The Fantasy Country

3 11 2010

[Yes, I realise that ‘The Lucky Country’ was an ironic term and one of the most widely abused/misused in Australian culture. But trust me, I’m being at least ironic.]

Apart from a need to just write something, anything, before 12 months elapses since I last did, this has been bugging me more and more lately.

Australia has become a fantasy land. Up is down, black is white; climate change doesn’t exist and we best burn more and more of that lovely coal.

Most people are aware there’s 12 new coal-fired electricity generation plants either under construction or in the advanced planning stages around Australia. Another 3 in WA alone, on top of the 2 Bluewaters units recently brought online and the planned joint venture refurbishment of those archaic Muja A and B units.

But it gets better and better.

The CPRS was first one of the worst attempts at public policy in Australian history (paraphrasing Ross Garnaut), then abandoned altogether — along with any pretence of doing a damned thing about climate change in this country — till at least 2013 in a fit of leadership-less, visionless, marginal-voter kowtowing, focus-grouped, polling-driven, debased raw populism that nearly cost Labor government. That’s old news though. And with a minority government pushed by the Greens, the best news for genuine Australian democracy in decades, some form of carbon price is back on the agenda.

That’s federal politics. What about the states? What are they doing to confront the climate threat crushing down on us and kick start a transition to a Smart Country that uses its abundant renewable energy? Going backwards is what.

Queensland’s state rail company, QR, is actually using the fact that it’s the world’s largest hauler of coal freight as a selling point in it’s current (or just expired) public float campaign. Broadly CGI emblazoned on pictures of it’s rolling stock. This can only become a liability to the company in a regulatory context even remotely serious about curtailing coal consumption. Oh, QR is mostly for exports? Even India has recently imposed a tax on coal imports, and that includes Australia. (Nevermind the morals.)

My absolute favourite is this though: the NSW government, in a pathetic and desperate attempt to finally dump their state-owned coal generator assets to the private market, are getting back into the coal mining game so as to provide a guaranteed and cheap supply of coal to these plants — below the real costs of production — because real-pricing of the fuel makes them totally unattractive for buyers. An article in, ugh, that national broadsheet, points out this is a subsidy to private interests on the order of $1b. This on top of overnight slashing the state’s admittedly probably over-generous $0.60/kWh gross RE feed in tariff to just $0.20, a value less than the retail purchase rate.

Meanwhile over west we’re so damn keen to dig up and flog off our gas assets, the Barnett gang want to compulsoraily acquire indigenous lands and force the gas hub on it. Disenfranchising the people and raping the land all over again. The Greens have raised in federal parliament the reality of the horrendous surge in GHG emissions this will all entail.

So. Climate change? Nawww, we don’t do that in Australia. We have coal and gas to dig up and burn or sell (not so much oil left, mind you), while routinely f-cking over the domestic RE industry with obscene stop-start policy, no national carbon price, and no signs whatever of even a slowdown in the rate of growth of our emissions.

Moronic would be a word. And we’re already reaping what we sow.

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