31 May 2012

Water Corp floods State with $1b

The State Government stands to reap $1 billion annually from the Water Corporation within five years, highlighting the profitability of one of Australia's largest monopoly service providers.

State Treasury forecasts suggest the publicly owned utility's contribution to the Government will increase from $590 million next financial year to $1.036 billion by 2015-16.

The amount of money flowing into Treasury's coffers as a dividend, which is calculated at 85 per cent of the Water Corporation's after-tax profit, is slated to jump from $375 million to $659 million.

Local government rates paid by the corporation will rise to $5.2 million, while the amount it forks out as an equivalent of the 30 per cent tax rate will leap from $209 million to $371 million.

In comparison, the combined revenue to Government from the State's four power utilities is expected to rise from $450 million to $668 million over the same period.

The figures, contained in this month's State Budget, are likely to increase pressure on the Government following a 43 per cent increase in water prices since it won office in 2008.
Read article

29 May 2012

KFC commits to Australian GM-free canola oil

Chief KFC supply chain officer Michael Clark says that at this stage the company will only buy non-GM canola oils. M Clark also says: "Some consumers find it important that it's non-GM and if we can source non-GM canola we'll continue to do so."

KFC spokesperson Angela Cooper also confirmed by email that: "We have been working closely with our suppliers to ensure our canola oil is not sourced from genetically modified canola seeds while also meeting the demand of our KFC stores nationwide. Our suppliers conduct regular testing ..."

"But many other fast food outlets fry in GM canola oil or Peerless' Formula 40 cooking oil, made from Australian GM cottonseed oil.

Formula 40's ingredients include: Vegetable Oil (95% min. Cottonseed Oil) Antifoam (900a Dimethyl polysiloxane).

"Over 90% of Australian cotton is genetically manipulated (GM), to tolerate being sprayed with Roundup weedkiller and to make its own built in insect toxins. We question the safety, sustainability and environmental impacts of GM cotton production." Mr Phelps says.

"The GM oil from cottonseed is marketed by Peerless as Formula 40 for frying fast foods or may be in generic vegetable oils, sold unlabelled to shoppers.

"Under Australian Food Standards there are no requirements for restaurant and fast food meals to be labelled. Refined GM vegetable oils are also exempt from labelling though most contain traces of GM DNA and protein that the Food Standard says should be labelled.

"So, to avoid GM oils customers ought to ask all fast or convenience food shops what frying oil they use, and also leave unlabelled bottles of generic vegetable oils on supermarket shelves.

"Gene Ethics is pleased that KFC took the lead, away from palm oil to non-GM canola in response to customer concerns over the environmental and animal impacts of palm oil grown in Indonesia and Malaysia .

"We hope this will lead to others following suit and making the change to the healthier and safer non-GM options now available," Mr Phelps concludes.

Learn more about GM and normal plant breeding.

21 May 2012

Arctic melt releasing ancient methane

It all might go a bit faster now this is happening... :
Scientists have identified thousands of sites in the Arctic where methane that has been stored for many millennia is bubbling into the atmosphere.
The methane has been trapped by ice, but is able to escape as the ice melts.

Writing in the journal Nature Geoscience, the researchers say this ancient gas could have a significant impact on climate change.

Methane is the second most important greenhouse gas after CO2 and levels are rising after a few years of stability.
"The Arctic is the fastest warming region on the planet, and has many methane sources that will increase as the temperature rises," commented Prof Euan Nisbet from Royal Holloway, University of London, who is also involved in Arctic methane research.

"This is yet another serious concern: the warming will feed the warming."

How serious and how immediate a threat this feedback mechanism presents is a controversial area, with some scientists believing that the impacts will not be seen for many decades, and others pointing out the possibility of a rapid release that could swiftly accelerate global warming.
Read article

17 May 2012

Super weeds no easy fix for US agriculture-experts

A fast-spreading plague of "super weeds" taking over U.S. farmland will not be stopped easily, and farmers and government officials need to change existing practices if food production is to be protected, industry experts said on Thursday.

"This is a complex problem," said weed scientist David Shaw in remarks to a national "summit" of weed experts in Washington to come up with a plan to battle weeds that have developed resistance to herbicides.

Weed resistance has spread to more than 12 million U.S. acres and primarily afflicts key agricultural areas in the U.S. Southeast and the corn and soybean growing areas of the Midwest.

Many of the worst weeds, some of which grow more than six feet and can sharply reduce crop yields, have become resistant to the popular glyphosate-based weed-killer Roundup, as well as other common herbicides.

Monsanto Co's Roundup worked well for many years. It became prevalent with the commercialization of "Roundup Ready" crops Monsanto developed to tolerate the weedkiller, making it easy for farmers to treat their fields.

But now super weeds have developed a resistance to Roundup, and farmers are scrambling to figure out how to combat their weeds.
Read article
And another article

11 May 2012

Trolleys, tyres, chairs and crates pulled from river

PEOPLE continue to dump items such as couches, shopping trolleys, tyres, crates and plastic bags in the Swan and Canning rivers. And Environment Minister Bill Marmion is not amused.

Mr Marmion said 14 tonnes of rubbish was retrieved from the Riverpark by Swan River Trust officers last financial year and a similar amount was accruing this year.

“That’s on top of the rubbish picked up by councils and community groups and it has to stop,” he said.

“We’re pulling everything from couches and fridges to safes, tyres and shopping trolleys out of the river.

“Equally disturbing is the amount of plastic bags, bait boxes and discarded fishing line dropped by people who are using the river for fishing.

"Their actions can have potentially devastating impacts on the river wildlife, including dolphins.”

Some of the larger items retrieved by the Trust last year included 48 shopping trolleys, 46 tyres, 51 chairs and 20 pallets or crates.
Read article

A few weeks back I was having my lunch at the river, the part between the Causeway bridge and Bursewood, when I was amazed to see all the plastic litter poking out on the edge, rusted metal, old cans and layers of plastic. Perth is build on a rubbish heap.... I didn't know that.... made some pictures

Volkswagen showcases zero-emission hover car

Volkswagen has unveiled a prototype "Hover Car", developed with input from the Chinese public.

The vehicle, which resembles a large glass yo-yo is currently on display at the Auto China 2012 show in Beijing.

The two-seater vehicle uses an electro-magnetic field to levitate above the ground and employs distance sensors to prevent collisions with other cars.

A joystick controls the vehicle's movement and it can even spin on its axis.

Importantly, the "Hover Car" does not produce emissions as it does not burn fuel.
Read article and watch video here

4 May 2012

Green space or concrete?

If you were wondering why all these public green areas are suddenly being targeted for development, read this:

The law that allows the development and sale of parkland is the Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority Act 2011. All the members of the Redevelopment Authority are Government appointees and they have the power to disregard all town planning schemes. The Act is on the web, refer WA State Law Publisher.

As well at the Perth Esplanade, parkland reserves being developed include coastline at Point Perron, riverfront at East Perth, Kwinana, Claremont Oval and Perry Lakes.