Monday, September 18, 2017

Dumping green folly will secure energy future, reboot economy

In the blink of an eye we are confronted by a national energy pricing and supply crisis. This is the cost of virtue signalling — that propensity for those on the political left, including moderates in the Liberal Party, to advocate policies aimed more at demonstrating their moral superiority than delivering practical results.

This nation’s most pressing economic challenge, it is also the most volatile political dilemma that threatens to derail Malcolm Turnbull’s career for a second time. (It cost him the Liberal leadership in 2009.) Climate and energy are set to define the next decade of ­national affairs just as they have plagued us since 2007.

To comprehend the politics we need a helicopter view; to examine first principles and the true aims of the policies. Far too much of the debate is predicated on gestures rather than results.

We are an energy-rich nation. Last year we exported 388 million tonnes of coal (valued at $35 billion) to supply affordable and ­reliable energy to countries such as Japan, China, South Korea and India. Our liquefied natural gas exports are doubling from 30 million tonnes a couple of years ago to almost 80 million tonnes (valued at $42bn) by 2019.

Australia also remains one of the largest exporters of uranium (nuclear energy is the ­silver bullet if we ever get serious about emissions) and, after a price and volume slump, trade will ­rebound to values of more than $1.2bn during the next few years.

While we happily export our energy advantage, we have deliberately sacrificed it at home. Households are paying some of the highest electricity prices in the world and manufacturing industries have been closing or downscaling because of cost pressures created in part by rapidly rising power prices. Energy bills are also creating commercial hardship for struggling retailers as well as hospitality and other sectors.

The largest single factor in the power crisis is the renewable ­energy target demanding 23 per cent of electricity be supplied by renewables, which are subsidised by consumers. When the renew­ables (mainly wind turbines) supply power they can do so at zero cost, thereby undercutting the viability of baseload generators and hastening their demise. The trouble is renewable ­energy can’t supply all our needs at any time and, crucially, is intermittent and unreliable. So we still need all of the baseload and peaking generation.

Under this formula we must ­either be caught short of supply or need to almost double our investment in energy so every megawatt of renewable energy is backed up by storage or thermal generation.

And just when we need more rapid-response gas generation to back up wind energy we have a gas supply/price issue courtesy of long-term export contracts and state restrictions on exploration and exploitation. What a mess.

What we don’t ever hear our major party politicians ask is why we are doing this to ourselves. We might also expect this would be a line of inquiry for media in fearless pursuit of their audiences’ interests. But no; incurious acceptance of the imperative for emissions ­reductions is universal in the public broadcasters and love media.

News Corp papers and Sky News are the only mainstream media likely to offer a plurality of views. Journalists who sail with this zeitgeist will justify their position by pointing to the political consensus on the emissions reductions targets set in Paris. But public and media debate should not be about accommodating convenient bipartisan compromise; it should be about reality and the public ­interest.

If the justification for our self-imposed energy crisis is saving the planet, then any reference to the facts will expose the futility. Australia’s carbon emissions make up about 1.4 per cent of global emissions and we are looking to reduce them by 26 to 28 per cent by 2030. Simultaneously, emissions are rising elsewhere by quantities that dwarf our total emissions, let alone our inconsequential reductions.

As this newspaper reported this week, China has 299 coal-fired power stations under construction and India 132. Indonesia, Japan, Vietnam, South Korea, The Philippines, South Africa and other nations also are expanding coal-fired generation so that an extra 621 plants are under way. Yet we disrupt our economy, surrender a natural economic advantage, shed jobs and reduce our standard of living to phase out a handful of plants.

On the first principle of whether our efforts do any environmental good — no matter the urgency or otherwise of climate action — the answer is our efforts are pointless. So we are then left with the diplomatic commitment to Paris that both major parties support.

Astonishingly, less than a day after Donald Trump won the US election promising to abandon Paris, Malcolm Turnbull announced Australia’s ratification. The Prime Minister thumbed his nose at the obvious opportunity to hold out, see if the US withdrew (as it has) and perhaps forestall our own commitment.

The accord is dramatically weakened without the world’s largest economy, especially given other powerhouses such as China and India will continue to increase their emissions. (Ironically, perhaps no country is making a greater contribution to emissions red­uct­ions than the US through its innovation in areas such as fracking and battery technology.)

The Paris Agreement is not binding, so we don’t need to meet our targets anyway. Yet the political-media class seems viscerally locked onto them.

Turnbull talks about the energy “trilemma” of affordability, reliability and emissions reductions. But even the Finkel review noted these objectives are at odds with each other.

Chief Scientist Alan Finkel tried to prescribe “policies that simultaneously provide a high level of energy security and reliability, universal access to affordable ­energy services, and reduced emissions. This is easier said than done. There is a tension between these three objectives.”

