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Carbon Pricing Open cut coal mine Hunter Valley
Image Credit: Beyond Coal and Gas

Published on August 11th, 2014 | by Joshua S Hill

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Abbott’s Praise Of Coal All You Need To Know About Renewable Energy Target Review

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August 11th, 2014 by
 
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott initiated a review of the country’s Renewable Energy Target (RET) less than six-months into holding office. Months later, and Australians are waiting with baited breath for former Reserve Bank board member, and arguable climate-skeptic, Dick Warburton and his committee to hand down their recommendations in the next week or so.

However, Tony Abbott’s intentions already seem pretty clear — and if you’re part of Australia’s renewable energy community, or at all interested in Australia contributing to healing planet Earth, then you’re not likely to be too happy.

I’ve made my feelings regarding Tony Abbott’s leadership of my country pretty clear over the past several months. In July, Abbott finally managed to repeal the carbon tax enacted by the Labor Party — a decision heralded by big business — and in May a report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance found that scrapping the Renewable Energy Target could have dramatic ramifications on consumers and employees if Abbott decides to move that way.

As the time until the review board hands down its recommendations regarding the Renewable Energy Target, I’ve been waiting to see just how bad it will turn out. There is no doubt in my mind that Tony Abbott will move to redraw the RET, but just how far he feels he can go is a matter of opinion.

Is A Fossil Fuel Energy Glut A Good Thing?

A report from the Australian Energy Market Operator published last week has found that Australia faces an energy glut not seen before in the history of the national electricity market. According to the report, South-eastern Australia will not need to ramp up energy generation for the next 10 years.

Fairfax Media have reported today that Dick Warburton has said that this report has formed “a very large part” of his review of the RET.

Unsurprisingly, Warburton’s remarks have sparked concerns that the RET will in fact be scaled back, if not entirely withdrawn. The RET currently requires that 41,000 GW/hours of renewable energy be available by 2020, but some business groups want it gone entirely.

But the reality is that Australia’s energy glut is not a ‘problem’ that should be affecting the move towards a renewable energy future.

The Energy Supply Association of Australia released statistics in 2012 showing the distribution of fuel types used to power the country. As can be seen below, the overwhelming majority of Australia’s energy generation comes from coal — one of the principle fossil fuels contributing to the planet’s deteriorating health.

And as the Bloomberg New Energy Finance report of May showed, allowing fossil fuels to remain as the primary energy generator in the country will only affect the bottom line for consumers.

“Cutting or reducing the Renewable Energy Target is likely to result in less competition among fossil-fuel power generators and strong future increases in the price of electricity,” said Kobad Bhavnagri, Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s head of Australia. “This helps to explain why many of Australia’s largest power companies are now pushing for a reduction in the target.”

Australia’s Renewable Energy Industry At Risk

So what of Australia’s renewable energy industry if Tony Abbott and his sycophants are to have their way? What do we do about the hundreds of thousands of jobs that are at risk if political favor is to swing back to the traditional fossil fuel industries?

Compatriot and friend to the site, Giles Parkinson has been doing a damned good job of highlighting the renewable energy industry within Australia over at RenewEconomy, and last week he reported on the news that “South Australia’s wind farms produced energy electricity to meet 43 per cent of the state’s power needs during July.”

In fact, Australia’s renewable energy generators have been doing a stellar job of late, despite a lack of strong political and financial support for the industry. The Clean Energy Australia Report 2013 highlighted the progress of the industry, showing that 14.76% of Australia’s electricity for 2013 came from renewable energy sources — that’s enough to power the equivalent of almost 5 million Australian homes.

clean energy australia report

Image Credit: Clean Energy Council

But with the way things look to be going, it is completely unsurprising that the industry is afraid the government could tinker with solar laws, pushing the price of rooftop solar through the … roof.

Abbott Praises Coal And Gas — Hints At Nuclear

To top it all off, and to add insult to injury, Tony Abbott went to speak to the Australian Industry Group last week and promptly made it perfectly clear just how he feels about Australia’s energy future.

