Electricity Policy

The Framing of a New Electricity Policy Still Omits the Examination of Basic Underlying Problems

As Parliament left for the six week winter break, major divisions remained within the Coalition on electricity policy, the outcome on which basically depends on what view is taken on climate change. If the view is taken that Australia must significantly reduce emissions of CO2, we will continue to reduce the use of coal to power electricity and instead use the more expensive sources of power which have already caused major increases in electricity prices even though they involve lower or nil emissions. It would also mean an acceptance of a much bigger role of government in the economy, which many see as the real objective.

A meeting between the Commonwealth and the States is scheduled in August to examine the National Energy Guarantee (NEG) scheme which has been developed by the Turnbull government and which is based on reducing the use of coal. But despite constant talking by Environment Minister Frydenberg, there is no document explaining the voluntary Paris agreement and why Australia’s target of reduced emissions (26-28% by 2030) must be met when, after three years, many other countries either have no target or appear to be largely ignoring it.

In today’s Australian I have also pointed out what appears to be the basic analytical flaw in policies to reduce emissions and which have not been publicly defended politically other than to say that “experts” agree such policies are needed. My letter is below.

Truth on Electricity Plan

Letter published in The Australian, June 29 (Bits in square brackets deleted by Ed).

Let’s be clear about the Coalition government’s decision to establish an entirely new electricity policy whose prices and quantities will be determined by itself, as will the way it is produced. Contrary to warnings by some, opposition to this will not risk wrecking the economy: rather they would save it (“Coalition revolt on energy ‘risks wrecking economy’, 27/6).

The hidden object of the official plan is not to produce cheaper electricity but to ensure that its production does not increase the quantity of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere because that would supposedly increase temperatures [to a dangerous level]. Australia, we are told [by existing political leaders and some expert advisers], must play its part in reducing that risk.

There is, however, a question which the experts have not answered. Why is it the case that there have been two periods since the second world war when emissions of CO2 increased strongly but temperatures were relatively stable or when they fell? And when temperatures did increase for a short period that appears to have been from natural causes.

No answer has been given that would justify government action to reduce carbon missions and [, in the process,] so reduce economic growth. It is not surprising [therefore] that many other countries continue to emit at a rapid rate and ignore the Paris Agreement to slow down. [Why is Australia being the sucker?]

Des Moore, South Yarra, Vic

Of course, the questions posed above to experts require more detailed explanations and qualifications than can be given here but it is significant that The Australian has published a letter which provides an alternative explanation in para 3 to the so-called science (John Stone thinks it may be the first time that the OZ has allowed para 3 or similar to be published). Importantly also, it is apparent that the party which shares the Coalition with the Liberals is  far from convinced about NEG and, in particular, that it would bring electricity prices down as the minister claims (see Nats Still Query NEG).

Note in particular the comment by a Nat spokesman that  “While Mr Drum said the ­Nationals were “fully supportive” of the guarantee, he also argued the minor Coalition party was “asking for further proof” on the policy that is being championed by Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg. “The Nats want to see unequivocal evidence,” he said. That, I suggest, will require that the minister, and the PM, produce detailed analysis.

Other reports suggest that prominent commentators will be taking the matter further over the week-end or early next week.  Former PM Tony Abbott is to “Give 2018 Bob Carter Commemorative Lecture” at a function in Melbourne next Tuesday (contact “Eventbrite”) and he is likely to raise more definitive questions about NEG and the basic analysis. Carter was one of the few Australian academics who challenged the theory of human-caused global warming and, while in typical fashion of academia today, his role at the James Cook Uiniversity’s earth science department was not renewed in 2013, he continued to play an important role both internationally and domestically until his death in 2016. I had the privilege of assisting him draft one of the papers on permanent display by the leading skeptical US think tanks, The Science and Environmental Policy Project, which publishes a weekly report.

Abbott’s skepticism about dangerous global warming is well known, and he recently added his skepticism  “about businesses with a vested interest in gaming the system”. “There are many of them with a vested interest in gaming the system and they are gaming the system” (see Abbott on NEG).  A number of his colleagues in the Liberal Party are also skeptics.

Other skeptical sources include Quadrant and they have recently received an article by William Kininmonth which sets out in more detail the skeptical view of a scientist. I am not at liberty to publish this article but I can say that Kininmonth’s heading is that “The Paris Agreement is No Longer Relevant” and he points out that “There are now 38 years of reliable satellite and related climate data that give new insights into global and regional trends over the period of most rapid increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide. We are now able to better resolve the competing anthropogenic and natural contributions to recent climate change”.

This is a message to the Turnbulls and Frydenbergs, and to the bureaucrats in the public service. As a former supervisor of climate services in the Bureau of Meteorology and a consultant to the World Meteorological Organization (as well as an author of “Climate Change: A Natural Hazard” Multi-Science, 2004) he is an expert who should be asked by the government of his views.

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