How much carbon are the candidates emitting?

Crikey's Election Tracker

Crikey’s Election Tracker reported today that Gillard has so far flown 39,431 km during the campaign and Abbott has flown 40,800 km.

I thought I’d take a ‘ballpark’ look at the carbon emissions associated with that travel.

For simplicity, I’ll assume they both flew all those kilometres in a standard jet such as a 150 seat Boeing 747 400. If I also assume a relatively high load factor like commercial carriers typically achieve, then Gillard’s personal carbon emissions so far are of the order of 6.2 tonnes and Abbott’s 6.4 tonnes (I’ve assumed 158g/passenger km, but there could be considerable variation depending on type of aircraft, load factors and distance. I’ve made no allowance for the altitude of discharge, so I’m treating this as a simple “order of magnitude” estimate) .

At the rate of around $25/tonne propounded by the Greens, they could each offset their personal emissions on the international market for little more than $150. Read the rest of this entry »


Who does Google like the most – Julia or Tony?

Google is being used for respectable academic research on issues like economic activity and health epidemics (for example, see this paper on how the recession in the US is impacting concern for the environment), so I thought I’d see how Julia Gillard is faring in terms of internet interest compared with Tony Abbott.

The first graph compares Google searches on ‘Gillard’ (red) and ‘Abbott’ (blue) over the last 30 days (up to August 1) within Australia.

Google says the numbers on the graph “reflect how many searches have been done for a particular term, relative to the total number of searches done on Google over time. They don’t represent absolute search volume numbers, because the data is normalized and presented on a scale from 0-100. Each point on the graph is divided by the highest point, or 100. When we don’t have enough data, 0 is shown”. Read the rest of this entry »


Will a carbon tax double the price of petrol?

Possible future petrol prices under different oil market/carbon price scenarios (CSIRO)

Tony Abbott made a surprising claim on Sunday that a $40/tonne carbon tax would increase the retail price of electricity by 100%. Fortunately, John Quiggin has ‘done the maths’ on Abbott’s assertion and points out that it would result in a much lower increase in the retail price to households – around 20%.

So let’s look at the likely effect of a carbon tax on the price of petrol. This CSIRO report, Fuel for Thought, estimates that a $40/tonne emissions permit would only increase the retail price of petrol by 10 cents per litre. So the additional cost of the $23/tonne carbon price touted by the Greens would seem to be no more than the weekly fluctuations in price at my local servo!

That’s hardly a great big new tax. But what’s important from a policy perspective is that a price on carbon of this order isn’t really going to have a significant effect on what we drive and how we drive. Read the rest of this entry »


High speed rail – are the Greens as shallow as the rest?

Bob Brown let us know yesterday with his call for a high speed rail link from Brisbane to Melbourne that the Greens are just as susceptible to populism as Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott.

In April he costed a Sydney-Canberra-Melbourne link at more than $40 billion. Yesterday he pointed to a survey commissioned by the Greens showing 74% of Australians support high speed rail. That’s not surprising because it is an attractive and beguiling idea – 94% of readers of The Age support it. After all, China and Europe can’t seem to build enough high speed rail and President Obama has grand plans for an extensive network in the US.

The idea of some form of very fast train service connecting Sydney-Canberra-Melbourne has been around at least since the 1980s. A number of feasibility studies have been undertaken, all of which concluded that it wouldn’t be feasible without massive Government assistance. So it’s worth asking a few questions:

  • why would we want to commit billions in Government subsidies to replace one form of public transport (planes) with another (trains)?
  • why would we want to replace the four airlines that currently compete vigorously on price and service on this route with a single monopoly rail operator? Read the rest of this entry »