Thursday, September 29, 2005

Australia's lost ethanol opportunity

A couple of years ago, there was a plan to introduce broad scale ethanol blended fuel Australia wide. The plan hit a hiccup because there was just not enough domestic industrial production of ethanol in Aus. One avenue open was to import ethanol from Brazil as a stopgap until such time as local production could increase. However the (local) sugarcane lobby was feared by the government and the whole project got put in the back-burner. Because blended fuel then became a niche, car problems started being blamed on ethanol. This would not have happened if we had started to import heavily from Brazil. The sugar price may well have increased with the extra demand from cars, helping our farmers. We could be importing ethanol technologies while exporting sugar cane technologies.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Why evacuate Houston?

I know the saying once bitten twice shy, but it made sense to me for Darwin to be completely evacuated *after* Cyclone Tracey struck, and I agree that New Orleans ideally would have been completely evacuated *before* Katrina - but Houston is almost all above sea level, so floods may come, but they would quickly go. It would be a lot easier to manage if most people stayed holed up in their homes, and just higher risk areas evacuated - such as Galveston, low lying suburbs and perhaps those exposed coastal areas. I know there is high labour mobility in USA - but such a sudden dispersal of huge numbers of people would have a negative impact on the economy.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Katrina again

Dr. Clam said...
You can't avoid (3) without tearing up the Constitution and jumping up and down on the pieces. The United States still operates on a Federal system, to a much greater extent than Australia, and the states concerned in particular have a long tradition of telling the Federal government to bugger off and leave them alone, to the extent of being reduced to rubble over it. Normally this decentralisation of power is a good thing: in this particular case it was a bad thing. But a counterfactual that says 'don't inolve the states' is as silly as a counterfactual that says 'send in the cloned super-soldier penguins to rescue survivors'.

This is the whole point of "State of Emergency". Emergency powers have been abused in some countries, it's true; however, surely there are provisions for it in the US constitution. Levee breach in New Orleans = temporary suspension of decentralisation of power, just as I would hope it would have been had Cyclone Katrina hit us after Sid.

Incidentally, I have seen research regarding storm surges, and the figure was, any particular point on the tropical East coast of Aus gets a storm surge of average 4 m once in every three hundred years, based on geological time scales.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Why the Katrina response was wrong

The response to the hurricane Katrina disaster was so obviously pathetic, that everyone is criticising it. Here I am putting my two bits worth. I will occasionally compare with Australia's response to Tracey in Darwin.

1) George W should have cancelled whatever he was doing when it became certain Katrina was going to make landfall. (He was on holiday or something)

2) He personally should have declared a state of emergency the very minute that he heard the levees had been breached. It was an absolute no-brainer that full scale military command and control was going to be required, requiring emergency laws.

3) Since several states were struck, it was absolute nonsense to involve state governments in any way whatsoever.

Contrast what happened in the aftermath of Tracey. Australia's top military commander was given carte blanche on Christmas Day, holiday of holidays. Communications and electricity being out, he had to make blind guesses as to the state of Darwin. Buses to evacuate the tens of thousands out were sent in from thousands of kilometers away. Proportionally to Aus population at the time, this was quite equivalent. The city was evacuated within a week.

All this argument over Bush going to war over Iraq, yet, I believe this is Bush's real shame.