Don Quixote

Tony Abbott’s war on renewable energy kicks into high gear

We already know Tony Abbott does not care for consensus climate science or wind turbines.

Or the ABC, asylum seekers, our Human Rights Commissioner, marriage equality … and the list goes on, as our current Government arguably morphs into the most cantankerous Government of all times …

However, Tony Abbott’s personally held views, apparently unaffected by science, conscience or the most basic tenets humanity, on these subjects have now taken a dangerous turn for Australia’s future and are also likely to set us on a collision course with the international community.

We heard the Government’s repeated concerns about ‘intergenerational theft’ as they used and abused that concept time-and-time again to sell their flawed and socially questionable budgets, in the name of conservative economic rationalism.

I would argue that possibly the most serious case of intergenerational theft, with far-reaching consequences for Australia’s future, is being committed right now by Tony Abbott’s Coalition Government through their denial of climate change and consensus climate science, and the destruction of the renewable energy sector.

They have fought tooth and nail to reduce Australia’s renewable energy target from 41,000 gigawatt hours to 33,000, at a time when all respectable scientific minds agree the future is renewable energy.

Not as far as Tony Abbott concerned though, who still thinks ‘coal is good for humanity’:

Coal is good for humanity, coal is good for prosperity, coal is an essential part of our economic future, here in Australia, and right around the world.
Tony Abbott, on 13 October 2014, at the opening of Caval Ridge Coalmine in Central Queensland

Later Tony Abbott made it clear he sees coal at the foundation of global economic prosperity:

For the foreseeable future coal is the foundation of our prosperity. Coal is the foundation of the way we live because you can’t have a modern lifestyle without energy.

You can’t have a modern economy without energy and for now and for the foreseeable future, the foundation of Australia’s energy needs will be coal. The foundation of the world’s energy needs will be coal.

If we are serious about raising people’s living standards in less-developed countries, if we are serious about maintaining and improving living standards in countries like Australia we have to be serious about making the best use of coal.
Tony Abbott, on 4 November 2014

These type of views were recently demolished by Al Gore at the 2015 Cannes Lions Festival. It’s also worth noting that Japan, China, India and Europe, some of our largest coal markets, are all coming under increasing pressure or are already progressing plans to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels, including coal, for energy.

Nevertheless, in light of Tony Abbott’s private views, the Coalition Government’s crusade against renewable energy is not surprising. Although since those views are arguably not based on science, nor a reasonable foresight when it comes to the future of fossil fuels, one must wonder where his views come from …

In any event, Tony Abbott has now further escalated his war on renewable energy by:

It has been reported Treasurer Joe Hockey and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann​ have issued the CEFC with a new directive, changing its investment mandate by prohibiting the funding of new wind energy projects.

This direction to Australia’s ‘green bank’ is yet another blow for a multibillion-dollar industry, which has just started to recover from the uncertainty created by the Government’s review, and subsequent reduction, of renewable energy targets.

The direction reportedly also includes a prohibition on funding household and small-scale solar installations. This latter directive is also likely to have a huge effect on renewable energy production in Australia, given that a significant proportion of CEFC investments involved small-scale solar installations.

The actions of the Government indicate a fear of renewable energy becoming a present and viable alternative to fossil fuels, and appear to be driven by a fear of the decentralisation and socialisation of power production, whereby average citizens, in growing numbers, produce their own energy requirements through cleaner and renewable sources, which are constantly increasing in efficiency and usability through technological advances in both capture and storage.

Clearly the threat by renewable energy goes beyond fossil fuels and also snaps at the heals of the energy distribution monoliths, and is likely to have a significant transformative effect on the entire energy industry, from production to distribution, thus threatening multiple traditional multimillion-dollar profit centres.

Sadly the Government’s war on renewable energy comes at a time when:

  • Australia is one of the largest emitters per capita in the world and the 13th largest greenhouse gas emitter, ahead of 182 other countries; and
  • emissions from Australia’s coal resources alone, if developed, would consume two-thirds of the world’s remaining carbon budget: Halfway to Paris: How the World is Tracking on Climate Change, Climate Council (13 July 2015)

I predict future generations will pay a high price for the intergenerational debt they will be left with by Tony Abbott’s ignorance and shortsightedness on climate, and the future of energy.

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