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Gazette Article

Thinking locally - acting globally



our young Australian men have given up their day jobs and spent two years planning a journey that will cover more than 40,000km from Hobart to Nordkapp at the top of Norway in about seven months without visiting any fuel stations.
They have equipped themselves with a Land Rover running on biodiesel, which they will manufacture themselves as they go, obtaining waste oil from businesses such as cafes and restaurants along the way.  Apart from proving that such a trip is possible through locations as remote as Tibet, Afghanistan, northern Iran and Turkey, they also plan to promote sustainability success stories from the communities they visit. 

The lads have constructed their own waste oil processor, which uses two common chemicals to separate cooking oil from waste product - mostly in the form of glycerine, which is biodegradable – into a useful fertiliser.

The generator is powered from the Landrover motor and exhaust heat is used in the conversion to biodiesel.  The aim is to achieve 80% carbon neutrality for the trip, as well as surpassing previous records for trip length using biodiesel.  A professional film company is accompanying them to make a record of the journey and of sustainability-related projects they encounter along the way and do not make it into mainstream news.

The team has secured some sponsorship but much of the finance required has come from the travellers themselves and their relatives. Supporters those interested can keep track of the exhibition on the website www.thegreenwayup.com, which also has a lot of information about the project plus links to Facebook and Twitter.

The journey began in Hobart in April and they have reached Sydney without mishap, towing a trailer with their generator and camping gear and a boat to cross the Timor Sea. They expect to donate their boat to a tsunami-hit community when they reach Indonesia and continue island-hopping until they reach Singapore.

They will head north to China, then southwest through Tibet into and across India, turning north and west to Turkey and Europe.

The team has found it surprisingly difficult to source waste cooking oil in Australia, where cafes have to pay to have it removed. Donating oil rather than paying for removal is apparently a foreign concept!  However the green travellers are optimistic they will always have enough fuel on hand to reach the next fish-and-chip shop. The Land Rover has achieved 10km/litre and can carry more than 600 litres of fuel.

The carbon price debate

It is now generally accepted there is too much carbon dioxide in our atmosphere and it is affecting the earth’s climate in ways we do not yet fully understand.

Global average temperatures and sea levels are rising and extreme weather events are becoming more common. We have to limit and reduce greenhouse gases to ensure the future survival of the civilisation.

One response is to put a price on carbon, either a fixed price (carbon tax) or a market price (emissions trading). This is a very complex debate and one key issue is whether Australia should implement its own scheme or wait for a world consensus.

In making this decision, we have to consider the impact on the prices of exports (we could become uncompetitive) and the volume of cheaper imports affecting local producers.

Because we are pricing something that was not previously priced (carbon), there has to be an increased cost to our economy. Who will pay?

The biggest polluters include energy companies on whom we depend for our electricity – we face higher charges for power unless the generators receive some compensation. But who pays this compensation? The government? That means the government must obtain more money – but from where? 

As taxpayers we are the government’s financial base and I suspect that whatever compensation scheme comes into force, we will ultimately foot the bill.

Past generations have been ignorant of the approaching pollution-driven climate crisis they have helped create – we are the first generation to glimpse the effects on our future.

It appears to me that we either pay now to combat our past and present pollution effects or future generations will pay even more. They will not be thanking us for dithering and procrastinating.

by Stuart Sexton

Courtesy of Gazette May 2011
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