On 'Climate,' Compromise Won't Cut It

Peter Smith14 Jun, 2024 5 Min Read
Renewables: not quite as fast as a snail.

Australia’s opposition Liberal Party led by Peter Dutton is going all in for nuclear in the 2040s with gas bridging the gap. Versus the Labor government’s, wind, solar, pumped-hydro and batteries, he should be a shoo-in the forthcoming election; due next year, if not called earlier. Would that it were so simple.

Dutton is compromised. He’s not against wind, solar and batteries, just against as many as Labor plans. Labor plans to fill land and seascapes with at least nine times the existing disfiguring blots of wind turbines and solar panels. So exactly how many does Dutton think should be installed? Three times, four times, seven times? On that he’s studiously stumm.

Dutton says that his government, if elected, will walk away from Australia’s “Nationally Determined Commitment” under the Paris Agreement of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 43 percent below their 2005 level by 2030. It can’t be met, he says. Bravo! But he reasserts a commitment to net-zero by 2050. Which can be met? And of coal, which currently provides close to 50 percent of electrical power, I can’t find a peep.

Pick a side, Peter.

This why we in Australia are in a mess; and we are far from being alone among Western countries. It’s not that the political left are leading us into unthinkable disasters. That is who they are. They suffer from arrested development and therefore take little or no account of consequences. The real problem is that those supposedly on the political right have predominantly turned into panty-waisted appeasers.

An appeaser, as Churchill put it, “is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.” And this crocodile, those on the green left of the political spectrum, can’t be mollified. They want complete surrender, otherwise they will chew you up and spit you out.

Enter, for example, Amanda McKenzie, Climate Council chief executive. The Climate Council is a non-profit organization dedicated, so far as I can tell, to spreading disinformation on the non-existent “climate crisis.” It was established in 2013 after Tony Abbott, the new Liberal prime minister at the time, sensibly abolished the government-owned Climate Commission -- for which Ms McKenzie worked as chief communications advisor.

We refuse to be abolished, said McKenzie, or something like that. And, alongside Professor Tim Flannery (he who in 2007 predicted that Australia’s now-overflowing dams would never fill again) co-founded the privately-funded Climate Council. Unsurprisingly, she was mightily unimpressed with Dutton’s new climate policy. She recently stamped her feet in The Australian:

[It is] a disaster, and the consequence for Australians would be more extreme heat, fires and floods… instead of ripping up Australia’s 2030 climate targets, Peter Dutton must listen to the communities already ravaged by worsening climate disasters...This is more of the same from the party who already gave us a decade of denial.

Save us from the consequences of our own actions.

Presupposing that human activities in their global entirety can materially affect the climate is a highly dubious proposition in itself. McKenzie’s claim that Dutton’s policies in Australia alone (pop. 27 million) would cause "more extreme heat, fires and floods” is an exercise in deception that would put North Korea's Kim Jong Un to shame. She must know what she says isn’t true, right? Okay, she is a relatively young woman with an arts and law degree (no science) who seems to have spent her working life among climateers. Could this account for her misspeaking, to put it kindly? I suppose, if we assume she’s as daft a brush.

In any event, my point is that there is no point in trying to meet those on the left in the middle. Sometimes the odd “conservative” politician is invited onto the ABC -- the publicly-owned, staff-collective broadcaster. Inevitably, they bend over backwards to portray themselves as being fair-minded and reasonable. We conservatives are not as awful as you think we are, etc. It is pathetic, and much good it does them as they are being torn apart.

If only they could get past their hand-wringing, those on the political right are on a sure-fire winner on energy. Stop  battling the global-warming hoax. Focus on energy. Global warming is a slippery intangible. It means whatever they choose it to mean. Energy on the other hand is very tangible. It is there on demand or it isn’t; and it costs what it costs.

Take the pumped-hydro project, Snowy 2.0, on which desperate hopes are pinned. It will cost $2 billion and will be up and running in 2021, so said Malcolm Turnbull, the then climate-cultist prime minister of Australia, in 2017. On May 24 Snowy Hydro Limited (the federal-government-owned parent company) updated the business case. At the end of 2018, the capital cost had risen to $6.1 billion. Now it is $12 billion (and counting). This does not include the transmission lines and poles to take the stored power to Sydney and Melbourne. That has been estimated to be another $10 billion. It is a debacle. The question is how much more money will be wasted before the project is dumped, as it almost certainly will be.

Man's follies never stop.

The boring machine “Florence” became stuck again in April this year. This time in hard rock. It was stuck from October 2022 until December 2023 in soft ground. Too soft, too hard. Goldilocks where are you? Its job is to make a tunnel 15 kilometers long up and through the Snowy Mountains (490 kilometers south west of Sydney) between the underground power station and the upper reservoir. It has advanced only 850 meters or by 4.5 centimeters an hour. Apparently, that’s 22 times slower than your average snail.

The ABC reported multiple sources saying that the latest incident is more serious than has been acknowledged by Snowy Hydro and could take weeks or even months before normal drilling resumes. One source reportedly said that it has “wedged the thing in good and proper.” Another, more pithily, said, “It's f****d."

Together or apart, none of solar, wind, batteries or pumped hydro produce 24/7 base load power. They are all expensive crocks. How hard would it be for a conservative leader with “cojones” to dump them all. Argue for coal, gas and oil until nuclear is up and running. They just could be on a winner at the polls.

After a career in economics, banking and payment-systems management, Peter Smith now blogs on the topics of the day. He writes for Quadrant, Australia’s leading conservative online site and magazine. He has written Bad Economics, of which, he notes, there is much.


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