In­con­ve­nient truth is we will pay for green power

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - WORLD -

WELL now we know.

The big­gest de­niers in the whole cli­mate change de­bate are those who think we can have af­ford­able power, lower emis­sions and a re­li­able net­work. We can’t.

And af­ter they al­most sleep­walked their way to de­feat at the last elec­tion, it would ap­pear Coali­tion MPs have found their voices again on the is­sue that has de­fined Aus­tralian po­lit­i­cal de­bate over the past 15 years or more.

There’s no doubt that any pol­icy that low­ers Aus­tralia’s CO2 emis­sions will in­crease the cost of power, and any move away from baseload ca­pac­ity will make our net­work more un­re­li­able.

For­get the movie, this is the real “in­con­ve­nient truth” that cli­mate change zealots have never wanted to ac­knowl­edge.

For too long, the views of the Zeit­geist have dom­i­nated de­bate and any­one dar­ing to ques­tion any as­pect of cli­mate change was branded a scep­tic. Sci­en­tific fact or not, any is­sue that’s gal­vanised the Left to the point of hys­te­ria makes me scep­ti­cal that it’s more about the pol­i­tics than any­thing else.

Aus­tralia con­trib­utes 1.4 per cent of global emis­sions. That’s right — four-fifths of bug­ger all. But for many years we have been told that we must lead the way in re­duc­ing global emis­sions or suf­fer a loss of in­ter­na­tional stand­ing for fail­ing to do our bit. I don’t buy this and never have. We’re just the mugs who take these things se­ri­ously when so many don’t.

Take Ky­oto for ex­am­ple: we didn’t even sign it yet we met the tar­gets.

How about the refugee is­sue? We’re one of only 27 coun­tries in the world that of­fers re­set­tle­ment to refugees while 140-odd coun­tries do not.

What’s that again about every­one do­ing their fair share?

We live in one of the most com­pet­i­tive eco­nomic re­gions in the world. We are also a coun­try rich in nat­u­ral re­sources which have de­liv­ered us a record-breaking 26 years of eco­nomic growth. We will never beat our neigh­bours when it comes to cheap labour but Aus­tralia’s abun­dant en­ergy has al­ways been our sav­ing grace.

We are the world’s sec­ond­largest ex­porter of ther­mal coal and will soon be the largest ex­porter of gas. We also have the world’s big­gest re­serves of ura­nium.

We should be an af­ford­able en­ergy su­per­power — and 15 years ago we were, be­cause the power sys­tem was run to min­imise price and max­imise re- li­a­bil­ity. Af­ford­able power made us highly com­pet­i­tive, de­liv­ered in­dus­try and jobs, and gave us all a high stan­dard of liv­ing.

Since then, green pol­i­tics has trumped sen­si­ble eco­nom­ics and the re­sult is sub­sidised wind farms and so­lar pan­els that make un­prof­itable the very coal and gas-fired power sta­tions that we need for baseload power.

It’s a pol­icy-in­duced mess and we’re all pay­ing the price, par­tic­u­larly our small to medium busi­nesses who are do­ing it tough. If you’re a well-off greenie with so­lar pan­els on the roof, a Prius in the garage and pub­lic trans­port out­side your door, you prob­a­bly don’t mind.

In high-in­come elec­torates, feel­ing good about sav­ing the planet might mat­ter more than keep­ing the cost of liv­ing down. For every­one else, we want to see a clean en­vi­ron­ment, good beaches and our bush pro­tected, but we don’t think killing off our in­dus­try just to ap­pease the UN gods and var­i­ous other Left­ies makes much sense — par­tic­u­larly when coun­tries like China and In­dia will mas­sively in­crease, not de­crease, their emis­sions in com­ing years.

Talk about shoot­ing our­selves in the foot. We’re eco­nom­i­cally shoot­ing our­selves in the head.

