Australia’s deputy prime minister has issued a rousing call to arms to Australia’s mining and resources industry, warning that if they lose the fight for new coal-fired power generation, they are opening the door for the rest of the industry to fall victim to the “fatuous economics” of renewable energy and green groups.
In a speech at the Minerals Week Seminar on Wednesday, Barnaby Joyce warned his audience against the sort of tax-exempt charities “whose job it is to completely destroy the economic base of Australia,” and a Labor Party that was fiendishly courting green votes; street by street, “wind chime by wind chime.”
Using a bizarre mix of metaphors and old fashioned fear mongering, the deputy PM painted a picture of a nation under attack from a sort of economy destroying “green peril” that would shut down coal power plants, kill coal exports and – of course – turn the lights out.
“Around about January, ladies and gentlemen, families are going to come back from holiday, mum and dad are going to go back to work, mum’s going to turn on the air conditioner, get the kids ready for school, school’s going to turn on the power, and if we don’t watch out, the lights are going to go out,” Joyce said.
“And this will be a salutary lesson on how economics really work. A salutary lesson against the fatuous economics that’s being peddled.
(“In the) Galilee Basin, we are in the fight of our lives trying to open up a mechanism that will create wealth for this nation. Total insanity!” he said.
“What’s one of our biggest exports, or our biggest export? Coal. And what are we making the argument against? That we should use coal. It’s absurd. …I just don’t get it.”
But Joyce might need his own quick refresher in economics, at least when it comes to coal – considering the increasingly loud and clear message from the market, that neither burning coal for power, nor exporting it to other countries to do the same, are economically sustainable future paths for Australia.
Indeed, this is one of the key reasons why the massive coal mine and port development proposed for north Queensland’s Galilee Basin has yet to get up.
Because – thanks to a rapidly dwindling global carbon budget, and increasingly cheap renewable energy alternatives – there quite probably isn’t a market for the huge amounts of thermal coal it will produce.
But if you don’t want to take our word for it – or that of countless energy market analysts and players – just ask Barnaby, who let this truism slip during his pitch for the endless export opportunities promised by the Indian market.
“By gosh (India is) going to want to buy some of those raw materials that are the fundamental underpinners of economic growth,” he said. “They probably won’t want to buy thermal coal, but they will want to buy metallurgical coal.”
Of course, Joyce doesn’t just want to export Australian coal. Like others in the Coalition, he also wants to keep burning it to generate electricity – despite climate change, and despite the growing range of cheap and actually clean alternatives – for as long as possible, and preferably using those “high efficiency, low emissions” coal fired plants his party still hopes to build.
“We should be fighting that fight – on behalf of everybody. Don’t just think, oh that’s the coal industry’s fight. That’s your fight,” he said.
“If they can win that argument that… basically, you don’t ever build another coal-fired power station even again, that just created a huge win against you. And you’re next. You’re next.
“And if you shut this industry down,” he continued, “you don’t have a job. Because they’re not going to give you another job, there are no other jobs.”
But if that all sounds pretty grim, never fear. Joyce has an idea on how to wake people up to the importance of coal-fired power…
“I’ll tell you what happens when people get caught in a lift, somewhere between floor 24 and 25, and they’re there for a few hours. At one stage or another, if they’re there long enough, someone wants to go to the bathroom.
“This becomes an absolute seminal point of where their attitude to how power is generated changes.This becomes a seminal point about their views on the coal industry, and therefore the mining industry.”
Meanwhile, Barnaby has headed back to the political trenches, where he will continue to fight the good fight against “green peril” and fatuous economics. And doesn’t he know something about the “green peril” having shovelled the dirt at the official openings of nearly $1 billion of wind and solar investment in his own electorate.
“Once I go to that chamber today, they’re going to start talking about renewable energy targets, and the whole thing starts collapsing around your ears,” he told the Seminar.
“…And the Labor Party will be banging on about me, predominantly, and 50 per cent renewable energy targets, and closing down Liddell…
“And that’s where you just, you think: what on earth is happening in this building? What on earth is going on? Where does it end? I know where it ends – it ends in disaster.”
Don’t say he didn’t warn you.