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Vision and Apathy07.03.2008

Tags: Australia       Comments: 0

Subdued party mood in the Solar Taxi. Louis Palmer arrives in Perth to an enthusiastic reception. The Solar Taxi has now travelled halfway round the earth on solar power, but the local media shows a typically Australian reluctance to discuss environmental issues.


The Solar Taxi is still heading towards Perth. In Kalgoorlie Jim, head of the "Outback Energy" company, which installs solar systems in the outback, is waiting for us. Jim's wife cooks a wonderful meal on a solar stove, a kind of well-insulated wooden box in which sunlight is concentrated, achieving temperatures of up to 250 degrees.

Later I meet Virginie and Gildas from Northern France, who are enthusiastic about the Solar Taxi and would love to exchange it for the old liquefied-gas campervan they're driving across Australia.
Before I arrive in Perth, the ABC, Australia's national broadcaster, calls me and wants to film my arrival. We agree to meet next morning in Kings Park. We're celebrating not only the end of the Australian continent, but also the fact that we've now gone halfway around the earth - 21,146 kilometres.
My arrival is spectacular. Lots of friends, acquaintances, members of the electric car club and even a class of school kids give us a hearty reception. There's no sign of a film team though. I call them again. The lady I talked to yesterday says, "All right, I'll have to see if anybody's interested."
A cameraman arrives almost two hours late. He hastily films the scene and promises it'll be in the 7pm news. I'm excited, then disappointed when the Solar Taxi isn't mentioned. The newspapers in Perth cancelled too.

Australian Media Ignores Environmental Topics
Australia might have a new government, lots of committed citizens' movements, and a new law on feeding solar energy into the network, but everyone we meet agrees that there is no press diversity here and renewable energies receive too little or no attention. We noticed this at the Sustainable Living Festival in Melbourne, where we presented the Solar Taxi, which got little or no mention in the Melbourne press. On the other hand, I read an article in a newspaper stating that, "Australia's climate protection efforts are ridiculous compared with what China emits and will keep emitting. It simply costs too much."
Leafing through a paper, I realise what gets the attention of the press here. A stuntman in Melbourne has just built the world's biggest motorbike - weighing 13 tonnes and specially made to crash cars. Australia can be proud.

Wind Instead of Coal
Parliamentarian Paul Llewellyn has invited me to visit him in the Western Australia Parliament to find out more about Solar Taxi and possible solutions. Paul has made it his mission to help get renewable energies adopted. „The 200 wind power generators in Western Australia provide a constant power supply. We want to expand wind energy production. At the moment Parliament is working on a paper that will ban the generation of electricity from coal", says Paul proudly. But what if no wind blows, I ask. "If we have a lull in the south, generators in the north can provide power and vice versa." But what if there's a real problem? Paul says, "That's easy. We just need storage and we can use cars like yours for that. All the big batteries of electric cars together make up a big power storage unit." Paul calculates: "If we had two million electric cars in Western Australia, we could store huge amounts of electricity in them, at least 40 million kilowatt hours. If the sun didn't shine or the wind didn't blow, we could take the stored electricity from the batteries of parked electric cars."

A Land of Helpfulness and Indifference
Our weeks in Australia have given us an insight into a country in which visionaries and the apathetic are equally at home. For some, climate protection and morality is too expensive, others think cars should provide electricity for houses. We have an ambivalent and exciting impression of Australia, beyond the clichés of BBQs, blondes, beaches, beer and bikinis. We have met with ingenious helpfulness, plenty of indifference and lots of people who want to change the world.
After I speak in Perth, an old man comes up and says, "After everything I've heard about my country from you, I must say, I'm almost a bit ashamed to be Australian!"


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