Image for The Liberal National [Coalition] Power Crisis

*Pic: Flickr, David Blackwell: ‘Walking home one evening in 2074 Paul wondered about the scientific breakthrough reversing the effects of climate change and its impact on his beach condo investment’ …

First published September 13

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull met again with the head of AGL (having met with the heads of all major energy companies). We are faced with a coal and gas promotional show lubricated with a study of an old idea, pumped hydro. Australia can only be saved from increasing power prices by - wait for it - the corporations using the fuels under the Coalition’s preferred system that made the power expensive.

How so you may ask?

Well it is the same coal and gas owners who lobbied again and again to delay action on climate change until in 2010 their power was severely curtailed.

Before that voter pressure for action to reduce emissions kept rising. Attempts at satisfying the demands for action on climate change were made right through the Liberal National period, commencing under Howard with - believe it or not - a Renewable Energy Target.

Howard got so desperate to win the climate change vote that by 2007 he promised, if re-elected, he would take action to put a value on emissions, a price on Carbon, to cause the coal and gas moguls to reduce Carbon emissions. After losing that election he recanted, saying he had lied simply to get elected.

After 11 years of the Liberal National Coalition, a Labor government led by Kevin ‘I’m here to help’ Rudd was elected and began to seek a compromise on Carbon emissions that would satisfy the coal and gas moguls and keep the voters happy. The proposal was well below what the scientific community was recommending as targets for reducing emissions to avoid disasters like more powerful cyclones or increased fire danger.

It failed to pass through the Senate because the Greens opposed it. It was a plan set up to retain the status quo of coal for as long as possible.

The then Liberal leader was Turnbull and he indicated support for the Rudd government’s proposal, a support that had come from the lesson of defeat of Howard 3 years earlier. It was to become the usual lie, ‘we tell we have changed to get your vote but really we are the same’, the party of Business, especially coal miners. The image change was initially the work of Brendan Nelson.

Rolled by one vote, Turnbull lost to “climate change is crap’ Abbott, a nightmare incarnate for anything smacking of reduced Carbon emissions, renewable energy or indeed a habitable planet.

Turnbull was not the only Party leader to lose to Carbon and coal. After Abbott became Liberal leader Rudd’s proposed 25% emissions reduction target faltered under a “No Carbon tax” campaign. His fellow Labor members of Parliament replaced him with Julia Gillard, our first female PM, who went to an election foolishly promising there would be ‘No Carbon tax’ under a government she led.

Now, with the supportative evidence of Abbott’s Chief of Staff, there wasn’t ever ‘Carbon tax’. It was just another Liberal lie made nice by calling it clever politics.

When Gillard was elected she had to negotiate with crossbenchers in the lower house and with the Greens there and in the Senate. They forced the government to put a price on Carbon as a start to an emissions trading scheme, to invest in renewables through a loans scheme and to support innovation in the renewable energy sector.

Although Abbott made many unsupported and baseless claims about energy and how it would flow through to the cost of goods, the $100 roast, the Whyalla wipe-out, what we saw was power prices fall through the period of the price on Carbon.

Abbott was elected in 2013 and began unwinding the price on Carbon and trying to kill off the loans scheme and to attack the wind-power industry killing off jobs in an emerging industry, many located in the country, the home of Nationals voters.

Unsurprisingly, power prices have been rising since Abbott and his gang ended of the program of putting a price on emissions, reducing the Renewable Energy Target and funding new forms of power generation, an initiative the Greens negotiated with the Gillard government. 

Last year the Liberals were returned to government, having changed leaders back to Turnbull, and we find energy, its price and fuel source, has moved to the central ring replacing debt and deficit.

It should be unsurprising because along with suppressing economic growth and wages is the result of Abbott’s attack on renewables and Turnbull’s ongoing support of it through his failure to differentiate between dangerous climate changing fossil fuels and renewables.

Of course this confected energy crisis has the bonus of allowing attacks on renewables to continue, to distract from the issue of the dangers of climate change although for other places those undeniable impacts are shown each night on the TV news.

After 20 years what lessons have been learned by the Liberals?

They remain in the thrall of the coal and gas moguls whilst the energy generating companies in Australia know the coal fired era is over and that gas will soon enough follow.

