Australian news, and some related international items

Malcolm Turnbull’s political double-speak on energy policy

Turnbull climate 2 facedIs Malcolm Turnbull’s priority really just keeping the lights on?, Guardian, Kristina Keneally, 6 Feb 17  It seems Turnbull is basing his core political agenda for 2017 on a rare weather event. It’s a textbook definition of being buffeted by events rather than shaping them  Imagine a severe thunderstorm had not hit South Australia last September and caused a state-wide blackout. What on earth would the Turnbull government have to talk about?

The day after the South Australian storm, the energy minister, Josh Frydenberg, nominated “energy security” as the government’s number one priority.

Last week at the National Press Club, Malcolm Turnbull said that this year his government would prioritise energy security and storage.

The Turnbull government is basing its core political agenda for 2017 on a once-in-50-years weather event. This must be the textbook definition of a government buffeted by events rather than shaping them.

Let’s set aside – for a moment – the happenstance nature of the Turnbull government’s top policy priority and instead consider the relevance of its pitch to voters. What does energy security even mean? When was the last time you used that phrase in conversation? Does it have something to do with defence? Is it keeping our power plants safe from attack?

 Energy security is classic bureaucratic jargon. It’s political double-speak. Come on, Malcolm, just say your priority in government is to keep the lights on.

And if that is the Turnbull government’s priority, well, that’s pathetic. So much for innovation, agility, jobs and growth, and budget repair. The Turnbull government is flat out making sure our fridges are still running and we can still charge our mobile phones. They have no ambition or time for anything greater.

But the biggest joke of all is that Turnbull can’t even manage to pretend for more than a week that energy security is his number one priority. Last night Turnbull told Channel Nine’s Laurie Oakes that “what I set out is our agenda for this year and what we’re going to deal with is ­energy prices”.

Energy security and energy prices. Yeah, they are not the same thing.

Turnbull can’t make energy prices go down at the same time he wants to invest millions (billions?) in an unspecified energy security program. Whether he intends to build new “clean coal” power generators – which are costly and won’t do much for reducing carbon emissions – or new transmission and distribution infrastructure, it is going to cost money. That cost will be worn by energy customers, or taxpayers, or both.

What if we took Turnbull at his word? Hard to do, I know, but stick with me. Let’s say he does want to simultaneously tackle energy prices and energy security. The prime minister could do something about gas.

Gas is a better transition from coal to renewable energy sources, which are intermittent. Gas can be turned on and off more easily than coal, meaning it can better complement intermittent renewable supplies. Gas produces lower emissions than coal, including so-called “clean coal”.

Last week Turnbull described gas as uneconomic. Currently, it is. Gas producers can get a much higher price selling Australian gas to Asia than to Australians. But the federal government could make gas viable in Australia, or beneficial to Australians. Turnbull could introduce a gas reservation policy. He could require gas companies to compensate Australians for their super profits from selling gas to the lucrative Asian market. But he won’t do either of these things. Turnbull’s party room likes coal: therefore, so does he……..

February 8, 2017 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, energy, politics

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