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Greg Hunt: The ‘extreme left is against electricity’

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Environment Minister Greg Hunt on Sunday became the latest in a conga line of federal government ministers – from the Prime Minister down – to make an appearance on the Ten Network’s The Bolt Report. And, like his predecessors, Hunt was keen to make an early offering suitable for the court of Australia’s most influential far right commentator:

“The extreme left …. is against electricity,” Hunt offered, to Bolt’s great pleasure, as he dived to the bottom of the barrel to drag out one of the favourite memes that can be found in the darkest recesses of blogs such as Bolt’s.

This holds that the “Left” wants to wear hair shirts, live in caves, and are anti capitalist. And, of course, they don’t want electricity. And, by the “extreme left”, Hunt means organisations such as GetUp, the Greens, environmental groups and anyone else who is against the development of the massive thermal coal mines in Queensland and elsewhere.

Actually, in the context of the Carmichael coal mine, which was the subject of the “discussion” between Bolt and Hunt, it is that most people – at least those beyond the coal lobby – simply think that there are smarter, cleaner and less damaging ways of doing business.

But Hunt wasn’t ready to stop there.

“At the end of the day, this is about providing electricity to up to 100 million people in India. Obviously, there’s an enormous benefit for Australian families and communities. But, in India, where 100 million people can be lifted out of poverty, where there can be electricity for hospitals and schools, of course the hard left, the extreme left, are silent about that, they effectively demonise the people that are bringing folk out of poverty, and I think it’s time that they have an honest conversation.”

Broken power pole

This line of attack, that anyone opposed to a coal mine must be opposed to electrification for rural poor, is borrowed straight from the hymn sheets of the major coal lobbies in Australia, and in the US.

“If you listen to the extreme left, the people who have always argued for electricity to reduce poverty, now, they’re against the electricity,” Hunt continued.

Except, that’s just not the case. When the new Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was elected to power recently, he vowed to bring electricity to the 300 million plus people in India who don’t have power by 2020.

And he promised to do this not with coal, but with solar. Why? Because it’s the only way he thinks it is possible. India is looking beyond the high costs of coal-fired generation and the old centralized model, and the massive investment in grid infrastructure that that entails, to new technologies that offer cheaper and simpler alternatives, such as solar and distributed generation.

As Tim Buckley, from the Institute of Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, explains, delivering coal power to the rural poor would require them to pay prices they simply couldn’t afford.

Adani, the developers of the Carmichael deposit, need a wholesale power price of around Rs5-6/kWh to break even in Australia before funding and then make money in the downstream Indian power generation. This is double the current wholesale power price in India of Rs3/kWh.

But Adani also needs to also make a return on his proposed $10 billion investment in Australia. To do that, it needs an energy adjusted thermal coal price of US$100/t fob (free on board). The current price is around $US70/tonne.

At a price of US$100/t Adani would need an electricity price of over Rs7/kWh back in India. But in India,  a solar plant to deliver power in can be built for Rs5.50/kWh today – with zero inflation or currency risk for the next 25 years.

Or Adani could build wind or hydro at Rs4.60/kWh or US$75/MWh. “Why would Adani bother with imported coal?” Buckley asks. “No nationalistic agenda is appeased by locking in imported inflation at such a high cost.”

And no Australian agenda is appeased by waving through approvals of such “carbon bombs”, with such massive implications for environmental wonders such as the Great Barrier Reef, and then seeking to justify them with such ridiculous attacks on those that oppose them. No agenda, that is, apart from that of the far right – led by Bolt – that this government is only too willing to appease.

 

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  • suthnsun

    An honest conversation?? Mr Hunt is bringing shame on our educational institutions. Mr Hunt is clearly not qualified for his job .

    • wideEyedPupil

      Just another Minister who sold his soul to the highest bidder.

  • Keith

    An appalling appearance by Greg Hunt, where he several times avoided answering what effect such a huge coal development would have on global emissions. Notwithstanding that Bolt described him as a “warmist”, Hunt’s behaviour at this interview made clear that if he wasn’t in the climate denier ranks previously, he certainly is now.

    Embarrassing for a senior figure in the Government make such a fool of himself. Does he think that such appearances will only be noted by the ratbag right…. and to label GetUp as “extreme left” isn’t a smart move when so many normal citizens support activities of this group… Has he forgotten that he needs to get elected?

