It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Australia’s current energy policy is close to being insane. We are the world’s largest coal exporter, but can’t manage to open any new coal-fired power stations here. Or worse, deliberately do not want to. We are one of the world’s biggest uranium exporters, but building a nuclear power station in Australia would be illegal. We will soon be the world’s largest gas exporter, but are about to build an import terminal because too much of our local production has been forward sold overseas. We have the world’s largest readily available reserves of energy, but among the world’s highest power prices.
Households throughout the nation are feeling the squeeze, jobs are being lost, and industries are moving offshore all in the name of reducing our CO2 emissions and fighting global warming. Yet Australia produces just 1.3 per cent of total emissions — which are currently increasing by close to 2 per cent a year. When asked about the impact on climate change if all of our emissions were eliminated, the Chief Scientist replied, ‘virtually nothing’.
Yet for at least the past decade, the main aim of Australia’s power grid hasn’t been to produce affordable, reliable electricity, but to reduce CO2 emissions for purely ideological purposes. Ever-greater mandatory use of unreliable wind and solar power has played havoc with the economics of coal-fired baseload power, even though it’s by far the cheapest form of reliable 24/7 electricity. Ever-increasing emissions reduction targets have also favoured unreliable renewable power and expensive gas power over coal. And green-panic over threats to the water table has meant that some anticipated gas production may never happen.
The government’s much-hyped National Energy Guarantee offers a few sentences about lower prices, and a few pages about keeping the lights on; but the overwhelming focus is on reducing emissions. The fact that the Turnbull government isn’t just committed to getting emissions down by 26 to 28 per cent in 2030, but to achieving one tenth of that reduction every year from 2020, testifies eloquently to its priorities; as do the envisaged fines of up to $10 million for failing to keep the lights on but up to $100 million for failing to reduce emissions.
Instead, however, of being hailed as the long overdue and rare voices of reason, Coalition MPs questioning the NEG are shunned and vilified. Indeed, the energy policy won’t even be taken to the joint party room until it’s been approved by the Council of Australian Governments; in other words, been ticked off by the state Labor premiers.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg attack Labor for its 50 per cent Renewable Energy Target by 2030 and for its 45 per cent emissions reduction commitment; but say that it’s necessary to secure a bi-partisan consensus to put the energy wars behind us. Business says it wants certainty, but the only certainty it will get from the NEG is a mechanism for reducing emissions that can (and will) be scaled up dramatically if Mr Shorten (or Mr Albanese) wins the next election.
The Turnbull government insists that the policy is technology neutral and that it’s not anti-coal. What rot. The same government that can toss a lazy $12 billion at the fanciful Snowy 2.0 pumped hydro scheme refuses to sanction putting even a dime of taxpayer money towards much cheaper and far more reliable coal-fired power plants. Humbug, hypocrisy and duplicity all rolled into one.
The government insists that the cost of renewables and storage is coming down. Maybe, but that is irrelevant. Renewables can never provide base-load power. Worse, such misleading assertions merely boost Labor’s claim to be offering superior energy policies thanks to its higher targets. And the polls show the public now believes this to be the case. Talk about an own goal.
When AGL announced that its Liddell power station would close by 2022, the PM tried to jaw-bone them into keeping it open. Having failed, the government is now talking up gas.
Clearly, in order to get Labor and the Greens to vote for the NEG, Team Turnbull are playing a disingenuous and dangerous game. On the one hand they claim coal is part of our future mix, but on the other ensure that it has no viable future. This duplicitous hoax has repeatedly been exposed in comments by Kerry Schott, a key Turnbull acolyte heading up the Australian Energy Market Operator, and Deb ‘A Future Without Coal’ Frecklington, leader of the Queensland LNP.
The most dangerous aspect of this NEG fraud is that it requires the Paris Accord on climate change, with its plethora of emissions targets on everything from farting cows to tradies’ utes, to finally be legislated.
Thanks to an ideology-driven and vainglorious PM, his spineless and cowardly colleagues, a jaded and exhausted business community and a gloating cohort of socialist bureaucrats and lefty politicians, the Paris Accord will soon go from being a non-binding aspiration to something that is enforceable by law. Economic suicide beckons.