Neither Turnbull nor Finkel or Labor are willing to compromise on the third leg of the trilemma. Their starting point is emissions reductions; and they accept that reliability and affordability can be compromised to meet the target.

Finkel says: “The uncertain and changing direction of emissions reduction policy for the electricity sector has compromised the ­investment environment in the NEM.” But his solution — and that of the Coalition and Labor so far — is to try to formulate a settled, preferably bipartisan, emissions reductions scheme.

So the aim is to provide investment certainty even if it locks in higher electricity prices. The obvious alternative of relegating emissions reduction aims in favour of cheap, reliable power is simply not considered, even though we know it would have no discernible ­impact on the global environment. (We can always run other carbon abatement and energy efficiency schemes if we feel the need.)

The only pragmatic argument against scrapping the emissions reduction imperative is that it, too, may fail to break the investment strike because potential investors will still fear a future carbon pricing scheme. The political temptation is to lock in expensive and debilitating long-term policy solely to deliver the certitude of bipartisanship. This is the ­antithesis of seeking bipartisanship in the national interest.

All the federal government has succeeded in doing so far is taking ownership of the energy mess from the states. The Coalition will not admit that the RET — which it has backed, along with Labor, out of political convenience — is the heart of the problem.

On present settings the government is doomed to fail at the next election and then we will see a Labor government lock in permanently higher energy costs through a carbon pricing scheme. Perhaps the only salvation for the Coalition — and the economy — would be to call time on this green folly in the interests of protecting consumers, boosting jobs and rebooting a competitive advantage.

It would be a risky gambit contested by the rent-seekers in the energy sector. But it would be a fight for the national interest. The question is whether Turnbull, who has always claimed to be as green as Labor, can find it within himself to make the case.


Israel Folau says vote no, David Pocock says vote yes — but does anyone care?

ISRAEL Folau isn’t known for making political statements. His Twitter feed is usually full of snaps of his training sessions for the NSW Waratahs, endorsements for brands he spruiks and posts about his deep religious faith.

All that changed at 2.16pm on Wednesday when Folau became one of the most prominent people so far to say ‘no’ to same-sex marriage.

Folau’s forthrightness move came as a surprise to some. His Wallabies team are supporting marriage equality. Also, it was only a few years ago that Folau was on the front cover of lesbian and gay community publication, the Star Observer, publicising the Bingham Cup, a global rugby competition fought between gay and inclusive rugby teams.

But, Folau insisted, his no vote was also no judgment. “I love and respect all people for who they are,” he wrote.

His position puts him at odds with not just the Australian Rugby Union but just about every major sporting code in Australia, all of which have increasingly pinned their colours to the rainbow mast, publicly cracking down on homophobia.

This weekend in Melbourne, teams from both sides of the Ditch have competed in the annual Purchas Cup, the “Bledisloe Cup” of gay rugby.

Players competing have told they are worried Folau’s no stance could hold “sway” with some fans who are on the marriage fence.

Away from the battles on the pitch, can a sports star win the battle for the hearts and minds of sports fans when it comes to same-sex marriage?

Israel Folau was previously a cover star of LGBTI magazine the Star Observer supporting a gay rugby tournament.

Israel Folau was previously a cover star of LGBTI magazine the Star Observer supporting a gay rugby tournament.Source:Supplied
And what effect does a sports great saying ‘no’ while a code says ‘yes’ have on a punter?

Monash University’s Dr Kerry O’Brien has studied extensively how sport influences behaviour, such as drinking. He agrees sport can have a big impact on supporters in “transmitting values, attitudes and norms”.

Of course, some feel codes should keep out of the debate entirely. Like AFL legend and Footy Show panellist Sam Newman.
He told Mark Latham on his Outsiders online show that he was unhappy at seeing rainbow flags fluttering at the SCG.

“People go to the football to get away from political agendas. That’s their outlet and I honestly don’t know why they (the AFL) do it.” People had the right to be whoever they like,” Newman said, but he would banish all “agendas” from stadiums bar breast cancer appeals.


Thought crime fears motivate same-sex marriage opponents at 'no' campaign launch

Leading "no" campaigners, including Turnbull government MPs, say they fear it will become illegal to oppose same-sex marriage in word or even thought, if gay marriage is legalised.

The extraordinary claims, made at the campaign launch for the Coalition for Marriage on Saturday night, went as far as expressing fear that thought crime would be punished by law.

Cory Bernardi drives 'No' campaign

The South Australian senator claims that the anti same-sex marriage campaign is on the 'right side of legal and moral history'.

Matthew Canavan, a member of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's cabinet until he resigned over his dual citizenship, told the 1500-strong Sydney audience: "The 'yes' side want to make it illegal to just express a different view about marriage, that is their agenda."

