Politics Editorial

The Coalition, where all revolving doors lead to outdated fossil fuels

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(Cartoon by Mark David / @MDavidCartoons)

In one of the most uninspiring and regressive budgets ever, the Morrison Government, among other backward moves, has continued its eye-watering bolstering of the fossil fuel industry, throwing good public money after bad policy.

There is little doubt that if this Coalition Government had been in power when it was discovered that the Earth was a sphere, it would have held on to the flat Earth theory, fervently ridiculing all evidence to the contrary. This is because, in all likelihood, it would already have invested in exorbitantly priced tours to find the ends of the planet and then provided tax breaks for the shonky tour operators.

Fossil-fuel powered revolving doors

From the day climate-change denier Tony Abbott took office, this Government, in all its iterations, has chosen to be on the side of the ignorant. This is not because the jury is out on anthropogenic climate change, but because the Coalition and its main donors already had vast and lucrative vested interests in fossil fuels. The science around global warming presented, as Al Gore described it, “an inconvenient truth”, which challenged such interests.

For the Liberal and National parties, these interests include a political donor base heavily reliant on the fossil fuel industry. And then there is the constantly revolving door between the halls of parliamentary power and the energy corporations, operating at both pre and post-electoral intervals. This means if you’re a Coalition MP,  there’s a good chance that you have either hailed from or are destined for, executive greatness in the energy sector.

If we could just harness the power of the perpetual revolving doors that connect the fossil fuel industry with the Coalition, we would no doubt have an everlasting power industry.

Climate denial till death do us part

This Government will argue to the death (unfortunately, possibly literally) in order to protect its vested interests, that the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine, and so we must keep propping up fossil fuels until we hasten our own demise and self-combust.

This was amply illustrated by Resources Minister Keith Pitt last week when he refused to acknowledge that battery storage can provide a dispatchable supply of electricity.

Discussing why he had chosen to veto a government loan to a Queensland wind and battery project, Pitt couldn’t offer details as to whether batteries could provide sufficient backup for wind farms, saying simply:

 “…This is pretty broad and hypothetical.”

Yes — as hypothetical as the shape of the Earth.

More gas to keep those doors revolving

It comes as no surprise then, that the 2021 Budget invests not one dollar into climate policy or technological advancements such as electric vehicles or renewables, or even traditional infrastructure, like public transport. And there is no emissions trading scheme or carbon tax anywhere on the horizon — naturally.

But the Morrison Government has managed to throw another $2.4 billion in support of Australia’s two remaining oil refineries.

And, the crowning glory of this fossil fuel-centred Budget involves over $600 million for a brand new, yet disturbingly already outdated, wait for it ... gas-fired power station! This latest dirty gas project will adorn Kurri Kurri in the Hunter Valley.

The inane move, denounced by experts as more expensive and less effective than alternatives, takes Australia back into Circa 6000-2000 BC Persia (when gas was first harnessed) and was announced by Energy Minister Angus Taylor on Tuesday. The proposed plant’s own environmental impact statement indicates it will be rarely used and largely inefficient.

The timing of the gas power project announcement would be laughable if it wasn’t also deliberate, coming as it did just ahead of the Hunter Valley by-election, in which a close contest is expected.

Interestingly, the announcement was also made on the same day that the International Energy Agency (IEA)  called for an urgent moratorium on new fossil fuel project investment, to enable any chance of meeting world climate targets.

But why should expert international advice interfere with Australia’s commitment to flat-Earth policies?

And then there are the questions about the ownership of the land on which the gas plant will be housed — land coincidentally belonging to Liberal Party donor Jeff McCloy.

2021 Budget: It's a gas, gas, gas

Continuing on his merry environmental trashing spree, Taylor has also, as reported in RenewEconomy:

‘…Quietly filed new regulations that will force the Australian Renewable Energy Agency to commit funds to carbon capture and gas projects.’

This is in keeping with Prime Minister Scott Morrison's attitude to newfangled inventions in general, such as electric vehicles and renewable energy projects, which are only to be mocked and avoided at all costs. Readers may remember when the PM ridiculed Tesla's big battery as being as useful as a "big banana" or a "big prawn". Treasurer Josh Frydenberg also has a history of derision for renewables, even going as far as to blame South Australia's renewable energy projects for storm-induced blackouts.

But South Australia, of course, has had the last laugh, with even the State's Liberal Government embracing the Labor-instigated renewable energy transition — which is on target to generate 500 per cent of its energy requirements by 2030, exporting the surplus nationally and internationally.

Finally, there is the issue of the European Union, which, unlike Australia under the Coalition, is genuinely committed to net-zero emissions. Unfortunately for Morrison and his fellow climate deniers, it is also prepared to back up this commitment with policies that will punish polluters — like us. Countries like Australia, that refuse to implement an emissions trading scheme or a carbon price, can soon expect to be hit with millions of dollars in new tariffs.

At what point will the members of this Coalition Government realise that those revolving doors, as long as they are still powered by the fossil fuel industry, cannot continue to turn when that industry (much like the tours to find the end of the Earth) finally implodes? 

You can follow managing editor Michelle Pini on Twitter @vmp9. Follow Independent Australia on Twitter @independentaus and on Facebook HERE.

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