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Coal still king of energy castle

MELBOURNE – Coal may be a dirty word in some circles but at the end of 2011, it was still king of the global energy castle.
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That will change in coming decades as natural gas-fired power in particular, nuclear fuel and renewables are increasingly used.

However, for the time being, and despite its high carbon dioxide-emitting ways, coal is the cheapest and the huge demand for it in emerging economies makes it a vital commodity for Australia.

Politicians speak about becoming cleaner and greener but have been unable to resist the quick, cheap option that thermal coal offers to power their economies.

Australia’s second-biggest export earner – worth about $43 billion in 2010 – remains the world’s largest and fastest-growing energy source. Iron ore is Australia’s biggest export earner.

It was a near record year for merger and acquisition activity in a shrinking Australian coal sector with the takeover value heading towards $27 billion.

Chinese state-owned giant Yanzhou Coal Mining and Gloucester Coal agreed to a merger that would create an $8 billion producer.

Hunter Valley company Whitehaven Coal recently announced it would buy billionaire Nathan Tinkler’s Aston Resources to form a $5.1 billion company.

“What you are seeing at the moment is evidence that the customers are really concerned about security of supply and making sure they position themselves for that,” financial services firm UBS resources research head Glynn Lawcock said.

“If you look at the power stations built out across Asia for all the different countries, including India, South-East Asia and China, coal still forms 65 to 70 per cent of the base-load power generation.”

He predicts that in 2012, coal producers will invest heavily to grow as new and existing ports are built and expanded on the east coast.

The risks are that Europe’s economic problems will slow China’s growth and that the emergence of natural gas as a cleaner alternative will reduce coal’s demand.

However, ASX-listed China-based coal trader Sinox said, even allowing for a slowdown, China’s economic growth would remain above seven per cent and coal was still needed for domestic use.

“If all the infrastructure is built, based on coal, you are not going to dismantle that overnight,” chairman Spencer Chan said. “There’s nothing scary about coal for investors.”

The energy currently most likely to dethrone coal is natural gas, which is cleaner than coal and cheaper than renewables.

Coal-fired power is still cheaper, but gas is coming down in cost and can be switched on quickly to meet peak demand loads and become a baseload supply.

The International Energy Agency has spoken of a looming “golden age of gas” with massive rises in use and demand set to more than double by 2020.

The Australian government’s recent draft Energy White Paper predicted that gas would power 44 per cent of electricity generation by 2050, up from 15 per cent today.

Gas has more diverse uses than thermal coal, being used in industrial manufacturing and heating as well as electricity generation.

That’s great news for Australia’s economy because of its massive gas reserves; it is now the world’s second biggest exporter after Qatar.

Conservation groups oppose it because it still emits carbon and potentially threatens the environment, through unconventional extraction methods such as coal seam and shale gas.

A $200 billion suite of liquefied natural gas projects is approved and under way in Australia – including about $50 billion in three giant coal seam gas projects around Gladstone – involving major global and Australian oil and gas companies.

BHP Billiton spent almost $US20 billion ($19.9 billion) this year on two acquisitions in the booming US shale gas market.

UBS analyst Gordon Ramsay said Australia was lucky to be best positioned in Asia to supply LNG. He said the Chinese had supported Australia’s LNG projects, with Sinopec this month increasing its stake in the Australia Pacific LNG project to 25 per cent and agreeing to a 3.3 million tonne a year deal.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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Andrew Johns wins hearts and minds

FANS: Neville Clifford and Travis Hall meet Andrew Johns at Charlestown.EVERYONE has a take on Joey.
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If you ask in Newcastle, he’s either saviour of the city or worse than whatever the bad bits are in The Human Centipede II.

We don’t know. The closest we’d been to Joey was almost running a boogie board into him once at Merewether.

That was until yesterday, when he did a Q and A with some kids.

It was a photo op to promote the new Nike store at Charlestown Square, and the kids were Central Charlestown junior rugby league players ranging from tweens to teens.

Framed by fluoro sneakers and inspected by young faces, Johns was something he never quite seems on TV. Comfortable.

You can see why NRL teams prize him as a consultant because he is, clearly, a gifted teacher.

To this captive audience with its questions, he made the sublime sound possible.

How do you do a chip and chase? one boy asked.

‘‘Kick it about as high as this roof,’’ Johns said, pointing to the shop’s low ceiling.

