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The Energy Road to Nowhere

By Ad astra

Are you as exasperated and disgusted as I am with the political antics exposed during the renewed debate about energy policy? Are you appalled by our parliamentarians’ persistent inability to collaborate in making decisions about how to tackle climate change? These are rhetorical questions. I know the answers.

On 22 November, Bill Shorten chose a gathering arranged in Sydney by Bloomberg New Energy Finance to outline the energy policy Labor will take to the next election. Prefacing his presentation with ”Climate change is no longer an emergency. It’s a disaster”, Shorten went on to: “announce initiatives to boost the use of alternative energy and help meet the Labor party’s goal for 50 percent of the country’s power to come from renewables by 2030”. In support of Labor’s policy he pledged $10 billion in extra funding for clean energy and steeper cuts to carbon emissions.” He also promised subsidies for home battery installations. The Conversation gave the battery idea a tick.

It is not my purpose to detail all the events that occurred on that momentous day – you are able to read all about them in the media. My aim is to highlight the tediousness of what is a monotonous replay of the same old story of climate change and energy policy inertia that goes back a decade.

Think back to where the saga began in earnest. We know that climate change has been on the minds of politicians for decades, but when in March 2007 Kevin Rudd, speaking at the National Climate Summit at Parliament House, declared climate change to be “the great moral challenge of our generation”, a new era began.

To cut a long story short, you will recall that following a paper by economist Ross Garnaut: Climate Change Review, Kevin Rudd developed an emissions trading scheme, the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, and negotiated the support of Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull, who indicated he was prepared to back it. This eventually lead to his eclipse by Tony Abbott.

You will also recall that the Greens under Christine Milne, urged on by Bob Brown, refused to support it, effectively killing it off, as it ‘did not go far enough’. With the support of the Greens it would have passed, as some Coalition members were ready to cross the floor. At the time, Finance Minister Penny Wong, who also held the climate portfolio, said that the Greens should be held responsible “for their destructive impact on climate policy”.

During Julia Gillard’s prime ministership, Labor developed a policy that included a ‘price on carbon pollution’ as a penalty to dissuade polluters. When she introduced this concept, she was trapped into saying that it was a ‘tax’, and then fell foul of Opposition Leader Tony Abbott’s label of a ‘carbon tax’. As Abbott’s chief-of-staff Peta Credlin later conceded, Labor’s climate change policy was never a carbon tax. Abbott was deliberately employing “brutal retail politics, and it took him six months to cut through and when he did cut through Gillard was gone.”

That’s enough history to illustrate the parallel between then and now.

Now: No sooner had Shorten made his November 22 announcement that Labor would give support to the Coalition’s NEG, albeit with the proviso that there be a 45 percent cut in carbon emissions by 2030, going beyond the existing Paris Agreement goal of a minimum 26 percent reduction from 2005 levels, than energy minister, Angus Taylor, whose sole focus is on getting power bills down, and to hell with emissions reduction, donned a high-viz vest at a high-energy-use smelter in Tomago, and enlisted the owner to support his attack on Labor’s proposals: ”These reckless targets will be a wrecking ball for the economy and for jobs in agriculture and the manufacturing sector. We won’t stand for it.”… He challenged Shorten to nominate which factories he would close down, how many cattle he would cull, and what industries he would wreck. Now Morrison has backed him.

Taylor must have expected the captains of industry to back him to the hilt and condemn Shorten’s move out of hand. Instead, Innes Willox, Chief Executive of the Australian Industry Group, said of Shorten’s announcement that it was: ”a useful step that could help address the ongoing crisis in the electricity system.” Among Coalition members, Julie Bishop is the only one who agrees that it would be wise to go along with Labor. But will her colleagues listen?

In a characteristically delightful take on this laughable episode in The Guardian: Bill Shorten chooses to be the grown-up on energy as Coalition’s toddlers have a tantrum, Katharine Murphy pokes fun at Taylor and adds wearily: ”We’ve been here before: the hyperbolic carry on, it’s all pretty tired.”

Soon after Shorten’s announcement, right on cue, Richard Di Natale was on the TV doing the Green Thing, labelling Shorten’s proposal “A joke of a policy”, accusing Labor of “…backing away from tough action on climate change, including a price on carbon”, and blasting him with ”Bill Shorten has now become the punch line in what is the sick joke that is climate policy here in Australia.”

