; but this time there is little oil left to be found.
The University of Oregon estimates that coal reserves will last 86 years, if energy use grows at a rate of 5% per year. This growth rate allows for projected population growth, but does not take into account Ivanhoe’s projected oil crisis. And even without this, 5% may be slightly optimistic. In New South Wales (NSW), Australia, energy consumption increased by 21% between 1995-95 and 1996-97 (Environmental Protection Authority of NSW 1997). With higher oil prices, more and more people will turn to coal.
Natural gas resources are estimated to last 50 years, but these figures, too, do not take into account a sharp decline in oil supply.
If we are going to run into an energy crisis, what can we do about it? Firstly, we could do nothing: wait 10, 20 or 50 years and see if the crisis eventuates. Obviously, this would be foolhardy. Secondly, we could try to reduce energy usage. However, even if we manage this, fossil fuel supplies are finite, and will run out eventually. Do we want to pass this legacy to future generations?
The world needs to find viable new energy sources and technologies. The problem is, if there was a cheap and efficient alternative, scientists would surely have discovered it by now.
In order to determine the viability of an energy source, three factors need to be considered: sustainability, “renewability” and pollution reduction (University of Oregon 1999). Youngquist (1997) assesses the sustainability of energy sources by the ratio of energy out to energy in. To be sustainable, the ratio must be greater than 1.0. Oil has a ratio of around 5.0. According to Youngquist, most renewable energy sources hover at just above 1.0; some are even lower.
Alternative energy sources include solar, wind and hydro-electricity — which have been used in conjunction with fossil fuels for decades but account for only around 10% of energy consumption (EPA NSW 1997) — and more recent technologies including fuel cells, geothermal energy and ocean thermal energy conversion.
None of these seem to present a truly viable alternative. For example, solar energy is only 15% efficient (it takes 400 square metres of solar panels to run an average American house), produces lots of waste heat and is expensive. Hydro-electricity is low cost, 80% efficient and causes no pollution. However, the dams used for producing it harm fish populations, cause sediment buildup and alter the hydrological cycle (University of Oregon 1999).
New ideas are being raised all the time. An American company has created hydrogen ‘powerballs’ which are “clean, safe and 100% recyclable” (Powerball 1998). One major advance is the solar-powered Sydney Olympic village, which will be “the largest solar photovoltaic residential development in the world” (SEDA 1997). Solar energy is certainly a resource that can be used in Australia; according to the EPA, the average amount of solar energy that falls on Australia is about 15,000 times what we require.
As online author Gary Harding concluded, there is no miracle solution to the world’s energy problems; it is up to us to make the most of the alternatives that are available. Although, Harding also points out that a government subsidy is necessary to encourage use of alternative fuels, the onus is clearly on us, as consumers of energy, to use it wisely and not take it for granted. Otherwise, we may wake up in 10 years and find ourselves in darkness.
Anonymous. The Coming Global Oil Crisis. Accessed 8/8/99.
Environmental Protection Authority of NSW. New South Wales State of the Environment 1997. Accessed 9/8/99.
Harding, GW (1998). The Way Things Are Going to Be. Accessed 8/8/99.
Ivanhoe, LF. “Updated Hubbert Curves analyze world oil supply” World Oil, November 1996, p 91-94.
Powerball Technologies (1998). Powerball Technologies. Accessed 9/8/99.
Reese, Richard (1997). Oil and the Future. Accessed 1/10/99.
Sustainable Energy Development Authority (1997). Renewable Energy and Co-Generation – Index page. Accessed 10/8/99.
Youngquist, WL (1997). Geodestinies: the Inevitable Control of Earth Resources over Nations and Individuals. National Book Co., Portland, Oregon, USA.
University of Oregon (1999). Fossil Fuel Consumption II. Accessed 8/8/99.
Georgina Ker was a Mass Communication student in the School of Communication and Cultural Studies at the Curtin University of Technology, Australia.
Originally Filed on: 7th October 1999
Feral Cats— Eating away at the problem
By James Plummer
Soon that arduous decision of just what roast to buy from the local supermarket’s deep-freeze may become a little more complicated. Will it be the lamb, turkey, a duck, or that new one, the feral …. cat?
With the range of exotic gourmet meats seemingly expanding by the day, one flamboyant South Australian environmentalist believes the feral cat may soon become a delicacy for that many of us will happily pay extra to eat.
That day is not far away according to native wildlife campaigner Dr John Wamsley, and the sooner the better as far as he is concerned. A long time feral cat hater, Wamsley believes the best way to control the highly destructive pest is to create a demand for it as a delicacy meat and then eat them out of existence.