“I would like us to be one of the world’s affordable energy capitals. We have an abundance of coal, we have an abundance of gas; let’s make the most of this natural advantage,” he said to the gathering, before concluding with this gem;

“But right now, we have massive reserves of coal, massive reserves of gas; let’s make the most of them.”

The sheer absurdity of Abbott’s understanding of the situation boggles the mind, and leaves one wondering just where his priorities lie and who is in his back pocket (or maybe, whose back pocket is he in).

These comments represent the last straw in understanding Tony Abbott’s position on climate change. His appointments to the four-member RET Review were but another example, as Tristan Edits wrote for Business Spectator.

The chair of the review, Dick Warburton, isn’t willing to accept the conclusions of the Academies of Science of Australia, the US, UK and other nations as well as their meteorological bureaus, that burning fossil fuels creates a major problem with global warming. And another review panel member has declared the RET as a dead-weight loss to society, and assisted the gas industry in their lobbying for it to abolished.

In the end, the actual review of the RET will simply be the final nail the coffin — a coffin, I might add, that contains the health of Australia and her international legitimacy. It’s a coffin that Tony Abbott has already been frantically throwing soil onto, hoping to have the issue dead and buried, all the while the renewable energy industry flounders under the political uncertainty, costing the consumer, the employer, and the environment.

So well done, Mister Abbott, for burying Australia’s chance to be a forward thinking, environmentally conscious, industry leading, scientifically integral, force for change. Let’s all join hands and welcome in a repeat of pre-industrial thinking, where big business drives policy to the detriment of everyone else.

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About the Author

I'm a Christian, a nerd, a geek, a liberal left-winger, and believe that we're pretty quickly directing planet-Earth into hell in a handbasket! I also write for Fantasy Book Review (.co.uk), and can be found writing articles for a variety of other sites. Check me out at about.me for more.



  • Rob G

    Time will be the judge of Abbott. He may very well be one of the first environmental criminals tried in the Hague. I am assuming, of course, that like war criminals, there will come a time when environmental crimes are punishable in an international court.

    • Randall Mathews

      Good one Rob. Let’s get Geoffery Robertson on the case, and push to get Abbot in The Hague as an environmental criminal. At the very least some mud will stick, and his image will tarnish heavily. I was proud of that Carbon Tax and waited thirty years for it. Poor old Julia suffered for it.

      • Rob G

        I tend to agree – the carbon tax (renewable investment scheme) was going great guns. And honestly more than half the population supported it. Julia, may still get some credit for her in time and while the tax is gone the roof top revolution (kicked off by Labor) is now unstoppable.

        • Randall Mathews

          And that’s the good bit. I read Cleantechnica for the exhilaration that is the opposite of most ‘news’.

  • sault

    History is not going to look kindly on this guy…

    • thomas

      Australians need to get rid of this idiotic Government & this backwards thinking mentally ill Prime Minister.

      • Ronald Brakels

        Idiotic? That’s a fair summary. It often is used to refer to derp which is where people refuse to change their priors regardless of the evidence and there has certainly been a lot of that going on. Backwards thinking? Definitely. Mentally ill? No. No more mentally ill than the average used car salesperson or fitness instructor. Given great power, fitness instructors are capable of great evil, but that does not make them mentally ill. Tragically it only makes them human.

        • A Real Libertarian

          Mentally ill? No.

          I disagree.

          Abbott has the all classic symptoms of Chronic Drongo Disorder.

          • Ronald Brakels

            I haven’t seen what his drongo count is lately, but I assume he rates highly on the flipping, flaming, blinking, blooming, and bloody scales.

          • A Real Libertarian

            The Bloody I Count is extraordinarily high (with the refuge camps how couldn’t it be?)

            But, between the new coal mines and the export terminals, the Bloody II Count is off the charts!

    • Ronald Brakels

      We don’t look on him too kindly at the moment. Even his true believers who are turned on by his budgie smuggling are going to be annoyed when they see their electricity bills continue to increase despite the killing of the carbon price.