So there you have it, the same old, same old, same old story story – déjà vu all over again! Once again, Labor proposes a well-thought-through approach to tackle climate change by agreeing to adopt the NEG, an energy policy developed by the Coalition that has already been through its party room three times; the energy minister vehemently derides it as a ‘wrecking ball’ and refuses to have a bar of it, and the Greens smash it because it does not match their ideological position!

Sadly, our nation is once more back on the endless energy road to nowhere. Oh dear!

This article was originally published on The Political Sword.

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15 comments

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  1. Carol Taylor

    Sadly, the Greens have form in cutting off their noses to spite their face when progressive policies don’t go far enough for their liking. I was always of the opinion that something was better than nothing as after all ‘something’ gives you something to build upon. By voting to do nothing the Greens virtually handed the LNP an excuse to likewise do absolutely nothing…mission accomplished, the Greens can now criticise Labor for doing nothing when their own actions resulted in the aforementioned ‘nothing’.

  2. Aortic

    I am sure if Scott finally gets to one on one with the Donald in Argentina, they will have the whole climate buzz sorted out in a couple of minutes allowing them to get to the important matters like, ” do you want fries with that? “

  3. Ad Astra

    Carol Taylor
    How right you are. The Greens are enslaved by their own restricted ideology.

    Aortic
    The Donald thinks he has all the answers to climate change. He has long been on the Energy Road to Nowhere.

  4. Ad Astra

    Folks
    This morning Scott Morrison tweeted: “We’re bringing electricity prices down. Our big stick legislation is pressuring energy companies to give Australian families better prices. And it’s working.”

    Meanwhile, The Business Council’s Jennifer Westacott responded with: “The BCA supports lower electricity prices but does not believe this will be achieved by ad hoc and extreme intervention in the electricity market, which brings new risks, unintended consequences and has never worked before.”

    The BCA’s rhetorical rocket was directed at policies being pursued by the energy minister, Angus Taylor, to reduce power prices ahead of the next federal election, which include a threat to break up power companies if they engage in price gouging.

    The critique is similar to sentiments expressed by the power companies, and the renewable energy sector.

    A separate proposal to underwrite new investment in coal generation has also been blasted by the normally diplomatic Ai Group, which noted the government’s proposal could leave taxpayers exposed to liabilities“with a net present value of billions of dollars”.

    You can read all about it here: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/nov/23/business-council-excoriates-coalitions-ad-hoc-and-extreme-energy-policies

    Even the IPA, which usually backs the Coalition, denigrates the its energy policy. Read about it here: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/oct/27/institute-of-public-affairs-blasts-coalitions-un-liberal-energy-policies

    If Morrison and Taylor thought they were on a winner, their horse has turned out to be lame, and may have to be put down.

  5. Phil

    the Greens are on the road to nowhere……at a time when youth are speaking out …nay, shouting out, at this recalcitrant rabble of a government, the Greens throw yet another tantrum, completely missing a golden opportunity to garner the emerging youth progressivism.

  6. OldWomBat

    The greens would rather side with the lnp and do nothing than take a step forward with labour. While labour, and the lnp for that matter, have to sell policies to a majority of Australians to be elected to government, necessarily requiring compromise to get something in place upon which to build, the uncompromising greens, who will never be faced with forming government sit securely in their own bubble, pleading holier-than-thou status as justification for a totally meaningless stance that supports the lnp. I support many of the green’s positions but, in this regard they have been a condom on the prick of progress.

  7. Kaye Lee

    The Greens don’t seem to understand the notion of getting your foot in the door. As you point out Ad Astra, once a scheme is established, it can be ramped up. You don’t get a place at the negotiating table if you are unwilling to negotiate and you don’t reach a destination without taking a first step.

  8. helvityni

    Shorten is going to close factories, says Scottie. What factories, the Liberals have made sure we don’t manufacture anything at all here in Australia. I used to support anything made in Oz; now it’s practically only Oz wines and RM Williams boots…

    “The Energy Road to Nowhere”…. Indeed, looking at the above picture, I immediately felt UN-energized…

  9. Kaye Lee

    helvityni,

    If I was Labor’s campaign manager my head would be spinning with material to use. Car industry for example?

