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Comment Re:It's not about the poor (Score 2) 415

It may well not be about the poor, but it shouldn't punish the poor to benefit the rich either.

Here in Sydney, Australia until recently the state government had a very generous solar scheme. You paid for the panels, then received a 60c/kW feed-in tariff for 7 years. Generally, your system would be paid off within 5-6 years, after which you are generating pure state subsidised profit, before dropping back to a much lower rate, and continuing to profit for the life of the panels.

I'm all for solar, but I disliked the scheme because it disadvantaged the poor who simply couldn't afford the capital outlay to purchase the system. But it got even worse because the government massively underestimated the take up rate for the scheme, and it blew out by a couple of billion dollars. As a result, electricity prices as a whole have to rise to cover the discrepancy, further punishing the poor.

Implementation is the downfall of many a good idea.

Comment nutrient cycling (Score 5, Interesting) 166

As an agricultural scientist, I always feel slightly uncomfortable when biofuel producers start talking about using 'agricultural waste'. Increasingly, this 'waste' is now used by farmers as an integral part in boosting soil carbon and increasing biological activity as it breaks down, improving soils and improving subsequent crop yields.

The value of this, though often difficult to measure is significant and very real. But I worry shortsighted farmers looking for a quick buck may lose these less tangible benefits, leading to further soil degradation and lower yields in the future.

Comment Re:The real questions should be different (Score 1) 379

Indeed ... 'corn fed' meat is not the norm in most of the world. Here in Australia it's almost all grass-fed. Then again, we don't have the harsh winters that necessitate keeping cattle indoors for several months each year, so it's easier just to let em roam free and munch on the grass all year.

Partly true. A lot of our cattle may spend much of their life growing slowly while ranging over our huge stations, but most will end up in a feed lot on a diet of grains to be 'finished' for anywhere from 60 to >200 days before slaughter. This drastically improves carcass weight and fat score. Meanwhile our pigs and chooks are almost exclusively grainfed (although its hard to object to chicken considering their relatively excellent feed conversion ratio.)

Comment Re:Another solution for nuclear power (Score 3, Interesting) 379

I think agriculture still has a long way to go in terms of water efficiency before mass desalination plants and the associated environmental issues become a necessity. Simple things like lining irrigation ditches to reduce loss through leakage, and moving to more efficient irrigation technologies, not to mention plant and animal breeding and better soil management just to name a few. That said, you can put a nuke in my backyard tomorrow if it means we can start weaning off fossil fuels...

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