    • Nonrev

      I agree Keith it was totally appalling. In Australia, all we look at is the fact that the Government has approved a giant coal mine, then it is compared with a political statement by Modi that all indians will have a light powered by solar by 2020. Bulldust!
      It is a known fact that Modi is in Adani’s pocket, and it suits Adani that Modi expresses a contrary view so that the dumb Australian Government is stampeded into approving a project that is not beneficial for Australia nor the world, either enviromentally or economically.
      I can just see it. Public servant rushes into Greg Hunt. “Minister. Minister, the PM of India is saying solar is the go. If we dont approve Adani’s coal mine we will miss out of all those jobs, and the Government will look really bad. What can we do?” Greg replies” Hang the greenies, we have to have economic growth – approve the mine – but make sure you distract them with the water problem.”
      So Keith, our government has shown how naive they really are.

      • Keith

        Hi Nonrev,
        I guess we have a different view of Modi, who has a track record with solar implementation. I think he is correct that the only way for rapid electrification is to do it locally. His goal is 300 mill who don’t have any supply now by 2019 … a truly ambitious goal. However, you must reset what you mean by electricity power. Modi means 2 solar lights, solar cooking and presumably mobile phone charging. So it is very basic, but nevertheless will transform the lives of 300 mill people.
        Coal is too expensive for these people and indeed is probably too expensive in India compared with wind and solar. The world is shifting. India and China will do it differently, but both are switching to renewables.
        The Abbott Govt is desperate to get as much coal as possible developed, but I very much doubt the terminals and mines will get financed as they ain’t going to have a long life even if they get built. Why invest billions in stranded assets?

        • wideEyedPupil

          And even the potential of “stranded asset” being stamped on a project is enough to make lenders and investors nervous, it’s almost a self-fulfilling prophesy!

    • michael

      If so many normal citizens support GetUp and the greens, do tell why they don’t have more seats in parliament? seems your ‘ratbag right’ was actually a majority of australian late last year, no?

      • Keith

        Hi Michael,

        A couple of things.

        i) Given that the Greens are constantly demonised by both of the main political parties, it is interesting that they are polling in double digits; that’s a lot of “normal” people who don’t like the nastiness of the main parties.

        ii) I don’t think most Liberal voters realised how awful Tony Abbott is. And remember he only won the leadership by 1 vote. When Chris Berg from the right wing IPA writes that the Abbott Govt has lost the plot you know that something has gone seriously wrong. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-08-05/berg-abbott-needs-to-hit-the-reset-button/5648206

        Hopefully there will be a return to decency and evidence based decision making soon.

      • Anansi

        GetUp is not a political party. No members standing for seats, so no seats to be won. The current Liberal government is in even more strife than Julia Gillard was. At least she was able to negotiate with a variety of different thinking members of parliament. Unlike anybody in this present government.

  • CoreyAnder

    The Indian poor who live in coastal areas and who rely on the monsoon might not be too pleased to suffer the effects of sea level rise and the disruption of the monsoon. A transition out of poverty via cheap, decentralised, renewable electricity that they control might be preferable to expensive, dirty, climate damaging, centralised electricity provided by corrupt Indian politicians and billionaires.

    Now that subject would be a conversation worth having.

    Mr Hunt – your vested interests are showing.

  • MrMauricio

    Hunt need sot be sacked if he has degenerated promoting that kid of trash.The “left” is all the people who want to generate their own electricity-free from the “right”‘s monopoly mates.India has a different view-that solar electricity can liberate their poor.The man is a weak excuse for a puppet of the fossil fuel industry and is going to have a lot to answer for as an “environment ” minister to future generations.

    • Chris Fraser

      Quite so, but its only Bolt he’s talking with – a rather convenient megaphone for the embattled right … and a pity they have to drop their IQ forty points to go on his program.

  • michael

    Doesn’t the EIA forecast that Indian coal consumption will increase between 2010 and 2040? Not a reliable source?

    • RobS

      In 2008 the EIA forecast the US would generate 2,103 gigawatthours from coal in 2012, the final actual generation from coal in 2012 was 1,514 GWh. An overestimate of 39%
      In 2010 the EIA forecast that by 2013 we would have 0.45 Gw of solar capacity on the grid, in december 2013 we reached 7.9 Gwh an underestimate of 93%

      In summary when it comes to forecasting future coal consumption trends and future renewable trends the EIA is incredibly reliable, at massively overestimating coal and massively underestimating renewables.

      • Faulco Pete

        Also, I recall that the IEA, like the DOE, was in denial about Peak Oil, until it became impossible to ignore and in spite of the military being not so blinkered in its observations and planning.

