Activist politics show through in renewable energy debate

February 17th, 2017

Anti-fossil fuel activists like to pretend they are not political; that their activity is purely for the good of the world.

How then do they explain this kind of thing:

“Have nothing left but rage at this point.  F*ck you to hell you spineless muppets Labor.”

That is how a supporter of Greens Senator Scott Ludlum used her Twitter account to respond to reports the West Australian Labor Party was backing away from its commitment to achieving 50% renewable energy by 2030.

And this was no distant extremist; it was the sister of one of Senator Ludlum’s political staff – a person who is a “trainer” at the activist group CounterAct.

The Greens and Labor have exchanged preferences at most recent State and Federal  elections.

Despite this mutually supportive link, other Greens activists were venting their fury at Labor this week.  For example:

– Beyond Green (on Facebook):  “The ALP are a tragic joke who should be replaced or made redundant ASAP.”

– RenewEconomy (on Twitter):   “Labor make huge backflip on #renewables in effort to hide Bill Shorten’s hopeless attempts to defend the policy”

In reply to RenewEconomy, Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson tweeted:  “This is hopeless indeed. Vote Green.”

The political reality is that the Greens will direct preferences in whatever way best suits their political goals, in WA and elsewhere.

The aggressive renewable energy targets adopted by State Governments and Oppositions in WA, SA, Queensland and Victoria have been at the forefront of national politics this week as the SA Government tries to find a way out of the blackout hole it finds itself in having heavily subsidised deployment of 40% renewable energy.

As the Prime Minister, Mr Turnbull, has said many times recently, SA has the highest percentage of renewable energy, the highest electricity prices and the least reliable power supply.

SA Senator Simon Birmingham told parliament the unprecedented state-wide blackout last September had cost SA businesses $367 million.

It had a profound effect on big and small businesses as well as leaving hundreds of thousands homes without power, Senator Birmingham said.

 “It particularly affected significant industrial operators, like BHP’s Olympic Dam, Arrium at Whyalla and Nyrstar at Point Pirie. It affected manufacturers, like Michell Wool, who identified a $300,000 rise in the contract price of electricity—and, as they said last week, ‘We’ve shut down two or three times; it was cheaper than paying the power bill’. It affected small businesses, like franchisees of a Royal Copenhagen business at Henley Square, who said, ‘We’re losing ice-cream hand over fist as soon as the power goes off”.

Queensland Liberal National Senator Matt Canavan highlighted the illogical bans on natural gas development in place in Victoria, which he said was in danger of the same power price and unreliability problems facing SA, because of the plans to close coal-fired power and fast-track renewables.

“The shortage of gas hitting southern Australia is crippling manufacturing industries and costing jobs. The Victorian ban …means more jobs will be lost.”

Victoria and NSW have enjoyed decades of cheap gas from Bass Strait.  But supply is thinning and the cost is rising.

“That makes it all the more perplexing Victoria’s Parliament has voted stop all oil and gas exploration onshore, and, as a state turn its back on its proud manufacturing history.

“In theory, the Victorian Government would claim about 10 per cent of the well head revenues from any conventional gas development, and varying royalties from coal seam gas too.  By banning its development, however, they will get zero.

“Given that the Government has turned its back on this revenue, why not let landowners themselves decide if they would like to earn royalties in exchange for the gas development occurring on their lands?

“In the Otway and Gippsland basins, conventional onshore gas reserves are off limits while some Victorian businesses are facing a doubling of gas costs this year.

“Businesses are rightly nervous that, if rising energy costs continue unfettered, those that can’t absorb or pass on the financial burden will be forced to close their doors.

“It is vital we remove the moratorium and install a regulatory regime to manage the risks of individual gas supply projects on a case-by-case basis. Proven and reliable technologies that do not involve fracking are available and at the very least should be investigated.”

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