Australia’s new chief scientist, Dr Alan Finkel, envisions a world where all energy comes from renewable sources – but not in the immediate future.
And the Australian National University’s Professor Warwick Mckibbin agrees, adding that a rush to renewables would “destroy the economy”.
In his first interview since taking on Australia’s top science job, Dr Finkel painted a vision of a renewable energy world – one which he said was in the future, and might include nuclear energy. In the meantime, fossil fuels, including gas were essential – and natural gas had a role which had been proved safe.
Dr Finkel went further, specifically on use of hydraulic fracturing. He told ABC Lateline (27 October) that there was plenty of evidence that ‘fracking’ was safe.
“It’s being used widely already in the coal seam gas fields, particularly in Queensland (and) It’s being used widely across America,” he said.
The evidence is not there that it’s dangerous. In fact, the evidence is that, if properly regulated, it’s completely safe.
Dr Finkel’s future vision pleased some anti-fossil fuel activists, but they were not interested in his qualification about the near future.
Greens policy has Australia shifting to the Finkel vision of 100% renewable energy by 2030. Labor policy sets a target of 50% renewable energy by 2030.
When asked about the practicality of a quick transition to full renewables, Professor McKibbin told the Daily Telegraph (30 October) that it would be “impossible”.
Prof McKibbin, who is the head of the Centre for Applied Macroeconomic Analysis at Australian National University’s Crawford School of Public Policy, said phasing out fossil fuels over a long period may be possible, but to do so in a short time frame would “destroy” the economy.
If it was in 200 years, then it may be (possible for) free because of major technical changes over the next two centuries.
But it would be “impossible” to phase out fossil fuels over the next 50 years without destroying the economy, he said.