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 12 July 2011

 

 

It's finally announced, Australia will have a carbon tax of $23 per tonne of CO2 emitted.  This is said to be the highest such tax in the world but it will be limited to 'about 500' of the biggest emitters.  The Government says that it can't reveal which  these are to the public because commercial privacy laws prevent it from naming them. 

Some companies have already 'gone public' and it is clear that prominent among them are the major thermal power generators and perhaps airlines.  Some like BlueScope Steel (previously BHP Steel) will be granted a grace period before the tax comes into effect. In this case it is publicly announced that the company has been granted a two year grace period with possible extensions, limited to its core (iron and steelmaking) emissions.

The Greens and the Government have taken to calling companies investing in technologies that release large amounts of CO2 the 'Big Polluters'.  Yet it is these technologies that provide us with electricity, basic metals, building materials and transport.  Ultimately it is consumer demand for these products and services that determines their production.  The businesses that supply these products and services are not the culprits; we are.

But the government says we will not be out of pocket!  This is an extraordinary claim. If it is true I can continue to run my electric heater or air conditioner and not be out of pocket!  The Government will tax the power station they will put up the electricity price to compensate and the Government will give the money to me to offset the extra cost.

Of course this is an oversimplification.  Some people will be compensated.  Others will find that they effectively pay more; else who pays for all the extra bureaucrats needed to administer the scheme?

Now the price has been announced people are looking at their own domestic budgets. The Government has promised to give it all back - and then some - but admits that about a third of households will not be fully compensated; although a smaller percentage 'of the most needy' will get overcompensated.  Clearly most people think they will end up in the uncompensated or less compensated groups and want to know what the others did to deserve their handout.

 

Tax or no Tax prices will rise

 

Electricity and fuel prices will continue to rise, even without the tax, due to resource depletion;  ever increasing world energy demands; and in Australia the cross-subsidy of renewable energy under the renewable energy target scheme (see below).

Clearly the government counting on the increased relative price of selected 'carbon intensive' goods and services to cause people to change their consumption patterns.  In which case why are they being compensated when they wont spend the money on the things that costs more?  Is this, in reality, another hand-out (economic adjustment) in anticipation of the recessionary impact of the tax?

And how will the tax work to change industry behaviour?

The businesses that have apparently been singled out are those with very large plant or other productive assets.  While these now mainly reside in the hands of the private sector by an economist this can be viewed as a management convenience.  Indeed some of the assets were, not long ago, in public hands.  Seen on an economy wide basis, these airlines, power stations, as well as steel,  aluminium and cement plants are assets of Australian society at large. 

The tax is designed to cause the earlier than otherwise projected closure of the more emission intensive assets; and their competitive replacement by technologies that are less emission intensive. While some may be in a position to employ more efficient newer technology; a large proportion have assets with working lifetimes measured in many decades.  Some may not break-even for a decade or more after the initial purchase and are only now entering their profitable phase.  Premature closure of such plant is implicitly costly to Australian society taken as a whole.

For example, it transpires that all coal burning power will pay the tax.  But because brown coal will be worst hit, the Victorian generators are to get compensation to keep them in business; nominally to facilitate transfer to less polluting technology. How's that going to happen? Is Yallorn going to import gas?

The whole point of the tax is to cause old polluting (particularly brown coal) plants to close in favour of new gas facilities in an optimised location - probably not Yallorn and, possibly, not even in Victoria. These facilities have already enjoyed the bulk of the coal research investment including a gasification pilot plant (using Chinese technology) under two previous Federal Governments. Given how quiet that went I presume it was not a glowing success.

Fundamentally there is the chemical reality and associated energy equation that makes brown coal less energy intensive than black; and inevitably less efficient. This loss translates to more CO2 per kWh delivered. No matter what you do black coal will do it better - you can't beat the underlying physics and chemistry.

In the past we didn't care it was still price competitive, despite the additional CO2. Now we do and they have to go first, followed by the less efficient black coal plant followed eventually by the gas plant.

