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What works best for the next election: an energy policy or a series of blackouts?

By Terence Mills

The messages coming from this government in so many areas are confusing and contradictory, and whilst they talk about energy stability and policy certainty they then confuse their message with loony political ideology.

Last week Turnbull surprised us all by vowing that North Queensland will receive a new coal-fired power station under his government, if the LNP leader, Tim Nicholls, pulls off an election win. So obviously that’s all about politics, but he then committed the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund (NAIF) to building it. What he actually said was:

Obviously there is a substantial amount of funds in our northern Australia infrastructure fund, that is available for infrastructure. A power station ticks that box. It is definitely infrastructure.

He may well have added that, if we are prepared to lend money to a dodgy Indian coalminer on what are likely to be stranded assets, why not a coal-fired power station in the north of Queensland where we have an abundance of available solar energy? Why not indeed!

So, while many of us in North Queensland were convinced that we had the environment and weather to favour large scale solar power generation, we are now told the federal government is prepared to get behind a coal-fired power station with federal loan funding through the NAIF. Is it any wonder that entrepreneurs who have been backing renewables and even now are trying to assemble funding for large scale renewable projects are suddenly being told by their banks that without some clarity on energy policy from the government, the funds may not be made available?

Then we have Frydenberg arguing that as the costs of solar, wind and battery storage were falling, no further incentives may be needed to encourage investment in renewable energy, obviating the need for a Clean Energy Target as recommended by the government’s own energy review by Chief Scientist Alan Finkel. So does that mean that the NAIF won’t be allowed to support renewable energy projects?

Then we find that despite a highly sophisticated border control mechanism, Tony Abbott has escaped the reservation once again and turned up in London for another of his crazy speeches. This time to the London-based Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), a climate-sceptic think tank. This time he comforted the planet by noting that:

… there is evidence that higher concentrations of carbon dioxide – which is a plant food after all – are actually greening the planet and helping to lift agricultural yields. In most countries, far more people die in cold snaps than in heatwaves, so a gradual lift in global temperatures, especially if it’s accompanied by more prosperity and more capacity to adapt to change, might even be beneficial.

What Turnbull and Frydenberg must surely know is that no significant long-term energy projects are going to be committed to by the private sector until this government comes out with a national energy policy and that this constant confusion is inevitably going to lead to energy insecurity and power blackouts: perhaps that is the strategy – blame it all on Blackout Bill.


15 comments

  1. pierre wilkinson

    BIZARRE

  2. Andrew J. Smith

    At a macro level the big global players (including exporters) remain unnamed or in the background while seemingly having the upper hand, not unlike the British experience PPPs private public partnerships, whereby large private oligopoly manages to integrate with the state as essential infrastructure, giving rights of incumbency.

    Many of the demands for CSG seems about catering to small coterie of investors and narratives, while deflecting attention from offshore oil/gas explorers and exporters; reported that Bass Strait BHP/Exxon field can produce more but not compelled to?

    Meanwhile there is the fog of war in mainstream media by political coal fossils et al. for short term electoral advantage, and crowding out sensible views, amongst a plethora of current cultural wedge issues in the public domain, useful to both deflect and confuse the electorate.

    Again, like conservative politics in the US and UK it’s chaos because they have become owned, wedged by patrons, microparties or MPs and electorate, thus unable to maneouvre.

    Related, what’s the chance that Xenophon, for whatever reason he has returned to state politics, will end up helping SA to a new coal powered generator or even an independent news outlet?

  3. Glenn Barry

    What is our political system called again? – Fascoligarcorporatocracy?

  4. wam

    The means for a trumble win is to ridicule labor who made little effort to set the awkward questions that the ratings hungry media would ask. Sadly it is not in labor’s nature to win government with a ‘flash’ leader and bill is not a winner.