  • JamesWimberley

    Abbott is certainly bad news for Australian renewables and for his country’s standing. But will his pro-coal policies be effective? Both India and China, the principal export markets, are slowly turning away from coal – which means a much faster reduction in imports. Rooftop solar is a good deal for Australian homeowners without any incentives at all, and they will continue to invest, probably adding home storage to turn the knife. Electricity consumption will continue to fall. It all looks like a very black (sic) future for Australian coal mines and coal generators. Abbott’s rescue plan for coal, for that is what it is, will be both expensive and unpopular.

    • http://www.michaeljberndtson.com/ Michael Berndtson

      Australia has about 50 million people and enough coal to fill orders for a while now. India has about 1.1 billion people and needs electricity regardless of generation feedstock. India is also the home of the world’s biggest coal company. I’m not pumping coal. Just trying to outlay the status of fossil fuels.
      http://www.worldcoal.org/resources/frequently-asked-questions/

      Another horrible news item today was the deal between Russia and Exxonmobil to drill in the Arctic Ocean. This is what I always feared. Heat the planet until the ice melts and go crazy with natural resources exploitation in Arctic, Greenland and Antarctica. Places formerly covered in ice. The problem is runaway carbon dioxide emissions from not only manmade sources, but the melting permafrost. We have sociopathic politicians and corporate executives in control in many parts of the world.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Economics override politics in most cases.

        EVs will likely kill the oil industry.

        India can produce electricity cheaper with solar and wind and save a tremendous amount of very valuable water now being used to mine and burn coal.

        • http://www.michaeljberndtson.com/ Michael Berndtson

          We (earthlings) hope. I was told in college that engineers never hope. If a student used hope in a sentence of a report or analysis to an experiment it was a big point subtraction. Technology is spurred by politics. Politics jumps onto technology bandwagon, after enough money is produced to flow to politicians and policy steering. Obama tried to spur technologies with his “All things Considered” approach. (or something to that effect) Most of the money, in terms of profits and available cash, is from fossil fuel derived profits. This funds everything from new technology R&D to commodity trading to political action committees.

          The sad thing is how little oil and gas spends on R&D on a per revenue or per profit basis. It’s appalling. Right now most of the R&D spending goes to health science and information technology. Very little goes to energy innovation, comparative wise. Here’s a great report by Battelle Memorial Institute on R&D spending by governments and private sector. From R&D magazine on 2014 global funding for R&D:

          http://www.rdmag.com/articles/2013/12/2014-r-d-magazine-global-funding-forecast

          Basically we need to get company profits going to clean energy R&D and deployment. A lot of money is sitting on the sidelines. Politics are sketchy right now. We can’t even admit climate change acceleration is a problem as a country right now.

          • Bob_Wallace

            The more experience I have with engineers, the less I want them running things. ;o)

            Right now utilities are signing wind and solar PPAs because prices are low enough and those locked in prices are a great hedge against rising natural gas prices. NG is the only other financially sensible player in the game.
            Individuals and companies are putting solar on their roofs because it makes financial sense. For the moment some subsidy is needed to drive the decision, but that’s a short term condition with rapidly falling prices. (And, remember, federal solar subsidies for rooftop solar are indexed to system costs so federal subsidy amounts have been falling as well.)

          • http://www.michaeljberndtson.com/ Michael Berndtson

            Engineers don’t run things. They never did. They fund things, but don’t run things. Then again, many of the most profitable companies are headed by Chemical Engineers, but there’s none in politics I can think of. Natural gas through fracking is an example of politics v. engineering. The shale plays are starting to play out faster than marketing folks and politicians hoped. Oil and gas is blaming environmentalists for this. Not flow of fluids through extremely tight rock. Engineers told politicians and marketing types this will happen, but were ignored. As an engineer I tend to blame greed, not anyone’s college background.