But Julia has now subverted this process so that some black coal plant may fail first. Qld and NSW black coal generators are calling foul! They are in the same east coast energy market, that runs on very pure market lines with 6 minute energy trading. Suddenly black coal is being taxed to subsidise brown!

This may be a price we are prepared to pay to reduce greenhouse gas but we need to ask: what is the potential for lower emission alternative technologies to be found or developed to replace them? 

This varies significantly across the various industries.  Those with newer plant are already employing close to the world's best practice; and in other cases the likely impact of the tax will be to curtail any further investment, in anticipation of closure when present plant reaches the point of unprofitablity. 

There really is no practical, commercial alternative lower emissions technology to those already in use for making iron or aluminium.  If these technologies are made uneconomic by the tax, Australia will simply import its future iron and steel and aluminium requirements from similar plants overseas; resulting in around the same global carbon emissions outcome.

 

Electricity

 

Of most concern is electricity.  This is discussed at length elsewhere on this website.  We are already paying significantly more for electricity to subsidise wind and solar energy schemes.

Back in April the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) has announced that electricity prices for the average New South Wales resident will increase by 17.6 per cent from July.  Sydney customers now pay on average about $230 more each year, while rural customers face an extra $316 in charges. IPART said it recommended the increases because of costs associated with energy firms complying with the federal government's Renewable Energy Target (RET). The RET requires energy firms to source power from renewable sources such as solar or wind. For an explanation click here

The Prime Minister eloquently explained that the high Australian per capita energy consumption translates into very high carbon emissions (she seldom mentions carbon dioxide).  But the reason for this is seldom explained.  It is because Australia is rich in carbon resources.  These have been, and continue to be, the basis of our relative economic prosperity.  This has included the domestic processing of a wide range of mineral and agricultural resources.  Unlike many overseas competitors we are relatively poor in hydroelectricity resources with little scope for significant expansion; except in Tasmania; but of course they have Bob Brown to stop that.  And largely for economic reasons, with a large dose of pot banging and demagoguery, we have not had the need to adopt nuclear power that, for example, supplies over 80% of France's electricity and a significant proportion of that in several other EEC and Asian countries. For further discussion click here.

Unlike the climate sceptics I have no doubt that mankind is affecting world climate in many ways.  I been talking to anyone who will listen about the central problem facing the future of humanity since the mid 1960's.  Climate change, species extinction, and environmental degradation are the chief symptoms of this problem; runaway human population growth.

 

The Cap and Trade alternative

 

As I have discussed at greater length elsewhere a cap-and-trade scheme is potentially administratively simpler than a tax; and a lot harder to subvert for political purposes.  Provided that any practical commercial solutions are allowed it allows industry to find its own solutions; for example nuclear power.

If all consumers of fossil and other carbon based fuels are caught, keeping track of production and sale of fuels is easily audited and appropriate penalties non-compliance can ensure effective industry self-regulation.

Similarly the monitoring the fossil content of imported goods and services can at least attempt to ensure that those originating from countries not imposing a carbon price are suitably taxed; to avoid unfair domestic competition.

Instead of vilifying 'big polluters' we need to recognise that our economy requires electricity, steel, aluminium cement, transportation and so on.  Existing economic activity should initially be capped at present levels at no cost to the enterprises or to the consumers of their goods and services.

There are then two options:

  1. the cap can be lowered by, a percentage each year until a target is reached;
  2. or it can be held at present levels with any growth above the cap being paid for at some very high cost

All enterprises and individuals in the economy would need to pay a high cost for any consumption of carbon based fuels exceeding the prevailing cap. 

Enterprises thus have a strong incentive to purchase carbon credits released by those that close down or that improve their carbon efficiency in excess of the new target.  In addition certain alternative energy generators, and those enterprises verifiably sequestering carbon, would thus create new credits to be sold within the scheme. While similar schemes now apply in many places many of these have proven to be seriously economically distorting due to exemptions and inappropriate allowing of tree plantings and other dodgy practices and credit earning activity. 

Provided that the cap is appropriately set there is no need for the government to be involved on a day to day basis and no taxation revenue to redistribute.