‘‘High enough so you can get it back, but not so high the fullback can catch it on the full.’’

How do you stay motivated for training?

‘‘You’ve gotta enjoy it,’’ was the almost wistful reply.

‘‘As long as you’re having fun, I think that’s the key.’’

It was easy to forget, for a moment, how jaded some in this town are about Joey.

Instead, we got to see a man who remembered being a kid, who’d loved throwing the ball around in the park.

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Ponting’s true class re-emerges

RICKY Ponting’s 40th Test century will be analysed and dissected on many levels.
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Hopefully, the experts will recognise that in the three innings so far between Australia and India, it was in fact Ponting who rescued each innings when our inexperienced top order failed to perform.

That team statistic will be far more important to Ponting than his own personal glory.

Sure, he will be a relieved man to score his first century in nearly two years.

He has been written off by so many experts for so long that it has become tiresome.

Fortunately, his contribution to the team and unwavering support from the Australian squad and now two sets of selectors is quite revealing.

Everybody marvels at Ponting’s work ethic at training. Young players are in awe of playing alongside such a legend of the game.

Ricky Ponting, the mentor, clearly plays a huge role in the team.

However, he is a realist and as a top order batsmen he has consistently acknowledged that he will be judged on his performances.

The fact that Ponting still clearly has a huge competitive appetite for first class cricket and has worked tirelessly to achieve this breakthrough century is a tribute to his grit and professionalism.

In this celebratory 100th Test at the SCG, Ponting now has more centuries and has more runs at this venue than any other player.

Flanked by the two other greatest run scorers in the game, Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid, Ponting is the only one to really perform in this series.

Tendulkar has now gone 17 innings since his last Test century but all cricket followers seem to relish the chance to see him play.

The same respect and admiration should be shown to Ponting.

He is our highest run scorer in both Tests and one-day internationals, the world’s most successful Test and ODI captain and a fieldsman of the highest calibre.

We should delight in his skills, his doggedness and his determination to succeed for his country.

It will be many years before we see an Australian player who approaches his shadow.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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Book gives walkers brush with the bush

Michael Douglas, of Bridport, has published a book of bush and beach walks around his home town.BRIDPORT bushwalker Michael Douglas has released the third edition of Bush and Beach Walks around Bridport.
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Douglas said that the reason for the book was to let people know of the variety of walks available around Bridport.

To that end, the book describes 22 walks spread across the Granite Point, Double Sandy Point and Waterhouse conservation areas, Brid River Reserve and the Pearly Brook area.

“The book has photographs and detailed maps depicting tracks and other local features not shown on regular maps,” Douglas said.

“The Waterhouse Conservation Area, for example, is popular with campers, but is infrequently used by walkers even though there are some several excellent coastal tracks along secluded beaches and rock shelves.

“The 11-kilometre town circuit is a carefully constructed path that incorporates the River-Forest Track, Wildflower Reserve Track and the history walk along the foreshore, all of which can be tackled as shorter, separate outings.

“These walks provide much more than an opportunity to just stretch your legs as there is an amazing diversity of plant, bird and animal life around Bridport as well as features of geological and geomorphological interest.”

The book is available at the Bridport Pavilion information centre, Scottsdale Art and Framing or by mail order from Douglas at 2 West Street, Bridport, 7262.

It costs $8, including postage.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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Sylvester Bros bakery’s future bleak

GUTTED: Nicholas Sylvester with some of his staff in front of the Sylvester Bros. Bakery, which was destroyed by fire on Monday night. The family is not sure what the future holds for the business that started in 1919. – Picture by Dean Osland 1948: The Sylvester Bros. Bakery delivery cart.
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IT has been delivering bread to Hunter Valley and Central Coast people for more than 90 years, but, sadly, Sylvester Bros. Bakery could soon be little more than a memory.

Monday night’s fire has all but destroyed the Wollombi Road building but, despite the institution’s bleak outlook, the Sylvester family is counting its blessings.

The fire was the second to rock the close-knit Coalfields family. But, this time, lives were spared.

In 1971, Dennis Sylvester was killed when fire swept through the family’s Branxton bakery as he slept in the upstairs living quarters he shared with his father, Paddy.

Family member Jeremy Sylvester said yesterday that his mother, Monica, who lives next door to the Cessnock bakery, was holding up well under the circumstances and was thankful that no one had been injured.