            “Enviros Blamed for Bursting the Frack bubble”
            http://ecowatch.com/2014/08/11/enviros-blamed-for-bursting-frack-bubble/

            Didn’t we have this discussion awhile back, Bob? I believe I was poking at the gas bubble with a sharp stick. Or pointing out the gas bridge wasn’t going to make very far.

          • Bob_Wallace

            They run China. They’ve run things like Hewlett and Packard. Eleven members of the 112th Congress were engineers.

            But all that is irrelevant.

            What I’m really reacting to is how many engineers seem to be right-wing, climate change denying knuckleheads.

            And, yes, I do fear that we’re being extremely stupid in our reliance on natural gas lasting as long as the industry has been trying to sell. However, like oil, NG won’t suddenly disappear it will just get more expensive. Thankfully we’re putting a lot of effort into storage.

          • http://www.michaeljberndtson.com/ Michael Berndtson

            Well I’ll be damned. There’s engineers in congress. I have to check. From American Society of Mechanical Engineers:

            “Engineers who won re-election to Congress include: Dan Lipinski (D-IL), Joe Barton (R-TX), David McKinley (R-WV), Jerry McNerney (D-CA), Paul Tonko (D-NY), and Daniel Webster (R-FL).”

            Dan Lipinski? I thought he was a history professor. I’m wrong – according to his bio he was a government professor. He got a BS in M.E at Northwestern, MS Eng. Econ (Duke) and Poly-sci PhD (Stanford). I never heard of those schools. Must be mail-in degrees. He’s not an engineer according to my rules. Nonetheless, he’s becoming a classic Chicago pol. His dad was the congressman in the district. Bill (the father) quit about 10 years ago and the son took over. Bill Lipinski was a politician of the Dan Rostenkowski/Richard J. Daley School of Chicago politics. His seat is safe for life and any Lipinski spawn interested in politics in future.

            Anyway…

            Natural gas is here to stay for while, that’s not an argument. Too much money invested. I don’t like it as a climate change fighter. And I especially don’t like it messing with groundwater. But, nobody asked me back in about 2003.

            Here’s an interesting story about too much gas production today in Bloomberg:

            http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-08-10/hedge-funds-snub-natural-gas-rally-as-supply-gains-loom.html

            It’s a fossil fuel looking for a steady market. That’s what scares me. The gas as LNG and CNG for transportation thing just prolongs the movement towards rapid reduction in fossil fuel use.

          • A Real Libertarian

            He got a BS in M.E at Northwestern, MS Eng. Econ (Duke) and Poly-sci PhD (Stanford). I never heard of those schools. Must be mail-in degrees. He’s not an engineer according to my rules.

            Northwestern:
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northwestern_University

            Duke:
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duke_University

            Stanford:
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanford_University

            Me:

          • http://www.michaeljberndtson.com/ Michael Berndtson

            Are you just trying to amuse yourself? You’re not selling libertarianism well. As far as being a movement made up of folks other than deliberate literalists. Me being unfamiliar with three of the top schools in the US was the joke. Those schools are common knowledge by about 96 percent of our nation’s citizenry. 96 percent was a number I pulled out of my butt. That statistic may not be in Wikipedia, but you could check. Dan Lipinski was my congressmen until about 10 years ago, when my town got gerrymandered into three pieces. Now he’s not. I could reply to your replies all day. I’m not too busy at the moment.

          • A Real Libertarian

            Sorry, but you gave the impression of “Engineer who is pig-shit ignorant, but, is still right because arrogance”.

            We’ve had to deal with those assholes promoting hydrogen, supporting nuclear power and being Joe Barton.

          • http://www.michaeljberndtson.com/ Michael Berndtson

            I take it you’re not an engineer, then. I’m glad you’re not talking about me (the quote above must mean another engineer). My arrogance is based solely on my breathtakingly high intelligence. It’s almost scary, really.