This is discussed in more detail elsewhere.

So I'm not fundamentally opposed to a properly implemented cap-and-trade scheme to cap greenhouse emissions.  I say 'fundamentally' because to avoid seriously distorting our economy this needs to be imposed on all economic activities, without exception. To achieve this global scope requires a bipartisan agreement as there needs to be no special pleading by independents or Greens; or compensation to marginal electorates or interest groups. 

And businesses need to have all possible solutions and technologies available to them to meet the economic challenges thus imposed.  These need to be constrained only by the legal constraints of potential liability for injury that may result.  Thus a wind farm may be sued by those injured by noise pollution or a nuclear plant for consequential damages following an earthquake.  Research into nuclear fusion should rank alongside that attempting to make solar or geothermal energy economically practical.  Neither politicians nor journalists should be deciding what is, or is not, a good technology.

But will Australia's little domestic initiative be sufficient to fix the world's coming crisis?  Of course not. Our domestic contribution is minuscule.  But Australia continues to feed the voracious appetite of this ever growing humanity.  This is not only ever-expanding in numbers but in its increasing per-capita demand for resources. 

Again, this is discussed extensively elsewhere on this website.  Thus anything we achieve at home is quickly swamped by our relatively vast exports; not only of coal and gas; but of iron ore, alumina and other minerals.  These generally require someone else to burn vast quantities of carbon to reduce them to metal and/or process them in to final products.

I have repeated the following diagram several times.  It shows how Australia really impacts world climate both for better (uranium) and for worse (coal and gas).  Note the tiny proportion of coal production that goes to domestic consumption (< 18%); and of course none of the uranium.  As our exports expand this is an ever shrinking proportion of our total contribution to world climate impact.  Whatever we do at home is largely irrelevant and valuable only in so far as we can hold our head up and show a good example in World forums; and so that Kevin is 'not spat upon at the Rialto';  he gets enough of that at home.

 

image033

 

The options

What would a solution look like.   Why not dam the northern Rivers - starting with the Clarence in NSW?  It's well located relative to the grid and has very adequate flow rates - better than the Snowy. And the water can also be redirected inland. Of course some prawn and fish farms would be rather dry but at least towns down-stream would no longer flood.

Maybe coal seam methane? Of course even the very limited trials of that in Qld and northern NSW are already causing significant environmental damage. We just need to multiply the present industry by about a million. But why not destroy a bit of previously untouched rural habitat in the interests of world carbon politics (well actually, a good bit of northern NSW and Qld)?

What about carbon sequestration (Carbon Capture and Storage)?  I've dealt with that elswhere. Click here...

The originally proposed cap-and-trade scheme has long been subverted. Its impact would have been to apply economic pressure to find real solutions - not greenie shibboleths; something dreamed up a Grade 8 clerk in Canberra; or polling sensitive ones, as determined by a political apparatchik in Sussex St; or Liberal party headquarters.

Under a rational and bipartisan government carbon elimination policy what might the future look like?

Almost every qualified commentator has already suggested the elements that would for apply in an Australia without coal.

In terms of electricity:

  • optimised wind and/or solar - due to variability limited to about 20%;
  • a bit of hydro, plus pump storage, mainly for peak smoothing (as permitted by the greenies); and possibly a tiny fraction of other alternatives (unless geothermal can be made to work eg using a refrigerant like SO2 instead of steam - because at the present it's dead in the water);
  • there is also a place for some gas co-generation, for example in commercial buildings and cities and possibly in residential communities;
  • the bulk of the remainder, probably around 60%, needs to be nuclear; maybe, in the more distant future, fusion. 

As can be see in the diagram above Australia already exports about three times our total domestic energy needs as uranium oxide to be used in other, more progressive, economies.

Transport is a bigger problem.

After getting electricity weaned off carbon, the first priority would be to move as much as possible to electric traction. This is not an option at present because electric trains and cars actually release more carbon in Australia than similar conventional ones kW for kW.

Getting electricity off carbon needs to be achieved before these technologies do any more than move the pollution somewhere else.

