Leaving aside Angus Taylor’s involvement in poisoning endangered grasslands, disseminating forged documents to the media to attack a political opponent, and dodgy water buybacks from Cayman Island companies, the Minister for Fossil Fuels and Fudged Figures must go because he hasn’t got a friggin’ clue what he is doing.
In a recently released report, the International Energy Agency said the most severe plunge in energy demand since the second world war would trigger multi-decade lows for the world’s consumption of oil, gas and coal while renewable energy continued to grow.
Speaking at the Petersberg Climate Dialogue, a virtual meeting of more than 30 governments on the climate crisis, the UN secretary-general António Guterres and the German chancellor Angela Merkel urged that economic rescue packages should invest in climate technologies.
“Where taxpayers’ money is used to rescue businesses, it must be creating green jobs and sustainable and inclusive growth,” said António Guterres. “It must not be bailing out outdated, polluting, carbon-intensive industries.”
Merkel added “The coronavirus shows us that international cooperation is crucial and that the wellbeing of one nation always depends on the wellbeing of others. There will be a difficult debate about the allocation of funds. But it is important that recovery programmes always keep an eye on the climate. We must not sideline climate, but invest in climate technologies.”
So what is our illustrious Minister doing?
Offering up public money, with a good dose of state coercion, to facilitate, fast track, and underwrite fossil fuel projects.
The Underwriting New Generation Investment (UNGI) slush fund short-listed twelve projects for funding consideration including five gas-fired power stations and one coal-fired power station.
UNGI would offer a financial loan, grant funding, or derivatives contracts to provide the project with a revenue guarantee.
In January, Taylor announced the first two projects to receive funds would be two gas generators – APA Group’s proposed 220MW gas generator in Dandenong, Victoria, and Quinbrook’s proposed 132MW gas generator in Gatton, Queensland.
As many analysts have pointed out, this sort of government intervention would likely dissuade other private investments. With plummeting world demand and prices, locking us into guaranteeing their profits will only artificially inflate prices – the exact opposite of what Taylor was employed to do.
Taylor is strong-arming the states to join his fossil fuel push, as reported by Mike Seccombe in The Saturday Paper.
Funding for other energy development in Victoria was contingent on them removing the moratorium restricting conventional onshore gas exploration.
An MOU signed with the NSW government included support for the very old, very dirty Vales Point coal-fired power station owned by Liberal donor Trevor St Baker’s Delta Energy.
Then, at the end of March, the NSW government also gave approval for United States coalminer Peabody to extend operations under Woronora Reservoir, which supplies drinking water to parts of Sydney and areas south.
State governments in South Australia and Western Australia have given big financial breaks to minerals and petroleum companies in recent weeks – exempting them temporarily from having to meet various fees and expenditure requirements in order to “stimulate industry to mitigate the economic impacts of coronavirus”.
But it is extremely doubtful that an economic recovery will be led by an industry whose demand has plummeted.
Tim Buckley, director of energy finance studies at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, makes this point:
“We have seen the global oil and gas majors cut capital expenditure programs for 2020 by 20 to 25 per cent just in the last month. Woodside last Thursday put out a statement announcing it was shelving $53 billion of investment on North West Shelf LNG [liquefied natural gas] developments. The next day Origin put on hold their fracking of the Northern Territory. The next day Santos put on hold the fracking of the Northern Territory. You’ve had massive, massive cutbacks.”
He also warns of the danger of stranded assets.
“Australia spent $US80 billion in Gladstone building six LNG trains. They were all modelled on an LNG price more than three times what it now is.”
The Coalition’s fixation with fossil fuels, and their blindness to the direction the world is taking regarding energy, is threatening our economic well-being, our international reputation, and, as one of the countries most exposed to the ravages of climate change, our very existence.
Taylor is not the man for the job ahead.
(PS Who in their right mind would commit to buying oil to top-up emergency domestic supplies and then store it on the other side of the world?)
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