The wind industry is not welcome in Australia under a Tony Abbott government. That much we know: The PM said so himself a week or two ago, admitting that the whole strategy since the election had been to reduce, or stop, the building of new wind turbines. Having created uncertainty about the policy environment, he hired a climate sceptic to conduct a review, and dragged out negotiations on a reduced target.
Now, the Abbott government is still throwing up roadblocks every which way it can. First it threatened not to drop the two-year review, then it inserted an “annual” check up by the Clean Energy Regulator, then it threw native wood waste into the equation, and now it has promised to appoint a “wind commissioner” and implement any recommendations that the current Senate wind inquiry may come up with.
The RET legislation is still not settled
But that might not be enough for the cross-bench Senators such as David Leyonjhelm and John Madigan, the anti-wind activists who are controlling the Senate inquiry. Leyonhjelm indicated he was still unhappy with the Abbott government’s offering – despite it successfully pre-empting almost word for word the preliminary findings of the wind inquiry that was released a day later. Leyonhjelm will seek more talks with Abbott over the weekend, suggesting that a deal on the RET is not yet done.
But why is Abbott negotiating with Leyonhjelm and the cross-benchers anyway? He has bipartisan agreement on a reduced RET target of 33,000GWh, and while Labor opposes native wood waste, they have made it clear they will not sacrifice the renewable legislation for the sake of a few eucalypts. It is clear that Abbott and Leyonhjelm are in furious agreement anyway, Leyonhjelm is simply giving him the opportunity to deliver on his hatred of wind farms. That interview with Alan Jones was no accident.
Who does Tony Abbott listen to?
Well, it’s certainly not the Pope. Pope Francis issued his long-awaited encyclical this week, acknowledging the “robust science” of climate change, and calling for the world to switch from fossil fuels to renewables. Prime Minister Tony Abbott is also a Catholic – and, like the Pope, a Jesuit – but he is not listening. And neither is his Cabinet, of whom nearly half are also Catholic.
But the Pope is not the only person Abbott and his team are ignoring. The Pope joins scientists, business leaders, economists, investors, doctors, trade unions, youth groups, and other moral and spiritual leaders around the world to call for a transition from dirty fossil fuels to a future powered by clean renewables, making the moral case for climate action as definitive and unassailable as the 97 per cent scientific consensus.
So who is Abbott listening to? How about The Institute of Public Affairs, miners, the Australian Business Council and other lobby groups, and the Murdoch media. It just so happens that the main advisors to Leyonhjelm and Madigan used to be with the Australian Environment Foundation, a spin-off from the IPA, Abbott’s favourite think-tank. The IPA’s former boss, Mike Nahan, boasts of the success of the AEF in holding back renewables. Nahan now runs energy policy in Western Australia. The fold in nicely with the views of Abbott’s main business advisors, who appear to be all climate change deniers.
Fortunately, the IPA – which rejects climate science and advocates against renewables – has even offered guidance as to how a Catholic such as Abbott might reasonably ignore the Pope. Someone called Father James Grant, described as an “adjunct fellow” of the IPA, said the Pope’s encyclical was not Catholic doctrine, but a “personal position”.
Father James went on: “While it is reasonable for the Pope to use his moral authority on issues such as the Trinity or the nature of God, it is altogether different if a Catholic disagrees with a Pope on his environmental views.
“Climate change is a scientific debate. It is entirely legitimate for people of faith to disagree on the science of climate change and what, if anything, should be done about it. Catholics can feel safe in being sceptical about the Pope’s opinions.” Phew.
Let’s say the RET does get passed next week. The RET has been hamstrung by uncertainty, and the Abbott government is intent on maintaining uncertainty for as long as it can. Hence the annual CER assessments, and the proposed wind commissioner. Investors must make a decision on this, and keep an eye on the broader political scene. If the RET legislation is not passed, the Senate does not sit again until August.
There is now growing speculation that an election may be called in September. This will take advantage of the fact that Labor leader Bill Shorten has achieved what many people would have said was impossible, and got a lower approval rating than Abbott. Three newspapers – the Guardian, Fairfax, and the Daily Telegraph – have called for Shorten to go. If Abbott wins the next poll, and gains a workable majority in the Senate, is it clear what he will do with renewables.
So what is it about wind turbines that so offends them?
Science and medical research has found no evidence of ill-effects, apart from people being bothered by the idea of them, tens of millions of people in Europe and the US seem not to be affected. The International Energy Agency, and most other energy experts, say wind energy is crucial in weaning the world off fossil fuels. But, like the Conservatives in England who have also just announced the ending of subsidies for onshore wind farms, wind turbines symbolise green politics, and the idea of having these monuments to green policy scattered around the country-side is too much to bear. Much better to dig more coal mines and drill coal seam gas wells.
So, what’s next? Solar?
Greg Hunt made clear in a radio interview on Friday that this is all about trying to push big solar. As we reported last week, the Coalition is asking the Clean Energy Finance Corp to help provide cheap finance for solar, with the single purpose of building less wind farms. “(The cut to the RET) will come – and this is particularly as a result of discussions with the Senate crossbenchers – with a major increase in focus on large scale solar that I think overwhelmingly people will welcome,” Hunt said.
But will Abbott? It’s not clear that he is a fan. This video below compares Tony Abbott’s views – borrowed directly from the Minerals Council of Australia and the coal lobby, like his coal is good for humanity meme – about solar power, and juxtaposes them with the views of Elon Musk.
Who do you think has it right – Tony or Elon? Vote here – http://www.solarquotes.com.au/blog/tony-abbott-vs-elon-musk/
Posted by SolarQuotes on Monday, June 15, 2015