With Energy, Tough to Make Predictions

Peter Smith09 Sep, 2023 3 Min Read
Especially about the future.

The Australian government periodically issues an ‘intergenerational report’ which purports to be able to see 40 years into the future. The latest iteration came out just last month. It’s a political document and therefore useless. Though, to be fair, any report which attempts to predict what any part of the world will look like four decades hence has to be taken cum grano salis.

The first of these intergenerational reports was issued in 2002. Australia’s population was forecast to reach 25 million by 2040. It is already past 26 million. As Niels Bohr said (or was it Yogi Berra?), “it’s difficult to make predictions, especially about the future.” And, of course, that 2002 report, just twenty or so year ago, was not suffused with bafflegab about the transformation to net-zero. Nor did it predict that the world’s politicians would devise kamikaze-like attacks on hydrocarbon fuels.

Just ask Yogi.

Surprisingly and modestly, the current report, in all of its turgid 290-odd pages, makes no mention of Australia becoming a "renewable energy" super power. Never mind, "climate change" minister Chris Bowen is less self-effacing. And what seems to be a clear take away is that Australians will be the richer for the threatening climate Armageddon. Yes, it will cause all kinds of horribly hot weather which might restrict toiling outdoors on midsummer days (Christmas in Oz, remember). To wit:

Australia’s industries will experience different labour productivity impacts due to rising temperatures, reflecting their reliance on labour for production and occupations that are physically intense and undertaken outdoors.

But workers suffering from heat stroke is just the imagined downside of "climate change." There is a much bigger imagined upside. To wit:

With abundant wind, sun and open spaces, Australia can generate renewable energy more cheaply than many countries and on a greater scale… additional technological development could lead to exports of energy-intensive green metals, and electricity through undersea cables and hydrogen.

Thus will the world come beating at Australia’s door begging for some of our wind and solar energy. For example, I can imagine Indonesia running a 1,700 mile undersea cable from Jakarta to Darwin to grab Australia’s clean green electricity. You can’t? What are you an irredeemable denialist or, something even worse, a realist?

I recall the actor Michael Caine in an interview saying “use the difficulty.” So, if you trip on stage make something positive of it. He extended the thought to life in general. It’s positive way of approaching things. But it has its limits. We can all think of things happening which can’t easily be turned to the good.

Plentiful, easily extractable, well-located, brown and black coal gave Australia a competitive advantage in producing cheap electricity. It’s delusional to think that abandoning that competitive advantage will prove to be beneficial. Sure, there is an advantage in having some of the minerals required by China et al. to build vast numbers of batteries and electric cars; but the sun, wind and open spaces are hardly scarce and sellable resources.

Plenty of room for wind and solar. And nukes.

The world is already half-turning to nuclear energy. In Europe, for example, it is evident in France’s Nuclear Alliance. The emergence of small modular reactors will accelerate the take-up in North America ( e.g. in Ontario and Idaho) and worldwide; as, most persuasively, will the sheer madness of trying to run modern economies on wind and sun. Those heavily committed to wind and solar power, while tilting at net-zero, will have no other option but to use a nuclear band-aid. They are too invested in climate alarmism to reverse course. Yet, in Australia, nuclear power is legally banned. And it rates just one passing mention in the Intergenerational report; and that in context of its being too dear:

Renewable energy is already the cheapest form of new energy in Australia… compared to gas, coal or nuclear electricity generation.

The capacity of Australia’s current political leaders to believe in fairy tales is unbounded. Maybe La-La Land has tectonically shifted from California to Down Under. Thus, apparently, a modern economy can be run without coal power and nuclear power; and, if greenies, Aboriginal activists, and left-wing judges continue to stymie developments, without much oil and natural gas. Here we’ll be, stranded on an island continent covered in wind turbines and solar panels, while China and India continue burning Australian coal, and many countries enjoy the use of Australian uranium to power their reactors.

“Don’t worry. She’ll be right mate.”

“No, she won’t.”

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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2 comments on “With Energy, Tough to Make Predictions”

  1. I would like to strand the Eco-Freaks in the Alaska Wilderness all winter long so they can see Nature thats not made in a Hollywood Studio

  2. Confused by green pretzel logic? You won’t be any longer once you learn their tacit code-speak language. When the UN wrings their hands over their latest projection that the world will fail to reach the Paris Climate Accord goal of no more than 1.5 degrees warming by century end, understand it instead to mean 1.5 births per women (avg.). Continue in this fashion with all green-speak, and much will be revealed.

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