  10. Aortic

    And Matt Canavan, that coal fired idiot, condemns the school kids for protesting against the government’s conflicted and puerile attempts to combat climate change. It’s their future Matt and the sooner you and your Neanderthal cohorts wake up to reality, Ah what am I saying just piss off and leave it to those who have a real commitment to the cause.

  11. Kronomex

    Aortic, I just realised that Coalavan and the rest of the LNP should be urging kids to do anything BUT attend school. Just think about how dumb and tractable they would become. They could be turned into marching morons and do anything and everything the LNP wants them to do without hesitation or question. A dream paradise for the LNP and the corporations.

  12. Graeme Henchel

    It is true that the Greens stopped the Rudd policy because of their own policy purety However they did support Gillards policy and it would not have eventuated without their support in that hung parliament.

    Yes the Greens believe that Shorten and Labor so go further but it is yet to be seen whether Labor will need their support in the next parliament and if they do whether the Greens involvement is a positive or negative.

    One thing for sure it is not the fault of the Greens that the energy wars have occurred over the past 10 years. This fault lies almost entirely with the likes of Tony Abbott and Rupert Murdoch.

  13. Mark Needham

    Just look at all the fires in Queensland. Cause? Climate change!

    Mark Needham

  14. Stephengb

    LI apparently ( according to that silly tool) am strongly Green.

    But I will never ever forgive their duplicity over the carbon tax, and over their member whom they decided to victimise and the fact that they have this mad bastard Dr, as a leader.

    The test of the Greens are quite sane to me.

    As for the LNP well what can I say, they are rope for a vote of no confidence in the house, and it should happen, but it will not, the cross benches talk the talk but sadly are absent to walk the talk.

    Roll on the Federal election, but God help us of the LNP scrapes back in!

  15. Kyran

    There is much talk of this government being ‘out of touch’, which seems incredibly polite to me. The referencing to them being ‘in denial’ also doesn’t go far enough. Needless to say, such polite and forgiving references would not be contemplated were it a Labor government behaving so badly. It is only because of a compliant MSM and an imbedded (both figuratively and literally) Canberra Press Gallery that such tolerance isn’t routinely lambasted. It seems hard to reconcile the IPA target of 28% renewable energy (and Labor’s 50%) with reality. That the community is acting in a completely separate sphere to our government underlines how these idiots, along with their media cheer squad, are consigning themselves to irrelevance.

    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-11-30/renewables-now-heading-for-80-per-cent-of-electricity-market/10567838

    Naturally, the more widely accepted the ‘drop off the grid’ model is adopted in the real world, the more chaotic and precarious the ‘pricing mechanism’ becomes.

    Does more renewable energy make power prices go up or down?

    The difference to electricity prices has been modelled on a less than realistic rate of adoption of ‘off the grid’ technologies, which fails to recognise the incredible advances being made in science, including battery construction and resultant storage and the advances in nano technology, which have rendered surfaces, including glass and metal, to become solar panels in their own right.
    This changes the price due to ‘traditional’ interpretations of base load power and the usual distractions of reliability not factoring in the old ‘supply and demand’ pricing mechanism.

    https://arena.gov.au/blog/distributed-energy-resources/

    As more consumers leave the traditional market and the costs of poles and wires, or the infrastructure, remain fixed (largely due to government shenanigans with the ‘supply network’ through privatisation), the price will invariably go up for those remaining ‘on the grid’.

    https://www.economist.com/briefing/2017/02/25/a-world-turned-upside-down

    To mess with your words, ‘Sadly, our government is once more back on the endless energy road to nowhere’. On a far more optimistic basis, more and more of us are simply ignoring these fools and getting on with it. The corporates have to accommodate the interests of the consumers, because they know they will be seeking subsidies and handouts from the government in years to come for their ‘stranded assets’, land restoration/reparation costs and costs of maintaining a system with declining consumer numbers. The governments increasing irrelevance, heightened by party political crap, will not distract the corporates from softening up the public for the increased handouts they will want.
    This mob aren’t out of touch. They are irrelevant.
    Thankyou Ad Astra and commenters. Take care

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