        • wideEyedPupil

          And IEA has finally said BAU with fossil fuels will lead to catastrophic climate change. They just need to get their connections together…

          • michael

            With the IEA not being reliable, can someone point me in the right direction to a reliable projection of coal demand in India? or for that matter other countries? I read elsewhere today that Japan is predicted to have increased coal consumption in 2020 due to new capacity coming online.
            If being wrong with predictions is enough to discredit an organisation or ‘think tank’ and the like, we surely don’t have a long list of agencies to rely on for forecasts!

      • michael

        you do realise there are ranges on forecasts? even the IPCC has uncertainty ranges on it’s predictions (to use something everyone here is familiar with), i’ve grabbed a couple just for example from the first edition “global mean sea level rise of about 6 cm per decade over the next century (with an uncertainty range of 3 – 10 cm per decade)”… so, an uncertainty of -50% and +66% was acceptable. now pick the time frame over which the prediction is being made and then it becomes debatable what is ‘acceptable’ uncertainty range

        In summary, if getting a forecast wrong by 39% discredits all future work, we’ve got no-one left that can have their predictions taken seriously!

        • RobS

          Statistical errors are random, if you look at their estimates and reality for the last 10 years EVERY year overestimates coal by 25-35% and every year underestimated solar by 80-95% and despite this happening every year for 10 years NO effort has been made to adjust their models. That’s not statistical uncertainty it’s organisational bias. That’s what discredits their opinion on the future of coal, a history of systematically incorrect predictions with a trend towards increasing divergence from reality.

          • michael

            I’d have to see what the numbers were for India compared with actual seeing as you diverged into US numbers. However reports indicated Indian coal consumption year on year increased 10+% in FY13…

  • johnnewton

    Tra la la Tra la la, the Libbies are unravelling… tick tick tick

  • Ronald Bruce Jones

    When you look at Greg Hunt, Joe Hockey, Christopher Pyne and Tony Abbott it makes you just shake your head in wonder! I hope the horse and buggy crowd haven’t got a lobby group, otherwise we we will be moving back to the good old days of hores’s and buggies if we are lucky! This government is just a self interest group that has no interest in the people thier supposed to represent.

  • Graeme Henchel

    Following Get Ups suggestion I recently changed power companies from Energy Australia to Powershop. As power shop suggested they would Energy Australia rang me this morning as it turns out. They asked me why I was moving. I had great delight in telling them it was because of their opposition the the RET. They did’t try to take the conversation any further.

    • RobS

      At some point they will get the message that the RET will cut a little bit of their lunch but screwing the 25% of Australian homeowners with renewables and the ~50% who are interested will cut a lot more.

    • Rob G

      Hi Graeme, and idea who the NSW equivalent of Powershop is?

      • Graeme Henchel

        Not sure Rob. there were some articles in renew economy about which power companies were not trying to scuttle the RET. I got the info about Powershop directly from Get Up. So it may be worth contacting them. I think they all claim they are Green but only some actually embrace the move away from FF.

      • Chris Fraser

        Try Momentum Energy within Ausgrid. This is mainly hydro with investments made in wind.

        • Rob G

          Cheers Chris, while they don’t offer a feed in payment in my area they still come out cheaper than Energy Australia by at least $100 a quarter. I’ll make the switch this week. Makes me wonder why all those against the carbon tax didn’t just sign up with these guys – they would have paid no carbon tax and saved more.

    • lin

      I did the same for Origin a couple of months back.

  • Vandemonian

    Just more propaganda being spewed forth by the dishonourable GHunt.

  • Bungarra

    So the $60 bill of bribes which were paid to (eventually Swiss accounts via various politicians) open up Indian coal resources which could have been used to improve rural poor electification via solar etc. That occurred after the failure of power supplies a few years ago where more coal was needed. ( Source – Indian newspapers at the time, I was there.)

    Seeing the level of bribes being paid in India for coal, I wonder if a good audit of the whole Indian coal project here is needed to find out if and where inproper inducements have been used to secure favorable decisions. Includes wining, dinning and bedding plus other inducements such as expense free trips, and even access to funds else where.

    I feel a possible Royal Commissions coming on re O/S companies and in-proper dealing with our Australian politicians and regulators plus un policed taxation avoidance. Mucking about with the Unions is just fiddle faddle, the big monies are there.

    If I seem a little harsh, observed the process of setting up an NGO and of its running in India and at the same time observed the conditions of the street people there.