Feral cats – domestic moggies that have gone wild – have long been known to cause enormous damage to entire populations of native Australian animals such as birds, lizards and even small mammals including wallabies.
Wamsley believes governments and bureaucrats cannot be trusted to properly preserve rare Australian ecosystems and their animal species. So, through an umbrella investment company called Earth Sanctuaries Limited he runs a series of privately funded conservation parks in a number of remote, inland areas of Australia. The most famous of these parks is ‘Warrawong’ located in bushland about 30 minutes drive from the centre of Adelaide.
Wamsley hates feral cats with a passion and has devoted much of his life to eradicating them. Adept at playing the media game, he has over the years waged a number of well-publicised ‘events’ to elicit public support. He often wears a beautiful coat and hat made entirely from cat skins to public events – all of the skins he claims have come from feral cats unlucky enough to be caught on his properties.
“On trips into the bush we hardly see rabbits or foxes anymore, but the place is teeming with feral cats,” says Wamsley. “Some of them are so big, they would weigh well over 20 kilos and could probably bring down a horse if they were hungry enough.”
“The impact of such beasts, and in such numbers is taking a terrible toll on wildlife; just how much though is not known for sure because nobody is officially documenting the damage they do,” he adds.
Claiming to have eaten many a tasty feral cat, Wamsley believes their best bit is the rump, although a good stew can be made from the tail. “Pussy tail stew is one of my favourite dishes,” he says. “The meat is very tasty, with a distinct game flavour, not as strong as goanna (a reptile) but stronger than possum.”
Possum from Tasmania is now one of the new gourmet meats that is being exported into Asia. “How can you go through life wanting to have experiences and yet not experience good food like goanna and possum and feral cat – I’m surprised more people aren’t eating them already,” Walmsley suggests.
Whilst many may agree with Wamsley’s warning, particularly in peri-urban areas that fringe patches of native vegetation and national parks in Australia, few are willing to endorse or participate in his preferred control method. Mike Cartwright, chief executive of the Dog and Cat Management Board of South Australia, says, “Cats have a valuable place in contemporary society, if they are managed well. I prefer to rely on the local legislative approach, which empowers local governments to control the numbers, curfew times and registration requirements of cats in their regions, ” he says. It’s just about to be reviewed again and he is expecting Wamsley to be a key contributor.
One of the first councils to introduce curbs on cats in Australia, and still one of the few that has, is the City of Playford in Adelaide’s northern suburbs. Whilst a pioneer in feral cat control, the city has only adopted some of the measures available to it fearing some public backlash. Eddie Bergamin, Playford’s manager of dog and cat control says “the number of cats is limited to two per premise and owners are expected to keep their cats on their properties at all times.”
“We also suggest, but do not force owners to have their cats identified in some way, either by collar and tag or as is becoming more common – an inserted microchip, ” he says.
“We are not proactive in locating straying or feral cats,” Bergamin admits. “We act only when a complaint is made.” The council then hires out cat traps, expecting the complainant to capture the stray first, and hand it over to them.
“If a stray cat cannot be identified, or is not claimed within a day, it is usually destroyed, but if a stray cat can be identified it is returned to its owners – if they are willing to pay the A$50 fine.” Bergamin says. “Last year only five cats were claimed; 110 were put down.”
Environmentalists like Wamsley complain that this strategy may work partially for urban and peri-urban areas, but is rarely effective in rural and outback regions which are far away from council officers, vets, lobbyists and effective management plans. “Few rural councils have yet come to grips with the issue and none have the resources to be proactive with a pest that is way down on the list of things to control,” says Wamsley.
Meanwhile, Wamsley reckons he will stick to his strategy of eating away at the problem made all the more easier with a drop of rough red wine for lubrication. He has even developed several recipes for campfire cooked damper and pussy tail stew. They have yet to make the best seller list.
James Plummer was a postgraduate Journalism student at the University of Technology, Sydney.
Originally Filed on: 4th June 1999
Aussie icon back on top — Jimmy Barnes
text by Claudine Hyland
photographs by Amber Matthews
Originally filed on: 25th june 1998
He came close in 1985 when For The Working Class Man was chosen as the title track for Ron Howard’s movie Gung Ho. In 1988 he hit the global spotlight again when he teamed up with INXS to record two songs for the Lost Boys soundtrack, but this success was short-lived.
