Energy & Climate Policy AND Turnbull

Yesterday Environment Minister Frydenberg had a lead article published in The Australian in which he argued that “in order to create a more affordable and stable energy system, the states need to lift their game — business as usual is not an option” (see Frydenberg on States Energy Policies). I submitted a letter arguing that “the same comment might be made about the Commonwealth’s policy game”, but it was not published.

Today, Judith Sloan has an excellent critique published in The Australian (see Sloan On Frydenberg) and, keying off her article, I have submitted a slightly amended version of my earlier letter. This runs as follows

“Judith Sloan rightly says that the Turnbull government is sending out a clear message on energy policy that Australia must “get used to sky-high electricity prices and the loss of energy-intensive manufacturing” (Opinion 11/7).

Under present policy, 23 per cent of power would be obtained from renewable by 2020 (now 15 per cent), with CO2 emissions being reduced by 26-28 per cent by 2030 (they are now down about 10 per cent on 2005 levels). This ensures higher prices and a less reliable power system. And, as Turnbull has described the Finkel report as meritorious, these targets would become much higher as Finkel’s recommendations are implemented.

Meantime, we know that the three biggest emitters who attended G20 (China, US, and India) have policies which would not reduce their CO2 emissions before 2030. Hence, whether under policies adopted by the States or the Commonwealth, by then Australian businesses would face much higher domestic energy costs and major international competitors with relatively lower costs. Given that we are a minor emitter, is this a future our governments  should be seeking?”.

This follows an editorial in Weekend Australian which, while noting that Turnbull was yet to comment on concerns being expressed by some parliamentary colleagues, argued that  “when he arrives home (from G20)  he needs not only to speak Mr Abbott’s name but also to deal with this shambles”. In my Commentary on Sunday 9 July I referred to the accompanying excellent article by Chris Kenny arguing that “the determination of energy policy is a major test for Turnbull and the Coalition”, that “Abbott makes a lot of sense, ­especially to mainstream voters worried about the impact of power prices on household budgets or business cash flows” and that “if we really want the cheapest and most reliable electricity we would concentrate on thermal baseload generation and forget emissions”.

My Commentary added that “the suggestion by some Ministerial colleagues that Tony Abbott’s expressions of concern are the cause of the shambles is laughable. As you point out, Abbott’s involvement relates mainly to the last fortnight and follows a lengthy period of polling by the Coalition suggesting a party still led by Malcolm Turnbull would be highly unlikely to win the next election. In a word, the problem is not Abbott but the policies pursued by Turnbull”.

I also noted Turnbull’s failure of leadership, particularly on an important policy needing to differ from Labor’s, could if continued further worsen the Coalition’s polling and ensure Labor’s win. The Newspoll published yesterday shows that, while the TPP is unchanged at 47/53, Turnbull’s personal approval rating as Better PM has fallen to 41 while Shorten’s has risen to 33, and the gap has thus narrowed from 13 to 8. Yesterday also saw an article by Andrew Bolt concluding that “ even Australia’s Chief Scientist Alan Finkel admitted last month that Australia is so small that even if we stopped all our emissions we’d still make no real difference to the climate. ‘Virtually nothing’ is how Finkel put it. So check your monster electricity bill again. You are paying hundreds of dollars a year more for fake fixes to a fake catastrophe. People are losing their jobs and pensioners are shivering in cold homes thanks to one of the greatest political frauds in our history. It’s criminal” (See Bolt on Global Warming).

Two other relevant analyses are attached, both indicating the lack of substantial support for policies directed at reducing CO2 emissions. The first is a press release on a commissioned analysis by Alan Moran on the Finkel report which argues that it is based on unreliable and unrealistic assumptions and forecasts, that “over regulation and implementation of the now discredited climate change policies such as the RET, is the reason Australia’s electricity has become so costly over the past few years,” and that “we can expect it to become even more costly under present policies, and prohibitively so, should the Finkel recommendations of increasingly greater subsidies on unreliable electricity sources be adopted.”

The second is a report by James Delingpole, who  is now London Editor of Breitbart News (which supported Trump in the Presidential election) and has made a presentation at the IPA, referring to a“peer-reviewed study by two scientists and a veteran statistician (which) looked at the global average temperature datasets (GAST) which are used by climate alarmists to argue that recent years have been ‘the hottest evah’ and that the warming of the last 120 years has been dramatic and unprecedented. What they found is that these readings are ‘totally inconsistent with published and credible U.S. and other temperature data.’ That is, the adjusted data used by alarmist organizations like NASA, NOAA, and the UK Met Office differs so markedly from the original raw data that it cannot be trusted”.

Turnbull is about to return home after making an address at a London Think-tank, Policy Exchange, which Wikepedia describes as “Centre Right”. The Australian says that Turnbull’s  key message from his address is that the Liberal Party has never been a conservative party and that he strongly defended his own centrist governing style. Whatever might be construed from the past, he does not seem to have dealt with the concerns of many Parliamentary colleagues (and others) that he has been off-centre to the left and that this is not consistent with the Liberal Party objective of a small government and less regulated economy and society. The debate seems likely to continue.

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