  5. Peter F

    wam – He is for me

  6. ace Jones

    bill is not a winner. no hope against abbott’s plan to inflict pain and ruin upon Australia’s future,
    ” hell has no fury like a (ex)Prime Minister scorned”

  7. Keith

    The LNP is so mixed up that we cannot expect anything that provides a responsible response to the entwined matters of climate change and energy.
    Abbott’s talk in London to the denier group Global Warming Policy Foundation created criticisms from scientists; an example being … “Dr. Benjamin Henley, a University of Melbourne scientist specializing in ancient climate change and climate models, who read the transcript, said: “It is precarious territory for a politician to enter the scientific boxing ring, with only a bible of conspiracy theories and misconstrued talking points in hand. His speech is full of falsehoods, miscomprehension, and basic untruths.” ”

    https://www.desmogblog.com/2017/10/09/climate-scientists-attack-tony-abbott-misleading-speech-global-warming-policy-foundation

    The problem being for the LNP, is that other LNP politicians hold similar views to Abbott. They have already agreed to billions being squandered in the Direct Action Policy, emissions are going up as are prices of energy.
    Past decisions such as privatisation, and doing nothing are catching up on politicians.

  8. Harquebus

    This has been brewing for decades. There will be no viable energy policy coming from either side of politics. We need to begin implementing power off now and not attempt to produce more energy.
    Jobs and growth be damned and so what if a few billionaires go broke.

    “Wealth is the temporary control of energy. Wealth can not be created, only taken from other sectors, the environment, or the future.” — Ed Deak

  9. Terry2

    Abbott’s opening paragraph in his lecture to this UK think tank says a lot about him and them :

    Thank you for giving me the same platform that you’ve previously given to fellow Australians John Howard and George Pell. I will strive to be worthy of their example and their friendship; to offer a common sense way through the climate conflict; and, also, to place this particular issue in the broader struggle for practical wisdom now taking place across the Western world.

    One bloke lost his seat and lost government and the other bloke is before the courts in Australia: not good company.

    But what Abbott clearly doesn’t understand is that the gradual transition away from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources is the biggest and potentially most rewarding challenge we as a species have ever faced and it is exciting. It holds the promise of unlimited power for our needs at virtually no cost either in financial or environmental terms. Even if Tony and his groupies are wedded to coal, I challenge them to come out into the sunlight and just acknowledge that this lump of hot plasma at the centre of our universe, on which we are so reliant for our existence is also the future source of all the energy so necessary to our continued way of life.

    The Egyptians and the Incas recognised this vast resource but couldn’t adequately harness the technology to utilize it . We now have the means of mastering that technology and that is something to be celebrated.

  10. diannaart

    Thank you Terry for article.

    I can see what the LNP are doing, they now warn us that we will be offered carrots to turn off our appliances in the ensuing summer, all the while blaming renewables for insufficient energy… in the dream they will convince (in time for the next election) that coal is the way to go.

    This government has to go completely, utterly and irrevocably, they are a danger to Australians, environmentally and economically.

  11. Frank Smith

    Thanks Terence,
    When PM Mal came to Queensland talking coal and then seemingly trying to bribe us to vote LNP by promising to raid the NAIF to build a new coal-fired power station in north Qld, I felt at the time that this guy is as “loopy” as the rAbbott. He has clearly completely gone over to the “dark side” and lost all touch with reality. North Queensland has wonderful renewable energy projects like the Kennedy Energy Park Stage 2 (600MW solar + 600MW of complimentary wind) at Hughenden sitting in the wings waiting for energy policy to be clarified so that investment can flow. The NAIF could help unlock such projects by upgrading the transmission line to connect it to the grid and by investing in pumped hydro generation on large water storages like the Burdekin and Tinaroo dams. In so doing it would provide many more jobs than Adani and bring cheaper power on stream years ahead of a new polluting coal fired station.

  12. Frank Smith

    Kronomex,
    That is the same New Zealand Barnaby who just happened to pick up a couple of blocks of agriculturally useless land adjacent to the Narrabri Gas Provence that his fearless leader Mal is demanding the NSW Government bring on stream to solve their confected “Australian Gas Crisis”. What’s that bad smell around here?

  13. Zathras

    It’s also the same Barnaby who agreed that he should sell those blocks because they may be seen as a “conflict of interest” (more like insider trading with his former National Party colleagues).

    http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/federal-election-2013/barnaby-joyce-to-sell-property-to-avoid-csg-conflict-of-interest-20130824-2siel.html

    It’s also the same Barnaby that still lists the blocks in his Parliamentary register.

    It seems that he just hasn’t been able to sell them for the past 4 years – or is he stalling in the hope that it will be forgotten?
    They should be worth a bit once they get the NSW government to open up to more CSG mining.

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