A new tax for transport fuel is the best way to make the transition from oil - once we get electricity sorted out. This needs to recognise that most transport fuel is imported and needs not to discriminate against domestic production. Fuel tax is best charged at the pump and existing taxes can simply be increased taking into account the possible impact of peak oil on that proce in any event.

Once lower carbon electricity is achieved we need to get a high voltage traction freight network going down the East coast and ultimately across to Perth. A separate very fast passenger network is needed to replace much of the domestic air transport. All cities over half a million need a suburban metro, possibly complimented by light rail.

But none of this makes sense as long as we get over 60% of our electricity by burning coal and gas.

 

Population

 

On the subject of population its difficult not to get annoyed. I have not heard it mentioned once in this debate; by either side.

Since the United Nations World Population Year in 1974  many leading scientists, and a handful of politicians, have been warning that we are heading for a serious disaster; of which increasing energy demand and corresponding exponential increases in carbon dioxide emissions is but a symptom.

In 1974 the population had alarmingly just past 4 billion; having been under 2 billion less than fifty years earlier.  Ten years ago we passed 6 billion and later this year we will pass 7 billion.  While more developed countries have responded by lowering fertility, the principal constraint in the third world is an estimated 25 premature deaths per minute, every minute, due to malnutrition, poverty and disease.  Soon, as we approach 9 billion, this is projected to climb to over a hundred per minute preventing further growth.

In this context the destruction of the natural environment species extinction and increased energy demand are all inevitable and it now seems almost impossible to prevent catastrophic climate change befalling our grandchildren or great grand children.   This will occasion enormous loss of life and the possible collapse of civilisation.

The only hope seems to rest in our ever advancing scientific, evidence based, knowledge and technological capability.

 

For example:

  • some entirely new energy technology, such as nuclear fusion, or a practical and economic means of tapping geothermal energy might allow us to stop 'burning stuff' as our principal source of energy used in: transport and manufacturing; physical labour substitution; and metals reduction; as well as domestic and commercial temperature control; lighting; and supplying electrical and electronic devices;
  • new understandings and developments in biology and genetic manipulation might help us to produce more food and biologically based  materials while reducing our impact on natural ecosystems;
  • developments in electronics, computing and communications technology might facilitate the more rapid transmission of evidence based knowledge and understanding; bypassing hierarchically controlled and generationally imposed traditional belief systems that are at the root of so many of the world's problems; and
  • new advances in medical science may provide additional means of humanely limiting population expansion if all girls and mothers could exercise effective reproductive management and decide the sex of their babies; combined with properly moderated voluntary euthanasia this might allow us to slowly, and in a controlled way, move back to more sustainable, say 1900's population levels, without consequent collapse of the world economy, as a result of reducing first world consumer numbers and general population aging prior to stabilisation.

 

Jump to my earlier article on the same subject:  Click here...

 


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Travel

Japan

 

 

 

 

In the second week of May 2017 our small group of habitual fellow travellers Craig and Sonia; Wendy and I; took a package introductory tour: Discover Japan 2017 visiting: Narita; Tokyo; Yokohama; Atami; Toyohashi; Kyoto; and Osaka.  

Read more ...

Fiction, Recollections & News

Peter Storey McKie

 

 

My brother, Peter, is dead. 

One of his body's cells turned rogue and multiplied, bypassing his body's defences. The tumour grew and began to spread to other organs.  Radiation stabilised the tumour's growth but by then he was too weak for chemo-therapy, which might have stemmed the spreading cells.

He was 'made comfortable' thanks to a poppy grown in Tasmania, and thus his unique intelligence faded away when his brain ceased to function on Sunday, 22nd May 2022.

I visited him in the hospital before he died.  Over the past decade we had seldom spoken. Yet he now told me that he often visited my website. I had suspected this because from time to time he would send e-mail messages, critical of things I had said. That was about the only way we kept in touch since the death of his daughter Kate (Catherine). That poppy again.  

