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a national energy policy? « Previous | |Next »
June 17, 2009

The sentiments in the cartoon are understandable. The horizon of politics in liberal democracy is short term not long term. For instance, how often do we hear Canberra discussing the energy implications of peak oil (resource depletion) and the trend toward higher prices for Australia?

There is a culture of institutionalised denial in both government and the energy industry on this, in spite of the discourse of shifting to a low carbon economy around the emissions trading scheme. Peak oil is still ritually dismissed as being only a “theory” and not as something happening now. The assumption is that there is enough oil for the long term. Canberra believes in fairy tales.

goodbyepolitics.jpg Leunig

If peak oil means that there is still enough oil for a few decades but not for everybody, then Australia needs to start to develop a national energy policy and to review it regularly. It has not done so. Why are we not surprised? Nor has it taken immediate steps for instituting national programs of research and development into liquid fuels to replace petroleum, and energy sources other than fossil fuels and nuclear energy. Nor has it instituted a national program of energy conservation.

Instead we have a business-as-usual scenario in which oil production continues to grown to meet increases in demand, and infrastructure funding is committed to expensive road expansion projects when the prospects for road transport are looking particularly bleak with the projected increase in fuel prices as oil demand and prices skyrockets.

When oil becomes ever more expensive that means our farming techniques will need to adjust to the increasing price of mineral fertilizers as well as the production and transportation costs of food. Does that mean a transition to smaller scale more organic agriculture?

From what I can make out Australia's de facto national energy policy is being written by the producers of fossil fuel, in and their strategy is to torpedo the vigorous search for alternatives.The commonwealth government goes along as their desire is to avoid having to take decisive measures or to confess to dramatic policy errors around energy.

In this energy policy renewable technologies are not a “normal” part of thinking when dealing with the future energy supply, nor are they accepted as the known sustainable solution to Australia's energy-supply problems.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 9:13 AM | | Comments (4)


Cuba is the only country that has faced such a crisis arising from the massive reduction of fossil fuels. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1990 Cuba's economy went into a tailspin. With imports of oil cut by more than half – and food by 80 percent – people were desperate.

Cuba had to then transition from a highly mechanized, industrial agricultural system to one using organic methods of farming and local, urban gardens.

As far as I can see, our national energy policy is exactly same one we've always had. We may as well have not bothered voting Howard out.

I read Tim Flannery's review of James Lovelock's latest book in the Monthly this morning, and think the most practical thing anyone can do is start a vegie garden. Or move to New Zealand.

They take their gardens very seriously in New Zealand.

If my understanding is right, New Zealanders (South Island ones anyway) carried on the backyard vegie garden/chook run more widely after WWII than Australians did.

If we were to face serious food shortages I wonder how much of that common or garden knowledge of how to grow your own food would matter. I can grow anything and raise chooks, but could I kill and prepare one if I had to? Probably not. Is gutting a chook the same as gutting a fish? Is it true that you have to boil them to get the feathers off?

These things seem pretty silly right now, but in the worst case scenarios of climate change and oil running out in our lifetimes, let alone a vile global depression, people who can do these things would be far more valuable than people who can get a decent wiki up and running.