Things we learned this week about Abbott's wind turbine syndrome | RenewEconomy

Things we learned this week about Abbott’s wind turbine syndrome

Abbott is not listening to the Pope, or scientists, about climate science or wind farms. But he is listening to IPA and other long term anti-wind activists. IPA even gives a “how to” guide for Catholics to ignore Pope Francis. Meanwhile, Hunt says it’s all about pushing big solar.

Hang on, that's not a coal mine.

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 scientistsbusiness leaderseconomistsinvestorsdoctorstrade unionsyouth 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.

What’s the future of the RET?

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.

Hang on, that's not a coal mine.
Hang on, that’s not a coal mine.

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 –

Posted by SolarQuotes on Monday, June 15, 2015


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  1. Rob G 5 years ago

    Abbott has backed himself into a corner that he cannot now get out from. And as the days wear on, this position is looking more and more ridiculous. Even if Abbott had a sudden change of heart (maybe from the Pope’s words) he wouldn’t be believed. Such is his creditability. So where to then for the LNP party? The majority of these guys do not accept climate change science so are ultimately not able to deal with the problem we now face. This election coming will be all about climate change where the current government has no worthwhile credentials. They will walz into their campaign trying to frighten voters with Labor’s new Carbon tax, blissfully unaware that Australians have moved on and now want action. We love our renewables and these guys are stopping us from having this transformation.

    • lin 5 years ago

      What you say should be true. But I do not trust the powers that be not to run some sort of false flag operation to frighten the punters into backing a government that is “strong on national security” (i.e. implementers of draconian totalitarian/police state legislation to stamp out any dissent). If something bad happens, Abbott could call an election to take advantage of the crisis, or perhaps do what many dictators have done and assume total control under some variant of marshal law.

      • Barri Mundee 5 years ago

        I agree and that is why we should do want we can to convince friends and associates to vote this regime out office at the earliest opportunity.

  2. BsrKr11 5 years ago

    arrrrgggggggggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhh!! the pain!!! someone please put me out of my misery!!!

    • disqus_3PLIicDhUu 5 years ago

      A panacea from George Carlin-

      • BsrKr11 5 years ago

        I agree I’m not worried about the planet. ..but with leadership like Abbott I’m worried about us. …thanks for the panacea

      • Pedro 5 years ago

        Watched the George Carlin clip. I find his stand up comedy routine disturbing as his perspective has many elements of truth behind it. However it is a dark and warped perspective and does little to improve the environment we live in. It also gives a self centered and careless audience a wrong headed excuse to do nothing and carry on with their comfortable yet destructive lifestyle. We need to be mindful that the damage we do to the environment has far greater consequences for those people and creatures least able to avoid it.

        • disqus_3PLIicDhUu 5 years ago

          Yes he was kind of a forecaster of doom.
          Still it gives a different perspective, someone else had.
          In a way I found it refreshing, then later back to thinking about saving the planet against the odds, people like Abbott, in positions of authority.

    • lin 5 years ago

      Yep. Just when you think we have hit “peak stupid”, Abbott opens his mouth again, and we have a new definition of peak.

  3. Nick Potter 5 years ago

    Father James says “climate change is a scientific debate”. Well maybe, if it was 1990. Surely now it is no longer a debate, but a scientific fact. Effectiveness of antibiotics, or vaccines, or a heliocentric solar system were once debates. But they’re not anymore!

    • Calamity_Jean 5 years ago

      The Pope should call Father James to the Vatican and put him to work counting the stones in the foundations.

  4. Nick Potter 5 years ago

    And another thing. Help me out here, as just a Renew Energy reader, but it seems to me the South Australian experience proves wind and solar have to go together, because they so often complement each other. Therefore promoting one at the expense of the other would be foolish.

    • Alan S 5 years ago

      You’re correct. Here in SA we have a mix of renewable sources, mainly large wind and rooftop solar. We need to continue promoting both – plus geothermal and concentrated solar thermal with storage when they’re ready.