I suppose that one of the reasons for not talking very often was that there were few things that we disagreed about. So, our last conversation, which amongst other things, encompassed the inevitability of death for all of us, was uncontroversial, even comfortable. We were brought-up to sort out our metaphysical leanings for ourselves. Both of us came to believe, like our parents, that there could be no continued 'life' after death. So, a dead body has no particular value, except, perhaps, as a memento for the still-living, our descendants and maybe historians to come.  

Yet, as I have repeatedly asserted on this website, while we are alive, we all, continually change the present - and therefore, the future. As a result, after death we continue to exist in another way: through the affects of those changes, that we made, in the fabric of what is now - and thus: what will be. 

Not only do we persist through our children and grandchildren, who but for us and the specific circumstances of their conception would not exist, but also through our works and influence on others.

 

Our father, Stephen; Peter and son Daniel; our mother, Vera; me and daughter Emily (circa 1980)

 

Yet, it's as much about those things from which we abstained, despite the opportunity, and our impact on the present through those decisions. For example: "I won't hire that person;" or: "Not tonight, Josephine."

Thus, Peter always had a significant impact on the 'now' - and so - on the future.

In particular, he was an industrial designer by profession and had an instinctive grasp of how things worked and how they might be improved. He was a consummate creator of things, and ideas about how to do things, that will be used, and built upon by others, into the distant future. 

Amongst other things he was heavily involved in the film industry, in particular providing special effects for movies and television commercials. One of the many names that appear in the credits after any major motion picture.  

 

 

 

Our Shared Youth

Since Peter's death, I've thought about him a lot.  As children and young adults, we shared a bedroom and had a sometimes strained relationship but we could work together harmoniously on many projects of a practical nature, like restoring his first car, an ancient Austin Seven. 

 

 

Elsewhere I've recalled growing up in the years before television or social media when, as children, we were encouraged to be more 'hands-on' than similar aged children in today's Australia:

 

 From 

The McKie Family

 

Stephen McKie's sons were encouraged to use tools and their brains as he had been by his father. It wasn't so we could become inventors or mechanics or even engineers. It was so we could experience the satisfaction of making things; of understanding how things work; and discovering something new. The joy of creation.

That was why, one very early Christmas, Santa Clause left a tent in the room with the tree and in it was a big black wooden tool box with RSM written on the top and real tools inside - not plastic toys. Anyway, we didn't have much plastic then, except Bakelite and Perspex.

I had those tools well into adulthood. The Tool Box eventually became our combined Meccano box when Peter and I had stopped fighting over such things...

Cars were another thing we needed to know about. 

On paper it looks like a miracle that Peter and I were not injured in some way. There were a lot of dangerous things around. But the thing was, we knew they were very dangerous so we were extra cautious.

We grew up with cautionary tales. Like the one when a fellow at CA Parsons research attempted to make some nitro-glycerine but unsure if he had succeeded dropped his test-tube-full out of the second storey window. He blew-out all the downstairs windows and terminated his employment. We were invited to consider what he should have done instead, like putting a drop on an anvil and remotely dropping a suspended weight on it. It was assumed that, at some point, we might face this dilemma.

So, we never attempted to set-off suspected explosives, or a home-made rocket, without a long wick or wire around the corner of the house. On more than one occasion this turned out to be very good practice. Similar stories related to poisons (most of the chemicals in the house) and potential carcinogens (like any chemical with a benzene ring), high voltages, unstable loads and structures and shonky car supports (jacks, stands and so on).

I was recently telling someone of the cautionary experiment when Stephen put a little ether on a saucer on our kitchen floor to show it spontaneously catch fire - careful the flames are hard to see. This was because we had a gas refrigerator in our kitchen then. As soon as the vapour from the saucer rose high enough, the gas pilot light caused the fame to flash back to the saucer. To this day I consider nearby flames when using solvents and was amused years later when a friend's petrol-soaked overalls blew-up his parent's laundry.

As a result, we were generally more cautious than most when it came to these things.

And so one generation sets the scene for the next. But there are some traditions that do get broken.

