Does Turnbull Have an Energy Policy?

I referred yesterday to the publication in the AFR of my letter headlined “Emission Target should be Reviewed”. This raised the possibility that Australia might follow the three largest emitters (China, India and the US)  by dropping our target of a 26-28% reduction in emissions by 2030. Today I also had the following letter (abbreviated by Ed) published in The Australian viz

You say the Finkel blueprint has not been endorsed by either Malcolm Turnbull or Josh Frydenberg. The question they should answer is why they haven’t rejected a report rife with analytical errors, some explained by climate expert William Kininmonth, who Alan Finkel failed to consult. True, Finkel wasn’t actually asked by either minister to report with renewable usage of 42 per cent by 2030 (and to go higher later). But such a target, achieved via subsidies, would be tantamount to a tax on coal and progressively eliminate its usage.

Des Moore, South Yarra, Vic

Today I also made a presentation to a group in West Brighton pointing out what I should have added yesterday viz that taking account of the pledges made by the big three in Paris in 2015, an estimate by physicist Dr Tom Quirk suggests that total emissions could actually increase by about 20% between now and 2030 (the Paris Accord is publicly presented as a contribution to reducing emissions). The group to whom I spoke seemed surprised that Australia, which contributes only about 1.4% of total emissions,  would in these circumstances have such a big reductions target. I explained that this target was set under the Abbott government at a time when the sceptics about possible dangerous warming were not being heard in Canberra  but that this had changed as a result of the decision by US President Trump to withdraw from the Paris Accord.

In fact, the special Newspoll survey published in today’s Australian asked what the responses are to Trump Pulling Out of Paris Agreement (see Special Newspoll on Energy Policy). Those responses indicate that only 48% say we should maintain our Paris commitment (22% favour actually reducing it). Considering that there has been no official statement or discussion on the possible implications of Trump’s decision, it is remarkable that there should be such a small percentage which favours sticking to the 26-28% reduction in emissions. I suggested to my small audience that, while Trump’s behaviour has left many in doubt about his ability to implement his stated objectives, his announcement has made people think again about the credibility of the dangerous warming threat.

It is also significant that only 24% say we should meet targets to cut greenhouse emissions (60% give priority to keeping  energy prices down) and only 23% think that the target for renewable is a suitable one (but 38% say the target should be higher!).  There is an  internal contradiction here: a higher target for renewable doesn’t seem consistent with only 24% wanting to meet emissions targets and 60% wanting to keep prices down. The reason may be that people have been led to believe that an increased usage of renewable is the way to go. But as pointed out by Judith Sloan ( see Sloan on CET) “it doesn’t take too many brains to realise that a renewable mix of 42 per cent by 2030 is unworkable”. She also mentions that claims of favourable results from renewable by previous Environment Minister Hunt were proved wrong.

In my presentation at West Brighton I take the matter further and conclude that

  • There are fundamental faults in the statistical and scientific analyses used to justify the need for early comprehensive mitigatory action by governments;
  • Claims of a consensus on the IPCC science have no credibility and account is not taken of the long history of faulty analyses by scientists;
  • Examination of the temperature and CO2 concentrations data indicate that any green house effect on temperatures to 2100 is likely to be very much less than predicted by the IPCC and other warmists;
  • Analysis of the pledges made at Paris in 2015 suggest total carbon emissions could increase by over 20% between now and 2030. The three largest emitters (China, India and the US under Trump) don’t. aim for reductions ;
  • There is no satisfactory explanation of why temperatures did not increase to during two lengthy periods when fossil fuel emissions did so;
  • The increase from the late 1970s to the late 1990s mainly reflects natural causes;
  • New research adds to existing evidence that the measurement of temperature increases in the last 100 years or so has considerably overstated the supposed actual increase of 0.8C;
  • New research also suggests that the extent of carbon dioxide in atmospheric concentration is much smaller than previously thought;
  • There is no substantive evidence of threats from rising sea levels or melting of sea ice in the Arctic or Antarctic;
  • There is no evidence of any significant change in average rainfall or that droughts and other severe weather events are likely to occur more frequently;
  • Predictions of temperature increases based on modeling have consistently been shown to be well wide of what actually happened;
  • The best policy for governments, businesses and individuals is to adapt to changes in climate as they occur.

The full text of the presentation is attached (see Submission to Hawdon)

This evening Turnbull held a press conference announcing that new regulations to restrict gas exports will start from January 1, 2018. According to the Herald Sun (see Turnbull on gas Prices), Mr Turnbull said wholesale gas prices would come down in the immediate term, but “how they translate into retail prices or prices for industrial users is another thing”. The report also stated that the government is still weighing up other recommendations of Chief Scientist Alan Finkel’s review of the electricity sector, including a clean energy target; and the government also flagged possible taxpayer support for upgrading coal and gas-fired generators to secure affordable power for Australians. The report said “Mr Turnbull will ask the Australian Energy Market Operator to review which power stations might be liable to close soon and report on ways, including government support, to secure investment in them”. He said the move is consistent with recommendations from Chief Scientist Alan Finkel in his recent review of the electricity market. If necessary the government would step in beyond its existing commitment to Snowy Hydro 2.0, such as investing in clean coal technology. “We’d certainly consider that.”

In short, despite the plentiful advice that is available the Turnbull government doen’t have a clue about what to do about energy (climate) policy – but “everything is on the table”!

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