I have a piece in the Spectator this morning that builds upon the challenging commentaries by Senator Canavan and Craig Kelly calling for termination of subsidies to renewables and leaving the Paris Agreement under which Australia agreed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. These measures, and those earlier under the Kyoto Accord, drive up energy costs and are destroying manufacturing which would be flourishing under the low energy costs we could have.
Some in the ALP, especially Joel Fitzgibbon representing a coal mining seat, also agree.
Australian electricity supply has, in the course of 20 years, moved from just about the cheapest in the world to one of the most expensive. The present relative position is indicated by this graph.
Twenty years ago, Australia along with Poland and the US, enjoyed electricity prices that were less than half of those of Japan and most of Europe.
This morning the Australian carries a story about calls to scrap the $50 m a year subsidy to the Portland aluminium smelter. Though the advocates are the Labor Party taxpayer-funded “thing tank”, the Grattan Institute, this not a bad idea – it is a miracle that the Australia has so far avoided countervailing duties on aluminium products as a result to the subsidy which is illegal under WTO rules.
However, aluminium smelters are a near perfect fit in Australia with what is potentially just about the cheapest electricity in the world. Grattan, with its ideology of promoting subsidies for wind and solar, has been instrumental in creating the conditions whereby this domestic world conquering industry is reduced to destitution.
The AFR is also a long-term supporter of renewable subsidies to hasten the “inevitable” triumph of wind/solar and regularly features agitprop from Grattan’s Tony Wood to promote this. Yesterday, it also had an op ed from David Byers and Peter Cook, subsidy seekers for government grants to succour the impossible carbon capture and storage con. Laughably, the article points to several subsidised storages that successfully operate at massive costs but the AFR is seldom troubled by expenditure wasted on its favoured causes. Governments, spearheaded by an always gullible Kevin Rudd, poured $1.3 billion into a body, grandly called “The Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute”, that promotes the approach worldwide and carefully conceals its own expenditures.
There are some who say the COVID-19 will bring the western world to its senses and reverse the crippling effects its sojourn into carbon free energy has cost (needless to say the Chinese and Indians, number two and four in world CO2 emissions have powered on with coal).
Those of us seeking prosperity without mysticism all hope they are right. But the immediate responses are not encouraging. Flouncing around Brussels, a masked European Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen has upped the EU ante for renewable spending from €7.5 billion to €40 billion in response to the crisis. And Spain, the world’s worst hit nation has just proposed climate legislation would ban all new coal, oil and gas extraction projects, seek a 35 per cent reduction in energy consumption through building renovation and “introduce climate change to the school curriculum”.
For Australia, this issue looms larger than for other countries.
We have at least two highly informed, credible and hardworking coalition MPs forcefully promoting the return to unsubsidised electricity supply.
However, Craig Kelly and Matt Canavan face immense opposition from the indoctrination that people have been subjected to (that renewable energy is cheaper, as well as that Australian inadequacies in emission controls causes bushfires and disease). In addition, they face the massive funding from subsidy-seekers and their cohorts within the bureaucracy. Even within the Coalition, there is a near preponderance of support for further action in support of renewables and Ministers always seem to become quickly captured by activists within their own departments.
So, the battle, 20 years on remains an uphill one, even though the economic devastation stemming from the destruction of the once highly electricity supply competitive industry becomes clearer by the day.