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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

The green touch when the lights go out « Previous | |Next »
August 17, 2003

I have just come across Drew Hutton's Greenblog. Drew rightly fingers the Beattie Government for its decision prior to the 2001 election to build the Paradise Dam on the Burnett River as pork-barreling. That dam is going ahead even though environmntal flow targets will not be met. Developmentalism rules. This time it is propping up a failing sugar industry.

As Jack Robertson notes:

"The truth is that neither mainstream party in Australia is truly serious about Green issues...Conservatives and neo-conservatives increasingly dismiss them outright, while Progressives usually still pay patronising lip service only, seeing such matters as just another opportunity to rope in a few extra bleeding heart votes by cynical, opportunistic default....I realise that the gap between the expressed ideals and the dirty daily realities of traditional political groupings has been rendered too wide by the entrenched habits of pragmatism. There is always a 'reason', an 'excuse' for the jettisoning of principle by our two mainstream political groupings, and the net result is two mainstream political groupings that operate according to no over-arching principle at all."

Jack argues that the Left and Right that so animates the OZ bloggosphere is a dead division as ther is only the fight for raw power with a little half-hearted window-dressing to disguise that fight.

What does Drew Hutton offer? He has given a recent speech to the trade union movement. In it he connects the Greens to the social democratic a political tradition in a critical way. Drew says:

"...many Greens would argue that traditional social democracy has difficulty incorporating environmental arguments into its perspective, is not oriented towards the rights of future generations and is often too concerned with saving capitalism from itself rather than transforming it."

Drew says that the Australian Greens work within the social democratic tradition because:

"..green politics asserts that the market, of itself, is inherently destructive and cannot deliver social justice or environmental outcomes and therefore, it is only through government regulation and intervention in economic planning that the public interest, rather than merely private profit, can be served."

He argues that a renovated social democratic strategy is still there pushing industry in the direction of innovation and sustainability will not come from the ALP.

To see this you have to look at the support the ALP has given to the establishment of a national electricty market with little to no commitment to sustainability. They bought the vision that the deregulation of the power industry would enable the discipline of free markets to generate just the right amount of electricity at the right price. Yet what we have experienced in South Australia are rolling blackouts and US owned NRG ripping money out of the state from a shortage of supply during demand peaks during the summer.

As Southerly Buster notes the recent blackouts across North America highlight the flaws of the deregulated market. Robert Kuttner says thare are three main flaws:

First, there is a fairly fixed demand for electricity and generating capacity is tight, so companies that produce it enjoy a good deal of power to manipulate prices.

Second, the idea of creating large national markets to buy and sell electricity makes little sense as it consumes power to transmit power across vast distances.

Third, under deregulation the state utilities no longer have an economic incentive to invest in keeping up transmission lines. Antiquated power lines are operating too close to their capacity. The more power that is shipped long distances in the new deregulated markets, the more power those lines must carry.

What we have in both North America and Australia is a is an ancient electric grid that's obsolete if not obscene.

"It is a massively fragile ... device that dangerously and inefficiently carts around electricity from expensive, polluting and extremely unsafe central generating plants to buildings that waste massive amounts of energy and generate none."

As Harvey Wasserman argues the whole electricity system demands a green deconstruction:

"Solar technologies are ready to make energy self-sufficiency a tangible reality. Photovoltaic cells on rooftops and embedded in windows can produce grid-free electricity, with battery or fuel-cell backups. Geothermal power can heat and cool with nothing but the power of the earth's crust. Methane digestion can turn waste into usable gas. Basement generators can use biomass fuels like ethanol and soy diesel for off-grid self-sufficiency."

It's a more decentralised approach. The aim of the green technologies is not to:

"... provide 100% of a building's energy, but can gradually make them increasingly self-sufficient. Meanwhile more efficient heating, lighting and cooling systems can reduce demand. Windows that actually open and close can balance usage, building by building."

Instead of this green public sense, we have the celebration of the swashbuckling, risk taking entrepreneur. This is oen who is willing to hazard everything, takes immeasurable risk and calls foreth an endless stream of invention and enterprise. This is the ethical subject of capitalism par exellence, and it takes us beyond the thrifty, utilitarian world of rational calculators.


| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 11:34 AM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (3)
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