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5 things we learned this week: Liberal Party goes missing

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A search and rescue mission has been launched for the Federal Liberal Party, which hasn’t been seen since September; LNP wants to build coal-fired generator in Queensland; short term-vested interests; MacGen sale price heralds demise of coal;  and all the cool new (clean) technologies.

Has anyone seen the Federal Liberal Party?

A search and rescue mission has been launched for the Federal Liberal Party, which has been unsighted since September federal election. Before then, the Liberal Party was everywhere – in shopping centres, TV campaigns, on the radio and in polling booths, extolling the virtues of a liberal agenda. But the last reported sighting was on the evening of September 7, the date of the poll victory, when several members were seen moving to the back of the auditorium as the celebrations came to an end, wearing fixed smiles and furrowed brows. They have not been seen since.

The Liberal Party was expected to take up office in Canberra, but instead a collective of hard-line Conservative ideologues, many brandishing membership cards of the Institute of Public Affairs, and funding from the rich 5%, arrived. In the eyes of some disaffected members, seemingly hell bent on establishing an underclass of long term unemployed manufacturing workers and public servants to mimic the competitive vertues of America.

Unions are being attacked, industries that have high union membership left to die, environmental programs have been ripped apart, scientific research has been denied funding, climate change policies are being pulled apart, green energy investment is being stopped, education curricula is being re-written, media instructed to shout “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie”, and refugees are being towed back from within Australian waters and sent back to Indonesia in bright yellow non-submersibles.

Members, families and friends are expressing deep concern and are calling for help from any member of the public who may have sighted the Federal Liberal Party in recent months. There have been several unconfirmed sightings of individual members, including one at a fruit cannery in Victoria and another on the ABC-TV program Lateline last week, but close examination found this person’s mojo had been replaced by a voice box controlled from the PM’s office.  If a Liberal Party member is found, it is advised to approach with caution, gently remove the News Ltd newspaper in its grasp, turn off Macquarie Radio, and on no account offer them Tea (Party).

LNP pushes for coal-fired generator in Townsville

The confusion within the ranks of the Coalition has been highlighted by LNP member for Herbert Ewen Jones, who wants a new coal-fired power station built near Townsville, and praises Australia for being “one of the best countries in the world when it comes to acting on climate change.”

Really? Jones apparently thinks that adding algae technology to coal-fired power stations can make them “zero emissions”. Even the algae folk don’t make this claim, saying the reduction is more like 40 per cent, and they suggest that the best opportunity to reduce emissions is not to built new polluting plant, but to add them to existing emitters (coal generators, factories) which would otherwise have to close under a big carbon price.

Jones’ speeches to parliament since his election in 2010 reveal an eccentric view on renewables. On one hand he dismisses wind and solar technology because “a huge amount of pollution goes into making the mirrors, the turbines and the fans, and transporting them,” he said in one speech. But he is also a fan of the now defunct Copperstring Network, which would have brought a bunch of wind, solar, hydro and geothermal projects into production in Queensland.

Jones laments the fact that state and federal government did not financially support the $1billion Copperstring project, and then he goes and attacks the very institution that could bring such projects into reality, the Clean Energy Finance Corp. Like senior government ministers reading from the same song-book, Jones describes the CEFC as a “$10 billion slush fund used to bribe the Greens over to the government side.”

As Jones said of the CEFC legislation: “(This) is about a select group of latte-drinking, Vespa-riding, black-skivvy-wearing people picking winners at our expense.” Quite so: Much better to have a select group beer/pinot drinking, ute/BMW driving, singlet/suit wearing people picking winners at our expense, and calling it Direct Action, or an Emissions Reduction Fund. The only difference being that with the CEFC, at least we’d get our money back.

AGL picks over the ashes of coal

On the subject of short-termism, it’s been an interesting week for fossil fuel investment. In fact, it could well have marked a turning point. As Citigroup, UBS, and “uber-funds manager” Jeremy Grantham predicted the imminent demise of fossil fuels and incumbent business models, and the dangers of new fossil fuel investment, AGL Energy’s clean energy warrior Michael Fraser ticked off a proposed $1.5 billion purchase of MacGen, the biggest coal-fired generation units in the country (4.6GW).

AGL Energy has raised eyebrows about the choice of investment, and what this means about its, and the country’s, commitment to renewables. But in the world of fossil fuels, better to pick over the debris than be a greenfields investors. AGL is simply being opportunistic, picking up big assets at a bargain price, and using it to shore up its own ability to control the market, and keep competition at bay. What the knock-down price of MacGen – and the coal assets that Origin Energy and EnergyAustralia bought previous – tell us is that coal-fired generation is nearly worthless and on its way out of the market.

When short-termism becomes a virtue …

The biggest issue for renewable energy in this country might have been the carbon price, but it is probably the fate of the renewable energy target. And my, isn’t there a lot of rubbish being said about that. In this piece today, we demolish an IPA number that has now become common currency in conservative circles. The other key issue is the energy white paper, which should set a long term view of energy policy, but almost certainly will do the opposite, because it will be influenced by the same incumbent interests.

As The Climate Institute says in its submission to the EWP, it risks embedding “chronic short-termism” when it needs to take a long-term view to promote efficient investment and minimise costs to investors and consumers. It ignores the climate change science and its implications for Australia, and should really be looking at developing a credible long-term decarbonisation strategy to avoid incoherent, unstable energy policy and maximise low emission energy opportunities. And it should consider the risks other countries’ emission reduction efforts pose to Australia’s energy exports.

… and new technologies will rule the day

Despite all this, new technologies continue to emerge and to be embraced. As we noted yesterday, there is a real interest in the utilities business to embrace electric vehicles. And there is new technology that can deliver solar-charged batteries to EV owners. Meanwhile, the world’s largest solar power tower came online today, just as the world’s largest solar power tower with storage began commissioning. China is going to add 14GW of solar PV – mostly on rooftops – the equivalent of the NSW and Queensland demand, and new developments at UNSW continue to flourish and new financing mechanisms are also emerging as the big banks enter the domestic solar market.

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  • Matthew Wright

    Always making excuses for AGL, who have always been fossil fuel warriors from the start. Orign and AGL – pea’s in the same pod, gas, petroleum and coal, peas in the same pod.

  • Albert Sjoberg

    Such a wonderfully lighthearted look at an extremely dark situation.
    I hope we are not caught in revelry while Rome burns.

  • Chris Fraser

    I’m getting some insider tips on where the important politicians are. Apparently two of them are going to stumble out of their private-use jet at Longreach tomorrow, tumble down the plane steps, put their hands on hips and say “Golly It’s So Dry !”. You can be sure that all this effort, this visit would never happen unless a BIG handout was ready to roll. Apparently this will be on the six o’clock news and we’ll be hanging on every word.