Right now, China’s emis­sions are 20 times those of Aus­tralia, and even if they meet their Paris Agree­ment com­mit­ments, by 2030 China’s emis­sions will be 50 to 60 times ours. We sell off in­dus­try and jobs in a mis­taken be­lief the world is act­ing with sim­i­lar in­tent, but it is clear they’re not — and won’t. Again, re­mem­ber my refugee ex­am­ple and you get what I mean.

So what about Finkel? It’s claimed that the chief sci­en­tist’s re­port to COAG aims to ad­dress the “trilemma” of achiev­ing lower prices, greater se­cu­rity and a 28 per cent re­duc­tion in emis­sions by 2030.

Wrong. The re­port is about meet­ing the emis­sions re­duc­tion as­pi­ra­tion (which it con­verts to a com­mit­ment) at the low­est cost with­out ma­jor in­ter­rup­tions to sup­ply. It’s not about af­ford­able, re­li­able power, it’s about cli­mate change.

As ev­ery house­hold knows, power prices are sky­rock­et­ing and more black­outs are loom­ing this sum­mer be­cause of gov­ern­ment pol­icy that man­dates the use of in­ter­mit­tent (and un­re­li­able) wind and so­lar power.

Cur­rently the “re­new­able en­ergy target” (RET) is 23 per cent, which means a dou­bling of wind gen­er­a­tion in the next four years. Yet the re­sponse of Finkel is to graft a “clean en- ergy target” onto the ex­ist­ing RET to achieve 42 per cent of our power sup­ply from re­new­able sources by 2030.

In other words, he’s propos­ing to solve the prob­lems caused by too much wind and so­lar power by hav­ing even more wind and so­lar power.

Re­ports out of Tues­day’s marathon party room dis­cus­sion sug­gest that the Prime Min­is­ter’s col­leagues are now in no mood to ac­cept yet an­other gi­ant step to­wards yet an­other La­bor Party po­si­tion.

Af­ter adopt­ing La­bor’s pol­icy on schools (Gon­ski 2.0) and La­bor’s po­si­tion on bud­get re­pair (more spend­ing funded by a bank tax), there’s grow­ing re­sis­tance to adopt­ing La­bor’s po­si­tion on cli­mate change (a 42 per cent re­new­able target ver­sus Bill Shorten’s 50 per cent one).

The Prime Min­is­ter has said that the al­ter­na­tive to Finkel is to do noth­ing and that noth­ing is not an op­tion. So far, though, the party room is un­con­vinced and is re­luc­tant to em­brace a La­bor-lite so­lu­tion to the power cri­sis that could just make it worse. They won’t ac- cept Finkel’s re­port as it is, with many fear­ing his mod­el­ling of lower power prices is about as de­pend­able as Trea­sury’s mod­el­ling for a re­turn to sur­plus.

Around the world, China, In­dia and Ja­pan are mas­sively in­vest­ing in next-gen­er­a­tion coal-fired power sta­tions be­cause they’re cleaner than any of the gen­er­a­tors we have here and coal is still by far the most cost-ef­fec­tive way to gen­er­ate re­li­able baseload power.

If other coun­tries can build high-ef­fi­ciency, low-emis­sion power sta­tions to run on Aus­tralian coal, why can’t we? If it’s right for them un­der in­ter­na­tional agree­ments, how can it be wrong for us? And if the banks won’t fund them be­cause they need “cer­tainty” then why doesn’t the gov­ern­ment get in­volved? Clearly there’s mar­ket fail­ure here, and a risk to Aus­tralia’s en­ergy se­cu­rity, as well as the ca­pac­ity of our in­dus­try to re­main com­pet­i­tive.

Wasn’t mar­ket fail­ure one of the rea­sons the gov­ern­ment is spend­ing $50 bil­lion-plus on the NBN? It’s no good hav­ing fast broad­band if you can’t turn it on.

Watch Peta on SKY NEWS The Bolt Re­port, Mon­day at 7pm Jones & Co, Tues­day at 8pm Paul Mur­ray LIVE, Wed­nes­day at 9pm

All Aus­tralians want a clean en­vi­ron­ment and good beaches but com­mon sense must pre­vail when it comes to gen­er­at­ing power. Pic­ture: Craig Green­hill

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