Contributed by Jim Hayes
The Morrison government continues its massive subsidisation of the coal and gas industry. With a policy that remains a hodgepodge of ineffective and contradictory measures, the problem is in trying to support the dirty industry, while at the same time, trying to convince us that meaningful action is being taken to something reduce carbon emissions. It is impossible to do both.
Australia’s two remaining oil refineries are about to get a $2 billion handout. There are already the $8 billion tax credits, to rise to $10 billion in five years. There is the recent boost to the gas industry.
Now $600 million is to go to build a new gas fired power station in the Hunter Valley.
Then there is the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) started by by former Prime Minister Julia Gillard. It remained woefully underfunded until last September, when it received a $1.4 billion to shift from renewables and tilt towards gas. This was re-enforced this April, with amendments to existing regulations and a further $263.7 million.
All this while pretending to be cutting emissions. Why the smoke and mirrors? to market the government’s green credentials. Why else?
The pretence over doing something comes at a time when funding for renewables has been slashed, and here is back tracking on commitments already made. Australia is heading towards having the most carbon intensive economy in the developed world.
An important part of the Morrison government’s pretending to be green public relations exercise to meet rising community concern, is to sell gas as the great renewable energy source. The only thing that can be said about it, is that it is slightly less polluting than coal. This is no answer. Gas is not a renewable.
Unable to bury this reality, the government now pretends that it will use gas as the source to produce hydrogen. A promise has been made to bring hydrogen making to the new power station.
Photo by Simone De Peak: Environment Minister Angus Taylor and Prime Minister Scott Morrison out spruiking their hydrogen credentials
Although hydrogen does have major potential, using a dirty process to make it defeats the purpose. It is another white elephant, designed to fool Australia in believing the government is doing something. The new power station for the Hunter Valley fits into this.
It is also a way to help a mate. It happens that the contract has been given to the government owned Snowy River Limited, headed by David Knox, borrowed from gas company Santos. Santos wants to develop its massive coal seam gas project at nearby Narrabri. The new power station will provide a ready market, and the company is a major donor to the Liberal Party.
So, Australia’s current energy policy seems to involve a certain amount of corruption.
The Santos Narrabri Gas Project
Gas is being pushed along on the back of the claim that Australia must produce more electricity to avoid a shortage. Surely the sensible answer is to turn to cheaper and cleaner alternatives like solar, wind power, batteries, and so on?
The bottom line is that the Morrison government has no real interest in cutting carbon emissions, and this exposes the power of the coal and gas industry and those behind it over Australian government and politics. This is dangerous and must be brought to an end.