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Reinventing the energy wheel « Previous | |Next »
June 16, 2004

A lighthearted moment:
Bill Leak

There has been a lot of hot air. The rhetoric of the Howard Energy white paper--Securing Australia's Energy Future--- is all about sustainability and solar-cities, but it is actually about paying the polluters (coal users) via various handouts to help the old energy industries clean up their mess by pumping it underground. The rhetoric is about the virtues of not subsiding an expensive solar energy. The reality is subsiding expensive technology needed by the coal industry and pandering to vested interests.

The cheerleaders were the coal industry and the aluminium industry. The found the energy white paper sane and sensible because it said that the future is to be based on the coal-based industries. Of course, the cheerleaders defending their patch forget to mention that coal is priced at the price for digging it out of the ground with the cost to cover greenhouse and other environmental costs borne by the public. That means higher electricity costs from fossil fuel generators.

This is a pathway backwards as it has little to do with securing Australi's energy future. Going backwards could have been avoided by introducing reasonable targets on renewable energy use, introducing emission trading certificates and other market-based policies to help reduce greenhouse gases. So Australia makes no real moves to shift away from its pollution-producing energy regime. Nothing was done to get more renewable energy into the national electricity market even though other countries are accelerating the uptake of renewable technologies.

When around 70 per cent of Australia's total greenhouse gas emissions still come from driving the industrial machine----burning coal, gas, petrol and diesel for our homes and businesses, and to fuel our cars---- it is no longer possible to talk about energy without talking about its environmental impact.

As Gavin Gilchrist writing in The Australian observes:

"....the overwhelming flaw in this statement is that it lacks the one element that without any doubt should have been the centrepiece of any national statement on energy and climate change: an aggressive national strategy to make Australia more energy efficient."

He goes on to say that:

"You only have to look around our cities at night to see how much energy we waste. And that's just the waste you can see. There are all sorts of reasons we don't build our factories, office buildings, shopping centres and houses so they are highly efficient in the way they consume energy. That must change. No advanced nation should be planning its energy and environmental future without an aggressive energy efficiency strategy. Australia is one of the few that's not."

Adelaide lags way behind in the energy efficiency stakes. Not even its houses are energy rated when you buy them.

If we reading the Energy statement politically, then it is clear that it seeks to undermine the green movement and the Labor Party. As Louise Dodson in the Sydney Morning Herald says:

"It is cleverly crafted and highly political, promising fuel tax cuts worth a whopping $1.5 billion to households, farmers, small and big business at a time when petrol prices are high. Just as one of Australia's most high-profile green activists, Peter Garrett, joins the Labor Party, the policy sets out to show voters that the green agenda for protecting the environment would be economic folly for Australia and would cost jobs."

The emphasis is on cleaner fuels not green energy.

17 June
Kenneth Davidson in The Age nails the diesel fuel aspect of the energy package. He says:

"The Howard Government is repeating its oldest trick: buying the rural vote on the never-never with a piece of pork wrapped in green paper....And the money for this exercise came, not from the proceeds of the sale of Telstra shares, but from savings on other environmentally related spending, notably the winding up of the National Energy Efficiency Program and the Energy Research and Development Corporation (whose activities were designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions), the withdrawal of Commonwealth involvement in urban and regional development, and a one-third cut in expenditure on the national estate and parks.... the excise cuts are pure pork. They have nothing to do with energy security or the environment...The green wrapping is the $500 million low-emission technology fund. It is theoretically open to renewable energies, but is in effect a gift to the big coal miners (BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Xstrata)."

What we have are static, short-term cost advantages that effectively undermines innovation and dynamism in the energy industry. Australia is effectively shutting itself out of an important growth industry based on natural advantage.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 7:52 PM | | Comments (3)


I think you'll find that it's Gavin, not Adam Gilchrist.

you are right.It was Gavin not Adam.

Adam has something to do with cricket doesn't he?

yes, he is the Australian wicketkeeper.