Peak oil?

I have always been interested in cars. Ever since I was a youngster, I was climbing into, out of, on and around my parents’ cars. Going for a drive out into the country roads was a treat, and roads that wound their way through the glens of Antrim, between narrow hedgerows, or up to a high spot to look over the sea to Scotland were a favourite. I tinkered in the garage, held spanners and fetched things for the men. I was driving before I could see properly over the dashboard and before I could reach the pedals to fully depress the clutch without sliding down in the seat to reach it. I drove on backroads at night, when other car lights could be seen at some distance, giving enough time to quickly swap seats with an indulgent parent in case the passing car may contain a police officer. Police officers are not known for their humour or indulgence when having stopped a vehicle they peer in through the driver’s window to find a 10 year old.

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The unfairness of superannuation?

Is it just me or have others noticed a plethora of voices claiming that superannuation is unfair? ‘We must make super fair’ is the typical tone of the claim. Usually, this is followed by some ideas for more regulation, compulsion, tax, affirmative action and so on. To date, I have not observed people complaining about lack of fairness coming to the obvious conclusion and easiest way of fixing a system they believe is broken: remove the compulsion to participate.

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The exposure of the climate druids

If you look out the metaphorical window in 2017, you will see none of the catastrophes that have been forecast by the climate druids for the last 25 years. World agriculture production is at its highest ever. Poverty is at its lowest ever. Income inequality is at its lowest ever. The Australian great barrier reef has not died. Pacific islands have not drowned. The extent of Arctic sea ice remains stubbornly normal. Polar bear numbers are at their highest in over 50 years. Perth has not died. No Australian city has run out of water. Fifty million climate refugees are not roaming the world. Hurricane frequency has not increased, nor has hurricane severity. The sea level has not risen to swamp waterfront mansions.

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The graph is sourced from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, showing, in constant dollars, the value of food production across three major regions.

What has happened? The climate scare has been exposed as a scam. The public perception of scientists has been dented. Some druids have become laughing stocks. The rise in atmospheric levels of CO2 (from a very low base) has resulted in a greening of the planet. The earth is now greener and forested more thickly than it was 30 years ago. The time to dump Renewable Energy Targets, Paris accords, Emissions Trading Schemes, Carbon Taxes etc is long overdue.

Coal would fix our looming energy crisis

There are over 600 coal-fired electricity generators being built in the world right now. Not one of those is in Australia. Our coal-fired generators are being decommissioned and demolished. Yet, Australian coal resources are huge.

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For reasons that are hard to fathom, Australian politicians appear to be deliberately antagonistic to coal-fired electricity generation. The playing field is not level – it is deliberately structured to make coal kick up-hill into the wind, so to speak. Solar and wind powered generators have the down-hill with-the-wind advantage afforded by taxpayer funded subsidies.

Why? Solar and wind are both unreliable. Hence the need for battery storage. Solar and wind combined with battery storage is incredibly expensive. The coal supply in Australia is plentiful; enough to last hundreds of years. Coal is a low cost, efficient and reliable source of electricity. Why is Government policy skewed against it?

Without stable, reliable and low cost electricity Australia will crumble into a backward, poverty stricken future. Take a look at those third world countries without electricity to see what I mean. There is no prospect of renewable energy sources providing the equivalent level of power reliability and efficiency as does coal. The only viable alternative to coal is nuclear. I have no preference as to which we rely on – only that energy policy is amended such that no one source of energy is penalised, no one source is favoured, and the Government gets out of the mix. If renewables are the future, as the chant goes, then they do not need Government policy enforcement.

Relief for the lower paid requires relaxing the Superannuation Guarantee rules, not tightening them

Jane Hume, writing in the June 2017 edition of the Investment Magazine, an Australian publication aimed at institutional investors, argued for the removal of the $450 per month minimum income threshold that governs Superannuation Guarantee (SG) obligations. Her arguments were unconvincing to me. After nearly 30 years of my career in superannuation, as a consultant, actuary and for 12 of those years a trustee director, it is very clear to me that the $450 threshold should be increased, not reduced. Jane would like to see it reduced to zero. I would like to see it increased to $1,500.

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SS America

She was launched in 1940 as the SS America. At the time, she was the world’s fastest ocean liner.

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But the second world war had broken out. By December 1941, the US joined the war effort explicitly as a result of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbour in Hawaii. The SS America was converted to a troop carrier.

After the war, she returned to the Atlantic route, with  speed; and society; and glamour.

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In 1964, she was sold to a Greek shipping company and spent the next 15 years circling the world: England to Australia and back to England. This was an emigrant’s route, not a cruise route. If the Suez Canal was open the route was Southampton, Crete, Port Said, Djibouti, Fremantle, Melbourne, Sydney on the way out.  Then Auckland, Panama, Florida Keys, Southampton on the return. Under the ownership of the Greek shipper Chandris Lines, the ship was renamed the SS Australis.

Here she is at Crete, February 1976. I was on that southern outbound trip. Crete was the first stop out of Southampton.

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Eventually, she would arrive at Station Pier, Melbourne.

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Before the final outward bound stopover in Sydney.

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The emigration route came to a natural end in the late 1970s. By this time, the ship was 40 years old. She deteriorated under various subsequent owners. Plans amounted to nothing. She had spent years at dock in Italy before being sold again to a venture that was to turn her into a floating hotel in Thailand. She never made it.

SS America was to be towed from Italy to Thailand, via the Atlantic in 1993. A storm off the Canary Islands intervened.

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And there she remained.

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