Barnes said recently in a telephone interview this may be about to change as he regroups after a 15 year separation with the former members of Cold Chisel – Don Walker, Ian Moss, Steve Prestwich and Phil Small – to put the finishing touches on their long-awaited reunion album. “The old Chisel style was very Australian,” Barnes said. “The lyrics on the new album will be more accessible (to international audiences). It will be hipper and more ‘90s sounding than our past material.”
Since the early ‘90s Barnes has also changed the direction of his solo career from hard Australian rock, evident on many albums including Body Swerve, Freight Train Heart and Two Fires, with the release of his favourite soul classics on the album Soul Deep in 1991 and the acoustic Flesh and Wood in 1993. Barnes said, “artists shouldn’t restrict themselves by saying ‘I’m only going to play heavy rock’ or whatever. I’d love to make a country album and try other styles because I know I could do it and do it well.”
Barnes said touring with his band and supporting acts like the Rolling Stones and teaming up with artists like Tina Turner (for their own version of Simply The Best) has helped his music evolve. “I am influenced by my surroundings and those people around me. An artist must always be prepared to change and grow. In this business and in life change is the only thing that is constant. If you don’t change you will be run over.”
Barnes came very close to being “run down” when it was revealed in the early ‘90s that he was in financial strife. Barnes said certain elements of the Australian press were quick to try and cut him down, particularly when he chose to move his family to France, where he stayed for three years. He said he was a victim of the “tall poppy syndrome”, a common fate for Australian’s who break an unwritten code and achieve success, alienating themselves from this egalitarian society. “however, because I have always been straight with the media, most press treated me all right.”
But how does one of Australia’s most successful artists, with a string of number ones to his credit and sales of millions of records find himself in this situation. Barnes replies honestly, “I did the classic rock star mistake. I made huge amounts of money but managed to spend even more. I don’t profess to be an accountant. I am just a rock ‘n roll singer. Don’t judge me on my financial ability – judge me on my music.”
Audiences did just that in June at Hong Kong’s spectacular Café Deco, with its panoramic view of the city’s skyline, when Barnes performed what he said would be “the wildest semi acoustic show audiences here have ever seen” and included tracks from his latest album Hits. Barnes, was joined by guitarists Michael Hegerty, Paul Berton, vocalist and percussionist James Uluave and vocalist Shauna Jensen.
Home Town Hero
Barnes, 42, was born James Dixon Swan in Glasgow, Scotland. He moved to Adelaide, in South Australia with his family in the early 1960s, taking his stage name from his step-father Reg Barnes. Up until 1973, when he joined Cold Chisel, at just 16 and a half, Barnes said his life had revolved around soccer. “Until then I didn’t take music that seriously. My family always sang when they drank, and they always drank.”
Cold Chisel launched themselves onto the pub circuit in Adelaide at the Largs Pier Hotel. Barnes said those days don’t seem so long ago and that they laid the foundation for the band’s formidable performing style which involved close audience contact. “It’s a shame that area has been made into motel rooms. Chisel and I have always played in various size venues but the Largs allowed us the eye-to-eye contact that is so important in communicating to the audience.”
During their decade together the group gained a reputation for their excessive drinking, wild behaviour and racked up a series of hit albums including, Breakfast At Sweethearts, East, Circus Animals and The Last Stand.
Barnes said meeting his wife Jane Mahoney 19 years ago was a turning point in his life, “both spiritually and emotionally”. He said, “We have both grown and learnt a lot from one another. I have calmed down but I’m no saint.”
Music has a hold on the whole Barnes household with his children forming their own band, Tin Lids, in the early ‘90s and his wife Jane doing some song writing for his 1995 album Psyclone. His son Jackie, 12, recently played drums and his eldest daughter Mahalia sang back up vocals, on tour with their dad. His son from a previous relationship, David Campbell, 24, is also making a name for himself in the theatre/music industry.
The reformation of Cold Chisel had been touted for many years with most members swearing it would never happen. Faithful Chisel fans will be pleased that the disputes that caused the band to split have been buried. Barnes said the group was very proud of the (at the time of going to press unnamed) album. “After 15 years we can still experience a high level of energy and chemistry.” Although the album promises to have international appeal the sound that made the group famous is still there. “Chisel is a funny band. I often compare them to mincemeat – no matter what you put in one end it always ends up sounding like Cold Chisel.”
Barnes joined the group in New York in July to put the finishing touches on the album which is expected to be released in September this year and will be followed by an Australian and perhaps an Asian tour, depending on the response. On the solo front Barnes hopes to release his next album in March next year.
Claudine Hyland was the editor of cyber-times. Amber Matthews was webmaster of cyber-times. They both really enjoyed the live gig – with thanks to Lynn D. Grebstad & Associates.