Coalition releases new energy plan: Burn, baby, burn! | RenewEconomy

Coalition releases new energy plan: Burn, baby, burn!

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Coalition strips renewable infrastructure funding and takes aim at wind industry with promises of more research into health issues and real time monitoring of wind turbines. Meanwhile, it aims to encourage more oil and gas exploration, an investigation into thorium power, and promises to return coal fired power stations to profitability.

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(see also: Coalition slashes ARENA funding to pay for million solar roofs program).

The Federal Coalition has unveiled its new energy and resources document, promising to focus on restoring coal-fired power stations to profitability, boost exploration for oil and gas, and to produce another “white paper” on energy.

Other proposals in the document prepared by Opposition energy spokesman Ian Macfarlane include an investigation into the use of thorium as a potential energy source of the future, and support mechanisms for the use of LNG as a transport fuel.

“Australians have a choice between a Coalition government that will give industry policy certainty and stability or a Labor government putting investment, jobs and economic growth at risk with erratic policies and taxation burdens on Australia’s most important industry. “

However, the only reference to the country’s $20 billion renewable industry is the repeat of a promise made last December to hold yet another investigation into the health impacts of wind farms, and confirmation of a previously leaked commitment to require “real time” monitoring of wind turbine noise – a move that wind energy groups say would involve “crippling” costs.

“Some members of public have serious concerns over the potential impacts of wind farms on the health of people living in their vicinity,” the document says.

“The lack of reliable and demonstrably independent evidence on the subject of wind farms both adds to those concerns and allows vested interests on either side of the debate to promulgate questionable information to support their respective cases.

“We will implement a program to establish real-time monitoring of wind farm noise emissions to be made publicly available on the internet.”

The renewables industry has previously said that real-time monitoring would impose unbearable costs on the wind industry, and would be almost useless because of the inability to separate other noise in real-time.

Despite the fact that there have been 19 separate studies into wind farm health, including one by the National Health and Medical Research Council, the Coalition said it would establish either an independent NHMRC research program or an independent expert panel   to examine and determine any actual or potential health effects of wind farms.

A previous study by the NHMRC in 2010 found that “there are no direct pathological effects from wind farms and that any potential impact on humans can be minimised by following existing planning guidelines.” A Senate inquiry into wind farm health fell largely along party lines, although it said it was unable to establish a direct link between ill health and the noise generated by wind farms.

The Coalition has said that the inquiry would be made in response to demands from anti-wind Senators John Madigan and Nick Xenophon, who may hold the balance of power in a new Senate.

“This panel will be modelled on the Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development,” it says.

The announcement came as  the Coalition released its costings, including an announcement that it will strip $185 million from the “connecting renewables” program, saying it would be “suspended until committed demand is identified.” That could be because it also plans to dilute the renewable energy target after yet another review next year.

A further $150 million has been redirected from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency to fund the million roofs program, while $40 is saved because the “geothermal and tidal towns” program is also axed..

The new energy white paper will address issues of “energy security” and transparency that the Coalition says had not been addressed in the previous document.

It would also investigate the role of alternative transport fuel sources, including but not limited to biofuels, LNG, CNG and LPG, and another white paper would look at how the government would support Australia’s “world leading” expertise in petroleum and mining services industries.

The document says the Coalition would look into formalising the sale of uranium to India, and would also examine the potential use of thorium as an energy source, noting that Australia possesses an estimated 18.7 per cent (489,000t) of the world’s identified resources.

“The primary source of thorium in Australia and globally is the mineral monazite. Thorium can be used as an alternative source of fuel for energy generation and possesses an energy content that can be utilised almost in its entirety,” it says. Thorium is often touted as a future energy source, although most experts say it is decades away from deployment.

Among other initiatives, the Coalition says it will provide $100 million in incentives to boost mineral and petroleum exploration, and would convene an “urgent meeting” of state governments, gas explorers and producers and gas consumers to set in place “a workable gas supply strategy for the East Coast gas market to the year 2020. “. This follows widespread warnings of a sharp jump in gas prices as the LNG terminal in Queensland begin exports, and of a potential gas shortage in some areas such as NSW.

