The irrationality of the energy debate in Australia knows no bounds and the reaction to latest efforts by the Federal Government to find a way forward for the country’s long-term energy needs is a testament to that.
Any energy policy solution that includes fossil fuels – whether it be gas, super-critical coal-power stations or even the yet untested carbon capture and storage technology – is immediately howled down.
For the left-leaning media, it must be renewables or nothing.
This is despite the fact that as The Australian’s Terry McCrann points out, 85 per cent of the world’s energy comes from “the old reliables”: oil, gas, coal and nuclear.
Furthermore, despite the billions upon billions of dollars that have been poured into renewable energy solutions, just 11 per cent of the world’s energy comes from renewables; and of that 7 per cent comes from hydro.
In other words, just 4 per cent comes from renewables – wind and solar and, bizarrely, biomass (the burning of wood, which is classified as a renewable, and which is commonly used in Europe rather than coal).
The fact is that, for the foreseeable future (and we are talking decades), coal and gas will be absolutely critical components of electricity generation, and Australia is providing much needed high-quality Australian coal and gas to other countries to provide for their energy needs while it continues to underpin our own economy.
Yet there are howls of outrage when the Federal Government looks at practical ways forward to maintain the base-load power that is necessary for industry to survive.
Given the mega opposition to coal power from environmental groups and the corporates that have become captive to the same, the Morrison Government has just one new coal power station on its horizon in the form of a $3.3 million feasibility study for a plant in Collinsville in Queensland.
So, instead, given Australia’s abundant supplies of gas, the Government has come up with a “go-with-gas” alternative.
This involves industry being put on notice to deliver 1,000 megawatts of new dispatchable energy to replace Liddell Power station in New South Wales before it closes in 2023 to avoid creating a cavernous hole in the national electricity grid.
Guided by Nev Power, chairman of the Prime Minister’s covid19 Commission, and Andrew Liveris, head of the manufacturing taskforce, Mr Morrison has told industry the Government will intervene and build a gas-fired power station itself unless a solution is found.
But the response to the latest Federal Government intervention from environmentalists is a definitive “no way”.
Writing in The Conversation, the director of the Centre for Energy and Natural Resources Law at Deakin University, Samantha Hepburn, declared: “We cannot and must not revert to fossil-fuel energy generation. We must abandon past behaviours if we’re to adapt to a changing climate, which is set to hit the economy much harder than this pandemic.”
In other words, anything that involves forward planning on any form of fossil fuel must be opposed.
Ironically, Australian irrationality on energy solutions comes when there are growing signs of sensible thinking among environmental groups overseas. Increasingly, environmental groups are recognising the “costs” of renewables to the environment, and the benefits of real alternatives, especially nuclear.
There has been a spate of pro-nuclear protests in Europe, especially in Germany, where Greenpeace has been protesting against solar farms gobbling up productive farmland, and there have been 40 rallies around the world organised by the Nuclear Pride Coalition.
And, as reported by Forbes, social media is catching on to the benefits of nuclear as opposed to the false hopes of intermittent power produced by the wind and the sun.
Isabelle Boemeke, a 29-year-old Brazilian model, released a series of videos about the environmental benefits of nuclear.
“One uranium pellet, about the size of a gummy bear, has as much energy as 2,000 pounds of coal,” she explains in one video that went viral.
It may not yet be a sea-change sentiment, but it does show that the sensible elements of the environmental movement may be moving away from sloganeering on climate change towards more sensible solutions.
However, the knee-jerk reaction from Australian environmental lobby groups and much of the left-leaning media to the Morrison Government’s energy pivot suggests Australia still has a way to go to catch up to the rest of the world in this now fast-moving debate.