Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Greenhouse Myths and politicians

Twenty years from now we Australians will be getting 0.3 percent of our energy from solar power. Says who?
 Says the Government.
But they don’t say it out loud because the Greens might hear. Instead they talk about our bright green, renewable energy future and all the jobs that will be created as we “switch over” to “clean” energy.
Such energy myths have destroyed the world’s ability to make any credible attempt to deal with climate change.
We Australians have pledged to reduce our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by five percent of 2000 levels by 2020. Both major parties agree on this goal – yet it will not be met. Australia has no chance of reducing its GHG emissions at all in the next nine years.
If the Government seriously pursued this goal, we the people, would turf them out of office.
The only way we will meet this commitment is by buying credits from overseas. We will find a way to buy licences to continue business as usual.
Again, this is another fact you will not hear the Government – or the Opposition – saying out loud.
The Gillard Government has announced (ever so quietly) that we will be getting 13 percent of our electricity from wind and solar in 20 years – one percent of this will be solar.
But haven’t we got bi-partisan agreement on sourcing 20 percent of our electricity from renewables in just nine years time? Yes we have.  But this is just more myth and spin.
As the current Government, like those before it, make clear – if you ask quietly – wind and solar, geothermal, wave energy, these are all extras on the renewable energy set and will be for the foreseeable future. The stars are wood and hydro dams – but, again, don’t say that out loud or the Greens might hear and there will be hell to pay.
The Government’s carbon tax is, sadly, dead. It has drowned in this sea of myth and spin. The only question for Julia Gillard is how to get back to what Kevin Rudd has led us to believe was her original position without getting the blame.  If she cans the tax the Greens will throw a tantrum and her fragile Government will collapse.
However, if she lets the Greens have a big input into drafting the legislation it will become political poison for the other independents who will vote it down in the House. She will get away Scot free and will be able to claim the high moral ground going into the next election. Brilliant politics!
But, once again, a sad day for the future of the planet and our attempts to tackle climate change.
So let’s kill a few more persistent myths in the hope we can apply CPR to this “CPRS” and get the tax over the line.
Myth: Corporations are the “Big Polluters” and the tax will make them pay.
 Fact: We are the big polluters – we the “working families”.
Corporations have been working hard to become more energy efficient since the oil shocks of the ‘70s. That’s when there was a step change energy costs and so reducing their energy consumption has meant big bucks for big business.
The carbon tax is not designed to make big corporations pay – it’s designed to make us pay more for our energy in the hope we will use less. Any corporate costs will be passed on to us, the consumers, one way or another – just like the GST.
Making us more energy efficient will achieve a great deal more than our solar pipe dreams.
For example, if we can improve the efficiency of our car fleet by just one percent, that would be equivalent in terms of GHG reductions to our entire national solar power generation.
Running our cars with the right air pressure in our tyres would improve the fleet by about 3 percent. Improving our driving habits – that is less speeding and accelerating – can deliver improvements anywhere up to 33 percent.
Myth: The carbon tax will lead to a revolution in renewable energy.
Fact: The Government says that all renewable energy will account for only 8 per cent of Australia’s energy consumption in 20 years time. The other 92 percent will still be fossil fuels.
The tax will, however, tilt the scales back in favour of the planet so that over the next 100 years or so, we will improve the impact of our growing energy use a little sooner than might otherwise be the case.
We journalists, politicians, economists and academics will never produce the solutions to our energy challenges – these will have to come from our engineers and scientists.
The best we can do is work towards creating the political and fiscal environment that will support and assist our engineers and scientists. For starters we can certainly encourage more of our youth into the maths-science stream.  We desperately need more engineers – as opposed to more models and rock stars.
Now is the time to start getting real about this climate challenge.