On the sidelines, he told Fairfax Media he feared "a strong push to effectively eradicate the view that marriage should be between a man and a woman, to make it illegal".

Asked if his concerns about freedom extended as far as thought-crime, replied: "Yeah, well it is. The anti-discrimination [laws], particularly the state-based ones, are very wide ranging in application."

Senator Canavan was backed by Turnbull government minister Concetta Fierravanti-Wells and Australian Conservatives leader Cory Bernardi, who said these were valid concerns of same-sex marriage opponents.

"If the state redefines marriage, it also redefines how you can speak, think, advocate and believe about marriage," Senator Bernardi said. "That is the very real consequence of what is to come if we lose this battle."

Several speakers at the $15-a-head event cited the case of Tasmanian Archbishop Julian Porteous being hauled before the state's anti-discrimination commission over a booklet opposing same-sex marriage - a case in which the church prevailed.

Speakers also portrayed the "no" side as the victim of a concerted campaign by elites, the media and big business. There were boos from the audience for Sydney lord mayor Clover Moore, who is backing the "yes" side with ratepayers' money.

Coalition for Marriage spokeswoman Sophie York described the "yes" side as "carefully orchestrated, cashed-up and ruthless".

To rapturous applause, she suggested a "no" vote in Australia could be the start of a global "push back" against same-sex marriage, which has been legalised in more than 20 countries.

Outside, 60-year-old Doreen Kirchner from Pennant Hills said she feared moral decline if marriage were to be expanded to include gay couples.

"I think if same-sex marriage gets in it'll be a slippery slope downhill morally. And I want to protect my children and my grandchildren and my great-grandchildren," she told Fairfax Media.

"I don't have a problem with gays per se, I don't have a problem with them having a civil union. But the Marriage Act is for a man and a woman."


Universities going smoke-free

Earlier in the week, the University of Queensland announced it hoped to become a smoke-free educator by mid-2018 and early indications suggest the majority of students support the announcement, however an outraged group of students have created an opposing campaign and begun posting contested messages online.

One of the leaders of the UQ DARTS Facebook page, which advocates against the smoke-free plan, is Kurt Tucker - former president of the university's Liberal National Club. Since the announcement on Tuesday, the page has posted that the decision would see smoking banned in residential colleges and described the decision as "enforcing a complete ban", which is misleading according to the university.

UQ announced it intended to become smoke-free from July 1, 2018, and that the decision "aligns with UQ’s responsibility and desire to provide healthy and vibrant campuses, and reflects evolving societal norms". The university has started education campaigns to encourage staff and students to reduce or quit smoking and UQ's efforts would continue to ramp-up as the July deadline approached.

Since a Parliamentary Committee Inquiry last year, the Queensland government has been working with all tertiary education providers to reduce the use of tobacco on campuses. The Queensland University of Technology and Australian Catholic University are already smoke-free, while the University of the Sunshine Coast has announced it aims to become smoke-free by the start of 2018.

UQ Occupational Health and Safety director Jim Carmichael said the announcement would see the implementation of a strategy based around "informing and educating".

He added that university officers would not confiscate cigarettes and take disciplinary action if they saw students smoking on campus, but rather question whether they realise the risks, ask them to move off campus and discuss whether they have any intention of quitting. However, Mr Carmichael said firmer discussions and potential disciplinary action would be used against repeat offenders, but he hoped it would not come to that.

Mr Carmichael said initial surveys of students saw the "vast majority" of respondents say the decision was a great idea. This was supported by a poll in the Facebook group UQ StalkerSpace, which acts as a "platform for discourse about University of Queensland campus life" according to the description. The poll asked whether group members supported UQ going smoke-free in 2018, and the results, as of Saturday afternoon, showed a clear victory for the 'Yes' option, which had received almost five times the number of votes the 'No' option had.

On the flipside, UQ DARTS spokesman Sam Jackson described the university's decision as a "complete ban" which he labelled as "disappointing" and "a real shame", claiming students had not been given a sufficient consultation period.

The Facebook page also claimed that the university's decision "means nearly 3000 students will be unable to smoke in their own homes" because the policy will incorporate the residential colleges on campus.

"Whilst we do not deny there are no negative effects of smoking, it is not the Vice-Chancellor's role to erode personal freedom and responsibility," Mr Jackson said.

Security concerns were also raised by Mr Jackson. He said if students were asked to leave the security of the campus grounds to smoke at night, they risked being attacked.

However, Mr Carmichael emphasised that a "hard-line approach" would not be used and the university would "encourage students not to smoke, rather than put themselves at risk". He also added that the university's decision could not directly affect the residential colleges, because they were independently managed. The individual college masters could decide whether they wanted to follow the university's decision.


Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

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