      • http://www.michaeljberndtson.com/ Michael Berndtson

        Here’s a great resource from NOAA on Arctic and more recently Antarctic ice coverage. Satellites monitor the area extent of the polar regions continuously. The polar ice is the earth’s climate controller. Polar regions with less and less ice puts us into a world not seen since all the continents were combined into one land mass called Pangea. Humans didn’t live back then. Despite that some people think humans rode dinosaurs awhile back.

      • Ronald Brakels

        Australia has 23 million people, not fifty million, although its understandable if you came to Australia and were seeing double. It is impossible in Australia to build a new coal power plant on account of competition from lower cost renewables. And this is still the case despite our carbon price having been recently murdered. And shipping Australian coal to India does not make it any cheaper. It does not even make economic sense to ship Australian coal to South Australia, which is why that state gets about 40% of its electricity from wind and solar. So if the only Australian mainland state without convenient deposits of coal has gone 40% renewable because its too expensive to ship coal from Australia to Australia, what chance is there that China, India, and other markets will increase their coal imports?

        • http://www.michaeljberndtson.com/ Michael Berndtson

          My bad. I tried to guess the population. I worked there in about 1994. It was said the population was the same as California. I assumed Australia grew as quickly as CA and then some so I said 50 million. I think CA is around 36 million. You guys aren’t still receiving convicts?

          Even the US is shipping coal to India. Why doesn’t Australia?

          • Ronald Brakels

            Australia does ship coal to India, it’s just that in India new solar and new wind is cheaper than new coal and so India’s demand for coal is unlikely to increase. There may be some increase in the short term as current coal plants that are planned or under construction are competed, but in the long term? No, coal is doomed. (Indianna Coal and the Generation of Doom!) And in China which is rapidly expanding renewables and installing solar for about $1 a watt, and already produces about as much electricity per captia as Italy, and cannot realistically avoid a moderate economic slowdown, Austalian coal exporters basically have to hope that China continues to import Australian coal because it has a lower sulfur content and produces less citizen choking smog. But China hates importing Australian coal and in the medium term exports there are doomed also.

            PS: If you’ve worked in Australia I’m sure you know what I mean about seeing double.

          • http://www.michaeljberndtson.com/ Michael Berndtson

            Nicely said and summarized. Thanks. I never heard the expression “seeing double.” I probably can guess what it means. I worked on a groundwater project outside of Melbourne. I do remember the expression, “you’ll be laughing.” It still cracks me up. Same impact as “it’ll be fine” in the US. It was always best to double check or question accuracy after that statement. Especially when said by drillers.

          • Ronald Brakels

            Drillers? Crikey, you’d be lucky if you could see at all with them around. In the good old days before things were complicated by legal complications minimum rations for a driller was a slab of beer a night. And that’s only because they couldn’t fit more on the truck. For those that don’t know, a slab is not a small amount. It is surprisingly enough the size of a slab. The fact that it is an accurate description is surprising because Australia is a country where people with red hair are called Blue and people with blue hair are called Grandma. Nowadays companies expect people operating heavy machinery to turn up for work sober and leave with all their limbs still attached.

          • http://www.michaeljberndtson.com/ Michael Berndtson

            I remember a slab of beer. Melbourne was all about Victoria Bitters. The was the regular beer down there. More alcohol and much more tasty than US regular beer, i.e. Bud.

          • Ronald Brakels

            Budweiser is like making love in a canoe.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I’ve done the love in a canoe thing and would try it again.

            Budweiser, however….

          • Ronald Brakels

            …is close to water.

          • Bob_Wallace

            filtered through an ill pachyderm…

          • A Real Libertarian

            For those that don’t know, a slab is not a small amount. It is surprisingly enough the size of a slab.

            9 Liters, or 0.0377 Hogshead in ‘murakin.

      • A Real Libertarian

        Australia has about 50 million people

        23.5 Million:
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Australia

        • http://www.michaeljberndtson.com/ Michael Berndtson

          I already apologized to the Aussie above. I pinned its population to California, based on dim memory of someone saying it has a population the size of California and a land area the size of US lower 48. Apparently, CA grew much more quickly.

          • A Real Libertarian

            Sorry didn’t see that.

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