The Coalition document noted that electricity generators across Australia have faced “huge losses” in value thanks to the carbon tax. It said these losses meant higher costs for consumers and taxpayers, although it didn’t explain how.

“The O’Farrell government has made it clear that its black coal-fired power stations will suffer a loss in value of at least $5 billion because of the carbon tax,” it said. “This is a cost that will be paid by New South Wales taxpayers already struggling with rising cost of living pressures.”

Leigh Ewbank from Friends of the Earth’s Yes 2 Renewables initiative says the anti-wind farm stance of some Coalition members is out of touch with mainstream views.

“All available public polling shows strong public support for wind farms,” says Ewbank. “The Coalition desperately needs to make a wind energy friendly policy announcement to reaffirm its commitment to Australia’s most affordable renewable energy source.”

Meanwhile, the Coalition also says it will cut foreign aid by $4.5 billion over the forward estimates. Much of this money will be spent on building roads such as Melbourne’s East West link ($1.5bn), Sydney’s WestConnex ($1.5bn) and the Brisbane Gateway Motorway upgrade ($1bn).

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  1. Coaltopia 7 years ago

    Environmental vandals.

  2. Gongite 7 years ago

    Utter utter insanity from the COALition. This is going to provoke mass protests by concerned citizens. Popular support for wind and solar is high, and concern about CSG is already widespread.

  3. Phil of Brisbane 7 years ago

    I don’t believe in time travel, but it appears that the Coal-ition are planning to take us all back to 1950! Just disgusting!!! Vote Greens and keep these deniosaurs on their leash.

  4. suthnsun 7 years ago

    If elected the LNP looks like being a government with the specific intention of wasting taxpayer’s resources on a scale which may well beggar us – fossil fuel exploration for a fuel which cannot be burned, reviving coal generation at enormous cost for a very short term future, white elephant infrastructure development, repeat studies designed to cruel the pitch for wind (why bother), dismantling the future with deceptive ‘savings’ (they are calling withdrawing loan assets ‘savings’ aren’t they?)

  5. Keith 7 years ago

    The only consolation is that coal is already a stranded asset. So to get investment in coal the Govt is going to have to get involved in investment and guaranteeing against losses. I don’t think they are going to be able to make this happen. The rest of the world is resolutely facing the other way.
    The international market for our coal is disappearing and the risks for us to expand our own carbon emissions are severe.
    The interesting thing will be how Tony Abbott is going to extract himself from the hole he’s dug himself.

  6. Ketan Joshi 7 years ago

    “The Coalition will establish either an independent National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) research program or an Independent Expert Panel to examine and determine any actual or potential health effects of wind farms.”

    ‘Actual or potential’? Doesn’t seem like it’s written by a medical expert.

  7. John P 7 years ago

    The last time Mr Macpharlane was resources minister, we heard much the same sort of claptrap. As to thorium as a fuel source, there is some merit in using the thorium fuel cycle but it would be a very long time coming and it would be yet another centralised and very costly energy source.
    Those days are over. The future is in distributed low cost renewables.
    As I said elsewhere, as sure as you install a Liberal administration, you can be sure you will get the very best insights from the 1950s.

  8. Blair Donaldson 7 years ago

    Seems that there needs to be serious pressure applied to superannuation funds and shareholder groups to divest themselves from polluting fossil fuel sources – the only thing the LNP sent to understand is money and what’s in it for them. They have to learn that they’ll lose (eventually) if they keep looking to the past.

    • wideEyedPupil 7 years ago

      That pressure is happening. Contact your local group to get involved. Put pressure on your bank, super fund, religious organisation, retailers.

      • Blair Donaldson 7 years ago

        That’s good news. I did hear of one major religious group (Uniting Church maybe?) that had voted to divest itself of assets in companies dealing with fossil fuels – I think it was a month or so back. Hopefully it’s the start of more to come 🙂

