Abbott Blindsides Mainstream Media On Renewable Energy

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The Abbott government is about to celebrate its first anniversary in power – and one of its most notable achievements has been its ability to close down the $20 billion large-scale renewable energy industry.

tonyabbott_pressDespite its fondness for professing that Australia is “open for business,” the Coalition is pretty choosy about which industries are, in fact, open for business.

But don’t expect the mainstream media to hold it to account.

The paucity of knowledge and understanding about renewable energy has been a constant source of frustration for the industry, and nowhere was highlighted better than by the main editorial in the Sydney Morning Heraldon Tuesday.

The poor old SMH, as befitting a left of centre publication, thought it was supporting renewable energy. But, just like the Abbott government, it was merely paying lip service to the issue.

“The government should show it cares about the risks of climate change and accept that the RET helps reduce emissions without changing power prices much,” the SMH proclaimed in its editorial, titled How Abbott should fix Direct Action and save the RET. (our emphasis).

Save the RET?

Sounds promising, but the newspaper went right ahead and recommended the very same policies that would bring about the destruction of the renewable energy industry in Australia – cut the target to a “real” 20 per cent, and include gas in the target.

Do they have any idea what they are saying? As Infigen Energy, Pacific Hydro and any number of other companies have said, slashing the target to a “real 20 per cent” means little large-scale generation will be built.

Including gas closes the door even tighter. That particular policy cocktail, as various studies have pointed out, would present an $8 billion fillip to coal-fired generators.

It is well known that the mainstream papers have lost a lot of knowledge and experience with the dramatic downsizing of the last few years. But this is absurd. The level of ignorance for the newspaper’s signature piece is breath-taking. Are the interns now writing editorials?iStock_000002099178Medium_big_paper_stack

Truth be told, the level of ignorance around energy markets and renewable energy in particular pervades the media, which is why the government and the incumbent fossil fuel generators can get away with the nonsense they do.

This though, extends through the government ranks, as the recent opinion piece by Mike Canavan revealed.

That is true whether the discussion is about the cost of generation of various technologies, the level of subsidies, the need for back-up, the fixing of tariffs, the regulatory protection – even the definition of the renewable energy target.

But the Murdoch newspapers are much, much worse – publishing endless amount of tripe from fossil fuel shills and “economic” experts about the impact of renewable energy.

They enthusiastically include some of this nonsense, particularly from the Institute of Public Affairs, in their own editorials that invariably call for the RET to be ended. At least they are not pretending to do the opposite. Their ignorance appears to be one of deliberate exclusion.

With mainstream media like this, Abbott will manage to kill an industry and pretend he’s saving it at the same time.

As one correspondent noted today: “We’re at a low point in our public conversation about climate and renewables. The only mainstream media journos with more than 5 minutes of background are climate skeptics or cheerleaders for fossil fuels. The sympathetic ones have either gone online or left the business.

And, of course, that’s a prompt for a vaunt for RenewEconomy. With August page views of more than 420,000 (before the end of the month), and unique visitors of more than 150,000 in the past month, more than a few readers – and many within industry – are getting properly informed.

Source: RenewEconomy. Reproduced with permission.

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Giles Parkinson

is the founding editor of, an Australian-based website that provides news and analysis on cleantech, carbon, and climate issues. Giles is based in Sydney and is watching the (slow, but quickening) transformation of Australia's energy grid with great interest.

Giles Parkinson has 596 posts and counting. See all posts by Giles Parkinson