Looking back over this partial list, I wonder why I've not followed directly in my father's footsteps. Sure, I've always wanted to know how things work and have enjoyed making my version of some of them. After all they are made by other human beings and must be comprehensible, even, as Pooh would say: 'to a bear of very little brain'.

But my brother Peter has been more like our father and perhaps his grandfather. He's always designed and built and invented.

Peter has half a dozen patents in the US and has successfully defended at least one patent there...

 

Some decades after we were both adults, we worked together converting a small petrol engine to drive an electrical generator on his farm, near Jindabyne, and I experienced the same satisfaction of mutual creativity we had enjoyed as teenagers. 

 

There are many other references to Peter on my website like this one:

 

From:

Cars, Radios, TV and other Pastimes

As kids we, like many of my friends, were encouraged to make things and try things out. Peter liked to build forts and tree houses; dig giant holes; and play with old compressors and other dangerous motorised devices, like model aircraft engines and lawnmowers; until his car came along...

When he was around fifteen years old Peter bought an Austin Seven; in pieces; for £10; plus, some more pounds, to a final total something less than £70 'on the road'.

Actually, there were eventually parts for about three Austin Sevens. We assembled an engine, chassis and drive chain, it had a fabric universal joint, and he put a seat in place on the chassis so he could drive it.

And drive he did; around and around the house; to the detriment of the sandstone side steps, and the back lawn and terracing.

By the time he was old enough to have his licence he had restored the Austin Seven sufficiently to get it registered. It had, on occasion, been taken out on clandestine test runs, up and down Pennant Hills Road and around adjoining streets; but not very surreptitiously; as it initially had a defective muffler, when fitted at all, and until Peter re-ringed it, it blew clouds of smoke.

 

At first the battery was the most expensive individual component in the entire car, in due course surpassed by a new windscreen. The electric self-starter, to replace hand cranking, was an add-on that sat over the flywheel near the passenger's feet...

My father taught me, and later my brother, to drive although Peter didn't require much teaching for obvious reasons.

My father had taught Australians, Canadians, South Africans and Poles, amongst others, to fly fighters and fighter bombers in the Empire Air Training Scheme in Canada, in the latter part of the war (WW2). That's how we ended up in Australia.

As a result, we learnt to drive like fighter pilots. We were shown how to get into and out of skids. Independently we discovered 180s and 360s.

Peter even showed a hapless hitch-hiker his roll-over technique. He subsequently denied this; claiming instead, and I quote, that he demonstrated: 'his clean off the suspension on the curbing technique'. The hitch-hiker may not have appreciated the subtleties.
 

 

Much earlier there was the night of the unlit highway:  

 

 Also, from:

Cars, Radios, TV and other Pastimes

We both liked homemade rockets and explosives; but our early efforts, before the benefits of high school chemistry, generally resulted in the rockets exploding and the explosives fizzing. You can read more about this in the article Cracker Night (click here).

Commercial firecrackers and gunpowder were generally more successful; although home-made nitrogen triiodide was always easy, and zinc dust and sulphur, sifted together, make a pretty good rocket fuel. We also had some fun with large gas filled balloons; and various means of firing marbles and other projectiles.

Fortunately, we had 'the sheep paddock', forming part of the property, for such experiments. We only set fire to it once or twice when the grass was particularly long and dry.

There was never any suggestion from parents that we should not be wiring up electric motors or installing flood lighting to repair cars under. We both had a healthy respect for high voltages and seldom got a 'shock'.

We were never injured by one of our experiments (by other things occasionally). The parental policy was that we were warned and asked what safety precautions we were taking. After all, we had seen first-hand what happens when a length of copper wire falls across the 33KV local distribution grid and shorts it to the street lighting; talk about loud; and dark that night!
 

The thirty-three thousand volt explosion

This resulted from a balloon experiment.

Peter had saved up to buy a very large rubber balloon which he had filled with town (producer) gas from an outlet the laundry using a pump. This gas still had a considerable hydrogen component, along with carbon monoxide, unlike today's heavier natural gas. But having no suitable string he decided to use the copper wire from an old radio transformer that I had previously broken open.