Why? Because the finance industry is no longer interested in investing in coal fired power stations in Australia, the power is more expensive than the renewable power stations. The return from gas fired energy is below the global price making that infrastructure investment unviable.

There are now renewable energy storage systems suitable for much of Australia, such as solar thermal, that allow for 24/7 energy generation without wind and with cloudy days, because the sun comes up every morning.

This is reliable baseload energy.

Having delayed investment in new energy generation systems by either failing to underpin them with legislation or by attacking them every opportunity they get, the Liberals and Nationals now wish to confuse the electricity consumer by blaming everything except their failures.

The Liberal National Coalition had two decades to promote renewables as a transition from coal.

When they were supported between 2010 and 2013 with an emissions trading scheme and renewable energy target the cost of electricity fell.  A renewable energy target assists in getting new renewable power sources built ahead of coal-fired plants ending their economic life and closing but renewable energy has its own momentum.

The sunlight and air movement are cheap and the carbon emissions associated with renewables are very low over the life of the power plants unlike fossil fuels.

The coal-fired Carbon emission legacy is firing natural disaster of a power or in places where they have not been in all the thousands of years of human history. 

The fault for high electricity prices does not lie with anywhere else than with the Liberal National Coalition, with their blind support of the coal miners and gas extractors which has led them to fail to describe a path to the inevitable renewable energy future.

All the blame for prices and the additional impact of the damaging natural disasters above what we have experienced can be sheeted home to the fossil fuel industry, which has in the Western world done its best to delay action on climate change, to confound and confuse the voting public and to buy as many politicians and their Parties as they can.

To avoid both the financial penalties, and in the knowledge of the impact of Carbon emissions criminal responsibility, smart energy producers are leaving fossil fuels. They know these fuels are dead in the water because those looking for safe long term investment, the superannuation and other investment funds, will not be supporting fuels that are increasing costs as damages to infrastructure and global security into the future. 

The Liberals and Nationals crocodile tears of concern about energy prices would be more believable had they charted a course of transition from coal to renewables that provided dignity to coal mine workers, provided a path for investment to move from coal and gas without economic uncertainty and to limit the damage from climate change by encouraging a rapid reduction in emissions.

But nope, nope, nope. It has been the words of the dopiest PM in living memory, a guy who made many promises knowing he would break them and apparently didn’t think it would affect his popularity, that underpins the current Coalition dilemma.

The policy grab bag ScoMo described around short term stop gaps are not the way to lead Australia into the future.

Pumped Hydro is only one item in a mix and it is not looking good when decreased snow and rainfall is driven by the very climate changing fossil fuels the Liberals support in the form of extending the life of the Liddel power plant or lending to Adani to open the Great Barrier Reef destroying Carmichael mine in Queensland.
The Turnbull Government sits in the ACT, a jurisdiction that is managing a transition to renewables by providing long term power contracts to investors to build new renewable energy plants.

Can they not take a lesson. Clearly the Coalition is a captive of coal endangering the future prosperity of the Australia they supposedly care so much about.

PS: Paul Kelly should note a battery does not generate power, it only stores it. He may wish to amend his article in the Weekend Australian.

*phill Parsons grew up in the shadow of a coal fired gas works that closed and became a park.  For thousands of years beforehand energy for human use would have come from wood fires. He has watched the Liberals confect issues to win government since 1973 but has difficulty remembering the Liberals attacking business over its decisions until recent times when car industry jobs were forced offshore by Abbott. He awaits a consistent policy that will bring down power prices by using the lowest cost safe fuels. He remains concerned that the costs of climate change will cripple the economy.

Guardian: Australia’s energy policy is a world-class failure and Abbott wears the gold medal of blame If you’ve watched the inglorious spectacle of the failure of Australian politics on climate and energy policy over the last 10 years, it’s a bit hard to look out on the wreckage without feeling sick to the stomach …

Fairfax: Stand-off between Turnbull government and AGL deepens over conflicting statements

Guardian: For energy security, the failing Liddell coal plant is the last thing we need

Crikey: Think Scott Morrison is a good treasurer? Here are 40 reasons you are wrong Suddenly everyone seems to have forgot to hate Scott Morrison, with his polling numbers surprisingly good. Here are 40 reasons his treasurership has been a shambles.

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