  • Alen

    I wonder which one of the financial institutions will be brave enough to fund this, the targeted media campaigns that will follow as soon as this announcement is made will be interesting to see.

  • Chris Fraser

    I had it that Prime Minister Modhi was fighting energy poverty with solar ? Either Modhi and Greg’s coal mining are at cross-purposes or we have not understood them.

  • ac baird

    Every night I switch off everything and think leftish thoughts, relishing the fact that I am bringing electricity producers pain and irritating the long conga line of rightists to the near and far side of Andrew Blot. I just LOVE the dark night of the leftish soul. Oh de clap o’ mah han’s!

    • Farmer Dave

      Thank you, ac baird. I needed that laugh!

    • Anansi

      Thank you! I needed a laugh to ease this sense of horror I’m feeling on an almost daily basis with what stupidity comes from this government. Not many of them are employable in the real world….

      • Lorraine

        Just when I think the government has hit rock bottom on ‘Stupid’, someone gets a shovel out & digs harder & deeper!

  • eh-wot

    Oh dear. Mr Hunt really isn’t that smart, is he?

  • Mrinmoy Chattaraj

    Considering one half of India’s rural population still lacks access to modern electricity, renewable energy could unlock huge opportunities for millions of people who live in rural India, optimizing their productivity, improving their quality of life and eradicate poverty.

    In this context lighting up lives through ‘Dharnai Live’,( http://www.dharnailive.org/ ) is a project showcasing bottom-up approach to rural electrification through using solar micro-grid. The micro-grid is currently supplying , affordable and sustainable electricity to over 400 households in the village, 24 hours. It is first of its kind in India using state of the art technology.

    The objective of this initiative is to develop and demonstrate a financially and operationally sustainable
    operation and management model that involves a high level of community participation in
    all phases of project planning and execution, and the involvement of a third‐party operator

    It emphasizes the Greenpeace campaign of enabling energy access through decentralized renewable energy systems.The installation includes over 100 kilowatts of clean electricity to meet the domestic, commercial and agricultural demands in its first phase.

  • Mrinmoy Chattaraj

    The electricity demand for states in India has been growing rapidly in recent years. However, with continued low cost of recovery encountered by the state utilities that depend on centralised power supply model, where the cost of supplying power to rural areas is high and increases with distance from the grid, rural electrification is becoming far more difficult and uneconomical.

    Coal based electricity is going to become more and more expensive pertaining to issues with both domestic and imported coal. Besides, massive displacements of community required is not going to be easy or cheap and if forced will lead to strife.

    Building new evacuation infrastructure also would not be easy to set up. Meanwhile, cost of production has been going up considerably both due to the fact that the easy shallow coal is getting over and deeper mining is required plus the fact that operational costs are going up due to increase in labour, diesel etc.

    – What is required then is a demand-driven electrification that can be tailored to local needs and scaled as per local requirements. An electrification process is needed that has low gestation periods and provides local employment and enterprise opportunities.

    Given this, a decentralised way of electrification using environment-friendly, renewable, locally available resources seems to be the best solution to meet energy needs and to ensure long-term energy security for the state.

    However, this can only happen when a proper legal, policy and regulatory framework.

  • Les Johnston

    This is an important comment on the incredulous basic understanding of economics portrayed by Hunt from the COALition. The fanciful idea that leaving coal in the ground will assign millions to poverty is missing in logic. Profits (if there ever are any) will go to the shareholders and executives not the poor.

    • Michael Bourke

      I believe he is suggesting access to electricity will lift them from poverty not profit from mining or power generation.

  • Ian Joyner

    Hunt should go to India. There is a constant pall of smoke over it. Generating electicity from coal will make it worse. Whole villages are now powered by solar – clean and everlasting. Why is Hunt so against this.

    It is not that the ‘left’ whoever they are are against electricity – they are for solar and against coal.

  • Aaron Chang

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  • Faulco Pete

    While trekking in the remote Zanskar Ranges of far north India last year, I came across isolated villages with mud brick houses/huts having electric light for the first time, provided by PV solar; the panels were carried in over mountain passes by horse back. That is how they see the future.

  • Ken Fabian

    Australian greed is spun as global benevolence and at the very foundations Hunt’s and the Abbott government’s spin is rejection of the consequences and costs that mainstream climate science add to the cost vs benefits equation on the use of coal. It’s deception piled on deception, although whether it’s self deception – Hunt believing the science is wrong and thus proving himself incapable of meeting the challenges climate change presents through ignorance and incompetence – or Hunt is being knowingly deceptive is an open question. Ethically the latter looks worse but the broader consequences are equally bad. Doesn’t accept the seriousness of global warming or doesn’t care? Or both?