‘‘Mum took a call from the Drayton family today,’’ Mr Sylvester said.

‘‘When you look back at their winery tragedy we are extremely lucky.

‘‘The support and best wishes from the community has been overwhelming.’’

That support is not surprising considering the bakery has given hundreds of Coalfields people a job, whether in the shop front, baking bread or bagging rolls.

‘‘It was hard yakka working here and if you could work at the bakery you could work anywhere,’’ Mr Sylvester said.

The cause of the fire was still being investigated late yesterday, but it was believed to have started in the baking area.

‘‘It has caused a great deal of structural damage and it’s not looking good in terms of resurrecting what’s here,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s still too early to call whether or not the bakery will be rebuilt in any form.’’

The bakery had been the family’s life for decades.

‘‘Not just my family but my uncles’ families and all their sons. Dad was one of nine children and he and mum had 10 of us,’’ he said.

Mr Sylvester said locals had been recalling the fond times.

‘‘We had a call from someone saying they remember coming here and sitting on the bakery roof during the ’60s and ’70s to watch Cessnock play rugby league on the nearby oval,’’ he said.

LONG HISTORY

1919 Sloane’s Bakery opened on Wollombi Rd, Cessnock

1928 Clarrie Watkins takes over bakery

1947 Brothers Cyril, Paddy, Leo and Barry Sylvester buy bakery

Late 1960s Family opens Sylvester Bros. Bakery at Branxton

1971 Dennis Sylvester, son of Paddy, killed in bakery fire

2011 Fire all but destroys the Wollombi Rd bakery

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Tourism industry ‘needs rate rise’

APPEAL: Sheridan Ferrier wants support for the industry.LAKE Macquarie’s $362million tourism industry will be under threat if the city council does not increase rates considerably, Tourism Hunter executive manager Sheridan Ferrier says.
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The council will disband its economic development department, close its visitor information centre at Swansea and stop all tourism expenditure if it only maintains rates at the cost of living (option one, right).

‘‘This could be the end of tourism for Lake Macquarie,” Ms Ferrier said.

‘‘Without the promotion and marketing of Lake Macquarie, visitors will head to other destinations.

‘‘Cafes, restaurants and accommodation operators will be hit hard.’’

She said Lake Macquarie attracted about 1million domestic visitors a year, who stayed an average of 2 nights and spent $145 a day.

Without a visitor information centre, services would be lost, including phone support, reservations, a website and marketing.

‘‘Tourism Hunter urges the community to consider the rate increase to ensure tourism can continue to contribute significantly to Lake Macquarie’s economy,’’ Ms Ferrier said.

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Increased flows give trout levels nice boost

TROUT in Brumbys Creek and the linked lower Macquarie River were energised on New Year’s Day by increased Hydro flows from the Poatina power station.
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With trout in other rivers lying low in thin, warm water, such flows should offer anglers alternative venues if they continue.

Up top, recent rewards for many trolling Great Lake have been scanty and anglers have often needed persistence.

Conversely, flyfishers spotting trout cruising up wind lanes in mid lake found floaters productive.

Just westward, several others wading Lake Augusta were pleased with the first morning of the new year.

Using dry flies in a sheltered bay, they netted six nice browns.

Arthurs Lake remains high but mayflies have been scarce.

More trout than expected are said to lack condition, and while some are reddish inside, others are unusually pale.

The new year’s first outing for Launceston Angling Club members will be at Arthurs Lake, from Friday, January 13, to weigh in at noon on January 15 at the Jonah Bay car park.

Some members were lucky at their Christmas party – here’s hoping all anglers are this Friday 13.

Northern disabled anglers will be anticipating this new year.

With Four Springs Lake so popular and handy for many, some have already made good use of the jetty built for them on its south-western shore.

Unfortunately, this resource is not freely accessible – unlike the original jetty beside the boat ramp opposite.

As previously mentioned, this is the one to be adapted to also cater for disabled anglers.

Modifications will be done by Westbury Fishing Club members, aided by a community grant from the Meander Valley Council and Inland Fisheries advice.

While widespread at Bridport like sore heads, flathead are localised in Anderson Bay, often down 20 metres.

Although not large, many are takeable and most boaters putting in the time have been getting a feed.

Others based to the east at Tomahawk speak of flathead considerably bigger.

