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Australia’s Invisible Energy Trade: better than most and getting even better

June 3,2011

Introduction to Mike Wilsons guest post.Written by Joanne Nova:

It’s part of the spin game that almost every statistic is spun-into-oblivion, and here, thanks to Mike Wilson, is the analysis of why “per capita” statistics are meaningless.

Ross Garnaut (and dozens of others) claim Australia has a high emissions intensity of energy use. Yet Mike Wilson shows below that Australia’s energy intensity is not just declining, it’s below the world average, and below Canada, South Africa, China and the US.

The Garnaut Review:

“Relative to other OECD countries, Australia’s high emissions are mainly the result of the high emissions intensity of energy use, rather than the high energy intensity of the economy or exceptionally high per capita income. Transport emissions are not dissimilar to those of other developed countries. Australia’s per capita agricultural emissions are among the highest in the world, especially because of the large numbers of sheep and cattle.

The high emissions intensity of energy use in Australia is mainly the result of our reliance on coal for electricity. The difference between Australia and other countries is a recent phenomenon: the average emissions intensity of primary energy supply for Australia and the OECD was similar in 1971.” — Garnaut Climate Change Review

Mike Wilson has found the statistics that expose the myth that Australian is a high energy intensity nation. We may use a lot of energy, but we produce a lot of goods, our intensity of energy use is lower than most. Garnaut and others quote figures “per capita”, but that’s misleading if the nation in question has a small population that produces a lot of goods for the rest of the world, and especially so if those particular items are high energy creations.

Australia’s GDP is growing faster than our energy use, so even though our energy use has doubled since the mid 1970′s, Australia is using that energy more efficiently and producing more with it. Compared with the rest of the world Australia is doing very well. China may run at a low energy use “per capita”, but it’s energy use is not as effective as ours. In other words, if we push high energy manufacturing into China, it will use more energy to get the same product, and so produce more greenhouse gas in the process. At the moment China uses three or four times as much energy as Australia does when compared on a GDP basis. — JN

It is our attitude toward free thought and free expression that will determine our fate. There must be no limit on the range of temperate discussion, no limits on thought. No subject must be taboo. No censor must preside at our assemblies.

–William O. Douglas, U.S. Supreme Court Justice, 1952

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