    But at no point has the Abbott government’s real position on climate – rejection of it’s reality or seriousness – ever been presented openly and frankly and honestly to the Australian public. Enough is leaked through in answers and omissions to the questions and comments of Andrew Bolts and Alan Jones’s to convince those on their ‘side’, who choose to reject the science, that Abbott’s team rejects it too, but with sufficient nonspecific vagueness that the formal LNP position of accepting the science on climate can be maintained.

    I think it’s being done this way because obstruction of action on climate is easier through the use of deception, and it’s a strategy that is being aided and abetted by a compliant and incompetent mainstream media.

  • Rob G

    Every time this tool, Hunt, opens his mouth the coalition lose another thousand votes. Since when has this government been interested in the welfare of people? Australian or Indian. Didn’t they cut overseas aid? And how stupid does he think we are? It’s about profits before people (and climate).

    Funny that when you are an extreme right wing how centre left appears extreme left. Hunt needs to take a look at himself – he is wandering further into the Abbot camp of environmental criminals.

  • LJ

    You can bet that the Indians will not buy expensive Australian coal if they can go renewables more cheaply. Modi has just been in Nepal, negotiating for a couple of new hydropower plants – good for India, good for the planet, hopefully good for Nepal too. You can also bet that Mr Hunt doesn’t lie awake at night, worrying about the fate of millions of poor rural people in developing countries without electricity. If he and the other members of the Government did, maybe they wouldn’t have slashed the International Development budget.

  • Zvyozdochka

    We’ve been looking at fossil gas numbers as well. They too are starting to look shakey while the investment has been beyond HUGE. The late 1990s and early 2000s fossil fuel infrastructure binge will be a disasterous period for waste of scarce capital.

  • John Silvester

    For someone to claim large centralized electricity generation and rural electrification grid will ever be a practical or cost effective solution to rural poverty in countries like India are either disingenuous or misinformed. The reason it won’t be done this way is the same reason it hasn’t been done over the last 30 years, cost. The cost of building and maintaining a rural grid of this type is massively greater than any revenue it is able to generate.

    If Queensland can’t operate a rural electricity grid without needing to pay subsidies of hundreds of millions of dollars a year supplying first world customers with associated high energy demand. A rural electricity grid to connect tens of millions of poor customers with small electricity needs would be so much more expensive to build and maintain. The rural poor are by definition poor. With minimal disposable income the arrival of electricity would most likely see each household running a few lights to replace kerosene lamps, a phone charger and maybe a small TV. No tens of kilowatt hours of electricity per customer per day to spread the cost of the grid.

    Distributed generation is the only way to supply a widely distributed customer base. Until recently that meant diesel generators which is much too expensive. Due to solars’ scalability and recent large cost reductions it is currently becoming the most cost effective means of meeting the rural poor’s minimal need for electricity now and still allow for expansion as required in the future.

  • Robert Stephen

    Such crap from the guy who did his Thesis on the benefits of solar and wind power.
    He should be jailed for fraud

    • Peter Campbell

      I thought the thesis was more specifically on the operation of an emissions trading scheme. From the interweb: “In 1990 Greg Hunt co-authored a university thesis entitled A Tax to Make the Polluter Pay. His conclusion:
      “Ultimately it is by harnessing the natural economic forces which drive society that the pollution tax offers us an opportunity to exert greater control over our environment.” “

  • Blair Donaldson

    Greg Hunt can no longer be taken seriously – if he ever was.

  • DogzOwn

    Wrong as well as stupid. Left out in the country, we don’t have gas. Investigating, SP Ausnet have news “In the last five years, AusNet Services has carried out works costing more than $580m in operating, maintaining and extending its natural gas network to 92,000 new homes and businesses” or more than $6000 per property. So LPG is a rip off, natural gas is platinum plating of network, so, sorry Greg it’s electricity we do want, PV for COP6 split system heat/cool, cooking, heat pump HWS the lot

  • CigarJoe

    What comrades Bolt and Hunt really mean is that we need to get that coal out ASAP and flog it before it becomes redundant in 10-20 years time. Billions of dollars buried in the ground now will be worthless in decades to come. It doesn’t matter that company profits are stashed in offshore tax havens and that we are left with a environmental nightmare the rest of us must pay to repair. Maybe its time to get that one way ticket to Mars to escape the madness down here.