4
Jul
2017

Liberal Party Policies Under Turnbull

Energy Policy & Turnbull

I referred in Sunday’s Commentary to the opportunity provided by Abbott’s continued advocacy for government policies to be more in line with stated objectives of the Liberal Party. I suggested that his suggestion to freeze the renewable target at its existing level of 15% (the Turnbull government’s target is 23.5% by 2020) provides just such an opportunity given the extent to which renewable usage has been heavily criticised by climate change experts.

I noted also that this opportunity had been enhanced by a paper published by three warmists acknowledging that there is no acceptable explanation for the “pause” in temperature rises since around 2000. As this occurred when emissions were increasing, the failure of temperatures to increase casts further doubts on the need for governments to intervene to limit emissions of CO2. In short, there is now much greater uncertainty about the need for the Turnbull government to run policies to reduce emissions by 26-28% by 2030.

Yesterday there were further developments which support, at a minimum, the reduction of targets for rates of CO2 emissions and for stopping mandatory increases in the usage of renewable.

First, the Australian reported yesterday that a “new high-efficiency, low emissions coal-fired power station, being considered by the Turnbull government, would cost $2.2 billion — considerably less than the $3bn of subsidies handed out to renewable projects each year, a new technical study shows”. The report is based on research financed by the Minerals Council and relates to a new technology –HELE — for producing coal which would be more costly than usage of “ordinary” coal but whose emissions would be lower than using ordinary coal. This technology is already used quite widely in some overseas countries. The fact that The Australian saw fit to report this as a front page lead, following the publication over the weekend of its Environment Editor’s exposure of the three warmists’ acceptance of the “pause”, suggests that this newspaper may now be accepting views which are more questioning of the dangerous warming thesis.

Second, The Australian also ran its main letters column under the heading “The nation is yearning for effective leadership” and it included my letter supporting its editorial comment that Turnbull is not tackling  key policy changes and adding that he may be a threat to achieving stated Liberal Party objectives. Interestingly, it deleted my reference to the comment by its political correspondent, David Crowe, that Abbott has made it “impossible” to escape (from unfavourable Newspolls) “by undercutting every policy”. This of course is a ridiculous comment as the unfavourable polls were running for some time before Abbott started to make critical comments about existing policies pursued by Turnbull. Following is the full text of my letter showing the deletions (in square brackets):

Dear Sir

[David Crowe suggested on 30 June (Opinion) that “Australians appear ready to make Shorten the prime minister at the next election” and complained that, while Turnbull has “driven the government into Newspoll quicksand”, Abbott has made an escape impossible by “undercutting every policy”.]  Your editorial argues [however] that Malcolm Turnbull is not succeeding  in tackling key policy challenges and the nation craves leadership.

In reality the Coalition’s poor polling reflects the inconsistency with Liberal party objectives of many policies adopted by Turnbull since  becoming  PM. Indeed, given his previously stated preference for the Labor Party [acknowledged preference for being a Labor leader] and his earlier [strong] criticisms of the Liberal party, Turnbull himself may be a threat to those objectives.

Examples abound of Turnbull’s inclination to support Labor-style policies such as the recent copying of the Gonski schools funding and a lack of programmed increase in quality. His meritorious attribution to the Finkel report failed to acknowledge that a greatly expanded use of renewable means further increases in electricity prices and that renewable cannot be a back-up.  By contrast, Abbott’s most recent proposals seem to be a plea for policies closer to party objectives and recognise the increased uncertainty about climate policies.

[One thing is clear: ] unless the Coalition MPs [markedly] shift their present stance, Shorten will be the next PM.

I just add here that attempts to have similar letters published in the AFR and The Age have not been successful.

Third, my attention was drawn to an article published in the NY Times on July 1 reporting that  Over all, 1,600 coal plants are planned or under construction in 62 countries, according to Urgewald’s tally, which uses data from the Global Coal Plant Tracker portal. The new plants would expand the world’s coal-fired power capacity by 43 percent. The fleet of new coal plants would make it virtually impossible to meet the goals set in the Paris climate accord, which aims to keep the increase in global temperatures from preindustrial levels below 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit” (see full text below) .

Relevant points made by the author include:

  • ”New countries are being brought into the cycle of coal dependency”. These apparently include Egypt and Pakistan.
  • “The world is set to remain dependent on coal for decades, despite fast growth in renewable energy sources”.
  • While Chinese domestic coal plants are “operating far below capacity”, Chinese energy companies are undertaking considerable investments in other countries as the World Bank and Asian Development Bank have sharply reduced coal financing. China’s global banks are also providing coal financing.
  • Countries  such as India and Japan are expanding coal plants both domestically and overseas.
  • Western institutional investors and banks hold portfolios of coal-financed plants

Too much emphasis should not be placed on articles such as this. But the fact that it is published in the NY Times suggests it has some authenticity. It certainly warrants an investigation of investment in coal plants overseas by the Turnbull government as part of what is clearly needed on climate policy viz a major review undertaken, not by unqualified people such as Finkel but by the many who have expertise on the many influences which affect the climate and who have not committed themselves to the now decreasingly accepted view that CO2 emissions threaten dangerous warming in the future.

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