  9. Rob Campbell 7 years ago

    Forward To The Past!
    I amongst many voters in Australia will vote Labor out on Saturday (I am in China so have already voted), this is not because we expect life to get better anytime soon under the Libs, but Australians only want to visit Greece, not become it. Abbott has to find a lot of money, and fast to stop Australia’s debt spiral. It has always been the case over the last 20 or so use that the first things to go are the “warm and fuzzy” ones. But there is much more to the story than just savings at the expense of climate change initiatives. Australia needs to more of what it does best, export coal and iron ore (and even uranium). Not because it is not fearful of being called hypocritical, but because if we don’t ramp up now our markets may disappear. China has a massive I merging economy and has indicated a need to clean up its environment, this will be at the expense of coal. China faces the spectre of a first generation of of 50 plus population with universal respiratory disease, with generations two or three to follow. This will debilitate China both socially and economically, a point not lost on the central government. A 65% reduction in coal burning is on the cards, the last 35% will be supplied from north China.
    I attended the AGM of the Clean Energy Council last year, I was a real minnow amongst the big hitters in attendance, I left confused, because David Green lead the procession with what we all enjoy, warm and fuzzy, Grant King managed to paint a big picture, probably pre-empting what is on the Liberal agenda. What was more confusing was what followed from Ian Macfarlane, he admitted colluding with Greg Combet on the accelerated reduction in the STC multiplayer, Ian Macfarlane is very much across the whole renewables subject and made a convincing argument for “preserving the integrity of the RET”, I sincerely hope he retains his own integrity and leaves the RET where it is.

  10. Rob Campbell 7 years ago

    Bloody auto correct. iPad won’t let me edit

  11. Thylacine 7 years ago

    If things play out as expected with the financial markets realising the risks inherent in investing in fossil fuels are simply not worth taking and the Liberals Direct Action Plan found totally wanting, it will be the Liberal party who become the stranded asset.

  12. wideEyedPupil 7 years ago

    The National Party will actually be facing the heat on CSG expansion for their ‘supposed’ core constituency people who directly depend on the land for their income. (I guess that’s ultimately all of us but I’m talking rural land holders and workers).

  13. Chris Fraser 7 years ago

    Hearing about thorium makes me think of “tell’em they’re dreamin … !” Has anyone got thorium up and running yet ? No ? Not yet ? Keep us informed and take out some IP on it – sounds like some Lomborgish thing for the R&D basketcases.

    And why are the hand wringing pollies complaining about write-downs for coal power ? Helloooo. You’d think they’d be glad to write them down. A carbon price, if it’s high enough, is actually an economic stimulant (just not of coal-fired power). And to think most of them are trained economists.

    • Ken Fabian 7 years ago

      Thorium, for the LNP, is diversion. Any mention of nuclear is diversion. It’s a bit like Carbon Capture and Storage, buying another 5 or 10 or 20 years of making noises without expectation of actual emissions reductions. With luck on their side and the support of an amoral mainstream media they can generate a whole mess of renewables vs nuclear arguments whilst their lack of commitment to reducing emissions at all, by any means, slips under the radar unimpeded.

      • wideEyedPupil 7 years ago

        Thorium/nukes in general also appeals to those of a mindset that resources are limited and can be capture by some and distributed to others, thereby creating a power differential which can be capitalised on by the establishment. People talk about Thorium reactors as 4th gen but fact is the US and USSR investigated Thorium reactors for decades and gave up. Pipe dreams for people who can’t get there heads around distributed affordable energy using simple technologies.

  14. Ken Fabian 7 years ago

    What Abbott is delivering is absolute and unwavering support for commercial fossil fuel interests – with climate change not even treated as having any direct relevance to energy policy. Even an “unconvinced” political leader can’t deliver such a clear cut disregard for repeated clear warnings by Australia’s and the world’s leading climate experts. It takes climate denial with conviction to deliver such hostile-to-emissions-reductions policies in the face of that expert advice. Yet Abbott and the LNP have stated they support the science on climate. If he disbelieves Australia’s scientists – without a shred of evidence of incompetence or malpractice – yet cannot bring himself to be honest about where he stands and where he is leading the LNP on this issue he is being dishonest with the Australian public.

    I think it is quite fair and appropriate to call Tony Abbott a Liar on Climate.

  15. Chris A 7 years ago

    So they want to waste more time looking into the supposed health effects of wind turbines… What about doing something about the already well-documented health effects of burning fossil fuels?

    The comforting, copious breasts of big business, onto which these idiots are firmly suckled, have blinded and deafened them to what’s happening in world around them.

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