Also reported farther east off St Helens are good catches of albacore tuna over the 100-metre mark.

Patchy in Georges Bay too, one place for sizeable flathead was off Parnella while lure anglers boated nice cocky salmon, along with the trevally and bream also coming from Grants Lagoon near Binalong Bay.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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Rain helps quell fires around the state

EARLY morning rain has helped firefighters quell 10 vegetation fires burning around the state.
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Tasmanian Fire Service state operations officer John Holloway said the brief, heavy downpour had also dampened the fire risk for the rest of the week.

He said there were no reports of new fires started by lightening strike this morning.

”The rain has certainly allowed us to bring all of these fires under control in faster than we could have in the conditions yesterday,” Mr Holloway said.

”Yesterday was the day that we were worried about -for the rest of the week the weather should us keep all of these fires controlled.”

It remains a high fire danger day for areas of the state north of the line between Burnie and Hobart. The risk in the rest of the state is low to moderate.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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Hunter patients wait longer for care

ONLY half of the patients in Hunter hospital emergency departments are being treated within recommended time frames, with some waiting up to four times longer for care, a report released today shows.
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The Bureau of Health Information’s analysis also reveals that for urgent elective surgery, waiting times are longer and the percentage of patients treated on time is lower in the Hunter than the rest of the state.

The bureau is an independent organisation that monitors the public health system.

Its latest report provides information about the performance of NSW public hospitals from July to September 2011.

The bureau said experts recommend a maximum waiting time in emergency departments until treatment begins of 10 minutes for patients with imminently life-threatening conditions, such as chest pain and severe burns.

In the Hunter New England Local Health District, half of patients in this category started treatment within seven minutes.

But it took up to 38 minutes for 95 per cent of patients to be treated, the report said.

For potentially life-threatening conditions, such as moderate blood loss and dehydration, the maximum recommended waiting time is 30 minutes.

Half of Hunter patients started treatment within 22 minutes, and 95 per cent were treated within 127 minutes.

About 50 per cent of patients with potentially serious and less urgent cases were treated within suggested times, but it took longer than recommended to attend to most patients.

The bureau does not report time to treatment for the less than 1 per cent of patients with immediately life-threatening conditions.

Bureau chief executive Diane Watson said winter months put extra pressure on emergency departments.

In Hunter New England, the median wait for urgent elective surgery was 12 days, compared with 11 for NSW, the report said.

At Calvary Mater Newcastle, the wait was 19 days, and at Belmont Hospital it was 13.

In the region, 91 per cent of patients requiring urgent elective surgery were treated on time, compared with 93 per cent state-wide.

At the Mater, 72 per cent of these patients were treated on time, while at Maitland Hospital it was 88per cent and at John Hunter 91 per cent.

Last month the Newcastle Herald reported that surgery waiting lists had blown out at some Hunter hospitals to almost four times longer than the national average according to public health data.

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Why so keen to tan your hide?

When I was about 10 years old, my best friend introduced me to the concept of deliberately burning ones skin.
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Back then I was horrified – but by the time I hit my teens, tanning was easily the most popular after-school activity on the Sunshine Coast. While the guys surfed, the girls spent hours on the beach slathered in SPF 0 tanning oil. To speed up the process, many would also visit solariums and spray tan salons every other week. The growing popularity of these practices was obvious during graduation, when the girls glowed under the stage lights and smelled faintly of coconuts and cat pee.

Spray tan shades and smells seem to have improved since then – and an entire industry has continued to grow around the demand for brown skin. But this has done little to curb the enduring popularity of a real tan. Despite growing up with slip, slop, slap on the television and skin cancer education in schools, young people are still avoiding proper skin protection. The Cancer Council’s latest National Sun Protection Survey found 45 per cent of teens aged 12 to 17 preferred a tan despite the dangers, with one in five getting sunburnt on a typical summer weekend.

But what’s so great about a tan? To many of my friends, it’s absolutely necessary to have one before a night out. They say a tan gives them confidence and makes them look healthier, thinner and more attractive. Apparently, darker skin also makes their eyes pop, their teeth look whiter and their muscles more defined. To me, they just look brown.

So many teens and twenty-somethings are deliberately ignoring a lifetime of sun-smart campaigns, traumatising their skin cells and risking cancer to appear healthier. What more can sun safety and cancer organisations do?

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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