I had quite a number of these and every now and then took one apart as a source of wire of various gauges; particularly for our homemade telephone system to Colin next door; for radio aerials; for winding coils for buzzers; rewinding my burnt-out Meccano motor and so on.

Copper wire of a gauge thick enough to restrain a large balloon comes from the low voltage windings on such a transformer. It's quite heavy and the balloon hadn't risen a lot higher than the trees, maybe 60 feet (20m) or so, when it wouldn't go higher.

That's when I discovered my little brother repeating Benjamin Franklin's famous lightening experiment; holding the end of a 60-foot lightening-conductor in the back garden. Several people have been killed trying to repeat this experiment.

I claim to protect him from being fried; he claimed out of sibling maliciousness; I reached above his head and rapidly bending and straightening the wire (as one does) broke it.

The balloon then rose ponderously; higher and higher; at the same time being carried by a light breeze in the direction of Pennant Hills Road and the railway cutting.

The trailing wire cleared the house; then hovered over the cars and trucks on the main road. But continuing to drift westwards there was no chance that it would clear the high voltage power lines running between the road and the railway.

A spectacular two second display of sputtering sparks and sheets of blue green flame ensued, as the dangling copper wire first struck, then fell across the high voltage lines; was vaporised; and became plasma.

The noise was remarkable too; very loud. Then everything electrical stopped.

The local grid protection breakers kicked-in and the power went off for a minute or two. Then just as quickly everything returned to normal.

Householders called out by the noise returned indoors to continue whatever they had been doing. All except our father, who was working from home. He circled the house and finding us acting nonchalantly; in other words, suspiciously; demanded to know: 'what have you two done this time!' Why immediately assume it was us?

Remarkably he was then more concerned about possible subsequent safety issues: remnants of wire dangling from power-lines; or the ongoing path of a balloon trailing copper wire. But everything had gone; the balloon exploded and the wire vaporised! I don't recall any punishment at all.

That night all the mercury arc street lights on the main road were off. The 33kV had been shorted down to the adjacent street wiring and the fuses protecting every lighting ballast in that section had blown.

Innocent little Peter asked the team that came to replace them what might have caused it? One bloke said: 'could've been a tree branch or lightening...' Peter said: 'what are you doing with the broken ones - can I have one' The bloke said: 'Go for it!' So, we took several bulbs and at least one ballast.

So, that's how for many years later, we had a brilliant bluish street light high on the side of our house (we just replaced the fuse); enabling us to work on our cars in the garden after dark.

***

Those 33kV wires are still there the same as ever - but the streetlights have changed.
Now the road is four times as wide and our old house has been consumed - just a brief flash in the flow of time.

 

 

Now my world has changed again, in a much more profound way.

 

***

For more photographs (including Dan and Emily a bit older than in the photo above) Click Here...

Opinions and Philosophy

Losing my religion

 

 

 

 

In order to be elected every President of the United States must be a Christian.  Yet the present incumbent matches his predecessor in the ambiguities around his faith.  According to The Holloverse, President Trump is reported to have been:  'a Catholic, a member of the Dutch Reformed Church, a Presbyterian and he married his third wife in an Episcopalian church.' 

He is quoted as saying: "I’ve had a good relationship with the church over the years. I think religion is a wonderful thing. I think my religion is a wonderful religion..."

And whatever it is, it's the greatest.

Not like those Muslims: "There‘s a lot of hatred there that’s someplace. Now I don‘t know if that’s from the Koran. I don‘t know if that’s from someplace else but there‘s tremendous hatred out there that I’ve never seen anything like it."

And, as we've been told repeatedly during the recent campaign, both of President Obama's fathers were, at least nominally, Muslim. Is he a real Christian?  He's done a bit of church hopping himself.

In 2009 one time United States President Jimmy Carter went out on a limb in an article titled: 'Losing my religion for equality' explaining why he had severed his ties with the Southern Baptist Convention after six decades, incensed by fundamentalist Christian teaching on the role of women in society

I had not seen this article at the time but it recently reappeared on Facebook and a friend sent me this link: Losing my religion for equality...

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