Gas Crisis & Fly Me to the Moon

My Commentary last Thursday 28 Sept questioned whether the “agreement” between Turnbull and three big gas exporters to have the latter supply additional gas domestically has solved the gas crisis. Yesterday the media took up the issue, with an editorial in Weekend Australian suggesting that Turnbull has made

an interim breakthrough this week when Australia’s three big gas exporters agreed to fix the ‘emergency’ shortfall that threatens to send prices soaring and shut down factories. A formal agreement in the coming week with Santos, Origin Energy and Shell appears likely to avert dire shortages next year and in 2019. The deal will avoid the need for the government to impose drastic controls on overseas shipments” (see Oz Editorial on Energy Crisis)

It remains to be seen whether the four parties agree on an arrangement that is, as reported, to be both legally binding and meaningful. The Opposition (and the media) will be looking for possible holes through which the big exporters could technically escape from their apparent obligations while retaining their export contracts.

Meantime, the Weekend Australian published letters by me and another questioner arguing there is more to be done by Turnbull, particularly in regard to policies operated by the States, to overcome the potential for electricity blackouts (see Letters on Energy Policy). It was encouraging that The Australian felt able to allow my letter to say that The commonwealth should lead the way by reducing, preferably eliminating, its policies that are forcing reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide and requiring usage of renewable”.

But the most remarkable illustration of what happens when politicians and their advisers, as well as sections of the media, get locked into beliefs and policies from which they feel unable to escape. I am referring here to the decision by South Australian Premier Weatherill to have built a set of batteries which, in the event that a blackout occurs, would supply electricity to 30,000 homes.  Today’s Herald Sun has an article by Peta Credlin suggesting that the batteries will cost the SA taxpayer about $50mn and would supply that number of homes for only a little over one hour! Some say less.

She also refers to the announcement by billionaire Elon Musk (the supplier of the batteries) that, at the same time as the Turnbull Government announced the creation of a federal government space agency at last week’s International Aeronautical Congress in Adelaide, he  spruiked  his own space travel outfit, SpaceX, that would by 2024 have six advance ships to take trips to the moon and Mars (See Credlin on Musk’s Batteries). It is not known if Turnbull has been offered a seat!

This battery supplier also owns Tesla, which purchased Solar City last November and has agreed that Solar City pay $29.5 million to “resolve allegations that it violated the US False Claims Act by submitting inflated claims on behalf of itself and affiliated investment funds to the U.S. Department of the Treasury” (See False Claims in US by Solar City). Note that“The Section 1603 Program subsidized the renewable energy industry through cash grants to cover legitimate costs of renewable energy properties,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad A. Readler of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.  “This program expired, but this settlement demonstrates that the government will still hold accountable those who sought to take improper advantage of government programs at the expense of American taxpayers.”

I do not know whether there is similar legislation here but there is a considerable need for it to deal with the many False Claims based on climate policy!

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