Tag Archives: Lenore Taylor

“Mine is bigger than yours” – penis envy, emissions and energy storage #auspol

It’s another one of those weeks where the news cycle is dominated by climate change.  The first week of December last year saw  Josh Frydenberg announce that the impending climate policy review would consider an emissions intensity scheme  (something the Business Council now wants,  perhaps quietly regretting that they cheered on Tony Abbott as he repealed Julia Gillard’s Emissions Trading Scheme?)

Frydenberg’s words sent Cory Bernardi, Christopher Pyne and others ballistic. The very next day Frydenberg was back on the airwaves denying he had said what everyone heard him say, pouring cold water over the idea. Another backflip in the long history of backflips on climate and energy policy.  The following day, Malcolm Turnbull at the fish market, scotched the EIS idea altogether, proclaiming it to be another carbon tax.   All this before chief scientist Alan Finkel produced the first report of his review into Australian energy security.

At the beginning of February we had another intense week – Turnbull spoke at the National Press Club saying that coal would be the foundation of Australian energy generation for decades to come; followed by Resources Minister Matt Canavan talking of “clean coal” and suggesting the Clean Energy Finance Corporations rules could be changed to allow public funding (since investors clearly were not interested).  Days later ended with Treasurer Scott Morrison brandishing a lump of coal and cooing “This is coal… Don’t be afraid…  don’t be scared.” (And has since boasted about this to radio shocking jock Ray Hadley.)

As one astute  journalist wrote three years ago it’s part of

“a long campaign to redefine the stuff that comes from burning coal as a “colourless, odourless gas”, a harmless three-way cuddle between one carbon and two oxygen atoms that, happily, provides “plant food”

Morrison’s stunt was an echo of US Senator James Inhofe’s infamous snowball stunt of a couple of years previously.

A third such climate-and-energy week has ensued. Last Friday Elon Musk grabbed headlines around the world by tweeting a ‘done and dusted in a 100 days or free’ offer on 100MWh of battery storage. He had talks with both SA Premier Jay Weatherill and Malcolm Turnbull, both of which were poured over by journalists and analysts. On Tuesday the SA government announced a six point energy plan, which involved funding a new gas fired power station, a tender for battery storage, a change in royalty payments to ease gas exploration and new powers for the SA government to intervene in the National Energy Market.  This last point was predictably rubbished by the Federal Government, with Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg muttering about consulting lawyers.

Then Malcolm Turnbull, pre-empting the Finkel Review it commissioned in response to the September 2016 South Australian blackout, let alone the climate policy review (remember that?),  proposed an expansion of the Snowy Mountain Hydro Scheme (a nation building project from 1947 to 1974 is the largest engineering project undertaken in Australia, brought in under budget and before time), this time to ensure not additional energy production, but storage.

While Jay and Josh were having an extraordinary stoush in a suburban garage in Adelaide Malcolm Turnbull was touring that hydro scheme and could not help but say

“In one hour it could produce 20 times the 100Mwh expected from the battery proposed by the South Australian government but would deliver it constantly for almost a week (or 350,000 Mwh over seven days),”

It is almost exactly a year ago that Donald Trump assured voters that fellow Republican candidate Marco Rubio was wrong to cast aspersions about the size of his, um, hands….

In terms of childishness, well Lenore Taylor summed it up beautifully

“And sometimes the leader of the nation can join the policy discussion only by disguising his good ideas in a drizabone and bush hat, lest they be recognised for what they are by his own colleagues.”

A picture is worth a thousand words

Malcolm Turnbull tours the Tumut 3 power station while announcing the government’s plan for a major expansion of the Snowy Hydro Scheme

“Malcolm Turnbull tours the Tumut 3 power station while announcing the government’s plan for a major expansion of the Snowy Hydro Scheme. Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP.” Source: Guardian article here.

The photo accompanying the article, by  Lukas Coch of Australian Associated Press shows Turnbull, in obligatory hard hat and fluoro and wearing safety goggles pointing into the distance,  predictably flanked by two other men.  Readers with long memories and cynical dispositions may recall that in  July 2014 Senator Ian MacDonald came to parliament in a fluorojacket, provided to him by the same people who gave Morrison his lump of lacquered lump of coal, namely the Minerals Council of Australia.

This is like a thousand other photos of politicians donning similar protective garb.  These all seem like desperate claims by desperate men, who are the epitome of the political class (“out of touch”) using props to try to build to their constituents, earnestly proclaim themselves to be “real,” “tough”  and ‘authentically working class.’

Climate Change is making us all anxious (if not terrified). These claims to authenticity, ‘common sense’ and machismo, are the devices that our politicians deploy to calm us (and perhaps themselves?). It’s not so much ‘virtue signalling’ but ‘virtuoso signalling’ – a claim to competence and hard-headness to see us through the tough times ahead. Given the vicissitudes of the policy-making “process” and the super-wicked nature of the problems, such performances are unsurprising.   What is perhaps surprising that it politicians seem to think that it still works.

Feb 15, 1995 – the Fin briefly understands Jevons’ Paradox

Having helped defeat a proposed carbon tax, the Australian Financial Review steps back for a minute and looks at the bigger picture. In an editorial published on February 15 1995, it momentarily groks Jevons paradox.

“But no-regrets policies cannot be counted on to significantly reduce Australia’s total greenhouse emissions. The reason is that making the economy more efficient and competitive will lead to higher levels of output.”

Also on this day

Diesendorf, M. 2006. Muzzling of CSIRO scientists is part of a wider campaign.  The Canberra Times 15 February.

ABC TV’s Four Corners program and especially its reporter, Janine Cohen, should be congratulated on highlighting an undemocratic practice that has been going on for decades: the muzzling of CSIRO scientists from participating in public debate about greenhouse response strategies and energy alternatives….

and

 

Taylor, L. 2011. Time to knuckle down to make a choice, before it’s too late. The Age, 15 February.

For a decade the main parties in Australian politics have been choosing expensive, dumb policies to reduce greenhouse emissions over the cheap, smart option of an efficiently designed carbon price.

They’ve consciously picked ideas that cost 10 times more than the cheapest option of a carbon price, which they have repeatedly promised, only to change their minds.

and

Green, M. 2013. Bursting the carbon bubble. The Age,15 February, p.16.

Energy analysts and activists warn that most of the world’s fossil fuels must remain in the ground, and that it can’t be business as usual for the industry.

Jan 19, 2016- outgoing chief scientist says tougher greenhouse targets inevitable

Hmm, at some point I will write on the history of chief scientists and climate change in Australia – it is an interesting tale, dating all the way back to the first one, in the late 1980s…
But for now; on this day a year ago, the estimable Lenore Taylor reported that the outgoing chief scientist, Ian Chubb, reckoned that tougher emissions targets were inevitable [in the long run, perhaps – but in the long run, as Keynes said….] and that “hostility towards climate science may be easing but scientists still have a duty to offer unflinching advice.”

Taylor, L. 2016.Outgoing chief scientist Ian Chubb says tougher greenhouse gas targets inevitable. The Guardian, 19 January.

Meanwhile, 24 years previously,  on 19th January 1992, Dr Graeme Pearman, then co-ordinator of the CSIRO’s climate change research program said that there was little doubt that climate change (or to be more specific  what we nowadays call anthropogenic global warming)  was a reality and that those doubting it were gambling with the future of the world.

Well, Pearman went on to head the CSIRO’s Atmospheric Research Division, before finally succumbing to the horror that was the Howard government’s attitude to climate science (more on that later).

Anon,  1992. Greenhouse cynics gambling with future. Canberra Times, 20 January.