With a headline like that, I could go on to discuss innumerable things, but today I want to focus on the “save the ute” campaign.
In the lead up to the last election, Labor announced strategies to encourage the uptake of electric vehicles.
“Labor will set a national electric vehicles target of 50% new car sales by 2030, and 50% for the government fleet by 2025, as well as allowing business to deduct a 20% depreciation for private fleet EVs valued at more than $20,000… Bill Shorten will also flag a new pollution regulation on car retailers “in line with” 105g CO2/km for light vehicles, which is consistent with American emissions standards, but will consult on coverage and the timeline to phase in the change rather than impose it immediately.”
Cue an outraged Michaelia Cash who, with neck cords strained, swore to an audience of bored apprentices in her gratingly nasal “Kath and Kim” way, that she would “stand by our tradies to save their utes”.
Perhaps someone should have briefed Michaelia about the Coalition’s latest glossy brochure released a month or two earlier, the Climate Solutions Package, where they claim that “An electric vehicles strategy is expected to reduce emissions by up to 10 million tonnes by 2030”.
Not that they actually have a strategy. The one paragraph devoted to it says:
The strategy will build on grants from ARENA, finance from CEFC, and the work of the COAG Transport and Infrastructure Council to coordinate action across governments, industry and community in both urban and regional areas. This work will include consultation on whether mandating an electric vehicle plug type could improve the consistency of public charging.
As David Crowe points out in the SMH, there are many reasons why the government should want to encourage electric cars.
They reduce oil imports and improve the nation’s trade balance. They reduce demand for petrol and therefore ease Australia’s relative shortage of reserves at domestic refineries. They deliver a strategic benefit by using domestic rather than imported energy.
In percentage terms, the transport sector has experienced the largest growth in emissions, increasing 64.9 per cent (39.8 Mt CO2 -e) between 1990 and the year to March 2019, currently accounting for 18.8 per cent of Australia’s national inventory of GHG.
There is the obvious benefit of emissions reductions if the electricity is produced by renewable sources, which will boost employment in both the renewable energy sector and in building the charging infrastructure to service electric vehicles.
Even without the transition to electric vehicles, there are many things the government could be doing but are not, like introducing fuel efficiency standards that many other nations have already adopted.
According to The Conversation, “If Australia had introduced internationally harmonised emissions legislation three years ago, households could have made savings on fuel costs to the tune of A$1 billion.”
Available evidence suggests Australian motorists are paying on average almost 30% more for fuel than they should because of the lack of fuel efficiency standards.
The Australian government is not progressing any measures to introduce a fuel efficiency target. In fact, it recently labelled Labor’s proposed fuel efficiency standard as a “car tax”.
Australia could increasingly become a dumping ground for the world’s least efficient vehicles with sub-par emissions performance, given our lack of fuel efficiency standards. This leaves us on a dangerous path towards not only higher vehicle emissions, but also higher fuel costs for passenger travel and freight.
It would be cynical of me to suggest that the government is reluctant to give up the revenue they get from fuel excise, but what other explanation can there be for their strident opposition and negligent inaction?
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