  5. johnnewton 5 years ago

    All readers must share this solarquotes video. It’s direct evidence of either his stupidity or his indebtedness to his masters.

  6. Errol Harwood 5 years ago

    Unfortunately Tony Abbott’s position is to wedge the Labor Party on every even when the is bipartisan position by both of the major parties. He has shown that he does not have the interest of the country in mind. His primary mantra is to attack the Labor Party and maintain the Liberal Party in Power. As far as good government is involved that is of secondary concern
    I don’t think that we have had such a dysfunctional government in my 68 years of life. Not even Gillard was this bad. It needs to be remembered that despite having a hung parliament the Gillard government was able to have a record amount of legislation passed.

  7. James Prest 5 years ago

    Comments on the Majority’s Interim Recommendations of the Senate Select Committee on Wind Turbines released yesterday: (1) the recommendations are inconsistent with the legislative objectives of the Renewable Energy Act s.3(a) “to encourage the additional generation of electricity from renewable sources”; (2) To enact Federal provisions which attempt to supervise noise limits and State noise pollution laws administered by State EPAs would be to
    create federal laws that overlap directly with State laws on the same subject; (3) would go against the principles of the National Review of Environmental
    Regulation, and the Agreed Statement made by all Australian Govts in 2014; (4) Recommendations for a Wind Farm Ombudsman duplicate existing Ombusdman offices at State level (5) It is not clear why the Majority Senators are so keen to chase the very uncertain and only alleged, but not proven ‘health impacts’ of wind energy when there are definite health impacts elsewhere in the electricity generation industry. Singling out the wind energy industry for extra federal regulation is inconsistent in that it involves turning a blind eye to the known health effects of pollution emissions from coal fired generation, eg. 370kg of mercury emitted by AGL’s Victorian Loy Yang Power station in 2013-2014. (Source: National Pollutant Inventory)

  8. JIm 5 years ago

    ‘wind turbines symbolise green politics’ is a neat summation of what appears to be driving wrecking of rational policies by Coalition and key crossbenchers. It is logical that solar falls in the same category, and it is only the fact that there is a growing number of solar businesses and homes that prevents the same treatment from being dished out. Interestingly, there are urban developments that are looking to incorporate more ambitious renewable energy options. Is that green politics?

  9. Alan S 5 years ago

    Abbott’s really in a corner. He needs to fall off his bike, bang his head and wake up a changed man. It worked for Saul.

  10. JohnRD 5 years ago

    Sir Tony Quixote charging around tilting at windmills. What can you say?

  11. phred01 5 years ago

    The important issue lies with massive lib donors . Donors beat the loudest`drum

  12. disqus_3PLIicDhUu 5 years ago

    Father James Grant, described as an “adjunct fellow” of the IPA, said the Pope’s encyclical was not Catholic doctrine, but a “personal position”.

    Hiw sycophants obfuscate and change like the wind to protect their capatalist bosses.
    Shows just how an individual psychology rules over individual religious perspective.

  13. disqus_3PLIicDhUu 5 years ago

    Father James Grant a traditionalist and spokesperson for the IPA.
    Who’d of thunk such a sock puppet, would be asked to make such a statement.
    He’s only a ‘father’ too, must have a high and almighty opinion of himself, to want to overule the Pope.

  14. windtech2000 5 years ago


    • Bob_Wallace 5 years ago

      Holy crap Batman!

      The Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy are real? Must be. We’re moving along quite nicely in the US, replacing fossil fuels with renewables.

      Those lines are going to move farther apart at greater speed over the next couple of years.

      (Climate Scientist James Hansen isn’t an expert on issues outside of climate science. Apparently no one has told him how long it takes to build nuclear reactors and how expensive they are.)

  15. ben 5 years ago

    Nothing will happen until the LNP leave office, so hopefully the later part of 2016

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