Flat White

Liberal luvvies for higher power prices

20 December 2018

8:39 AM

20 December 2018

8:39 AM

Politicians as targets of the French gilets jaunes are omnipresent in Australia and have, with their climate change-driven energy policies, created even greater economic damage than in France. Notwithstanding the disastrous effects from subsidising renewable energy, politicians’ hubris within the Coalition, ALP and Greens leaves most MPs convinced that renewable energy is the future. Debate is mainly centred on whether or not to double down on the harmful regulatory interventions that have undermined the coal generators that gave the nation its competitiveness and much of its prosperity.

The Gilets Jaune movement in France, rapidly spreading to other countries, stems from public revolts against the arrogance of the leaders that have been elected. The issue that has galvanised the French is government action to combat climate change, particularly its corollary of politically driven price increases for energy.

Many of these leaders who are the target of the demonstrations share similar career patterns. Starting with political activism at University they seamlessly move into working for a politician, thence into becoming themselves an elected politician, often parachuted into a safe seat, and from then on to ministerial office. All this is achieved without ever having had a real, productive job.

This describes NSW Energy Minister Don Harwin whose political agenda has been dominated by gay rights activism and who, as President of the NSW Upper House, supported a motion that described Mr Trump as ‘a revolting slug’ unfit for public office.

An associate of lobbyist and political fixer Michael Photios, Mr Harwin is an ardent advocate of denialism. He applauds the Paris Treaty which is underpinned by the global warming fraud with its failed projections of significant temperature rises, increased incidences of hurricanes, rising sea levels etc. And, grandly calling for his opponents to surrender, he announces, “We need to end the “climate wars” and put science, economics and engineering ahead of ideology”. For good measure, he unselfconsciously adds, “That’s why NSW wants a sensible emissions policy to be embedded in the National Electricity Law, outside the high drama of the “Canberra bubble”.

Above all, in lockstep with the renewables business of his patron’s current wife, Kristina Photios, Mr Harwin is a true believer in renewables, maintaining, in the teeth of factual evidence to the contrary, “the era of baseload coal is coming to an end, fossil fuel plants are not a guarantee of reliability, wind and solar offer the cheapest forms of new generation”. Not only does he mistakenly see renewables as cheap, he also believes that solar and wind, the electricity from which is, by definition “intermittent” and therefore undependable, is more reliable than those coal plants that provide 90 per cent of NSW’s power.

In the run-up to the energy ministers meeting in Adelaide yesterday, Mr Harwin sought to resurrect the National Energy Guarantee (NEG) with its barely hidden tax on coal and additional subsidy to renewables. In doing so he scored an op-ed piece in the Australian Financial Review and a doe-eyed supportive piece by that paper’s resident climate alarmist, Ben Potter. Mr Harwin claimed the NEG and a pie-eyed proposal for zero emissions in 2050 would give investors certainty. He is right in saying that a further round of the subsidies inherent in the NEG would help propel further investment in renewables but, like all other advocates of this poor-quality source of electricity, he cannot explain why, if it is cheaper, that it needs a subsidy.

Mr Harwin had proposed that energy ministers meeting in Adelaide ask the Energy Security Board (ESB) to develop a national pathway to lower emissions. That would hardly have come out of the blue – the Minister would be acutely aware that the ESB (which devised the NEG’s regulatory carbon tax) shares his group-think about the coming, if not already arrived, competitive edge allegedly held by wind and solar. Its report would lend some pseudo-authoritative support for preferred direction.

Having failed to get his way, in what has become the familiar pattern of a Liberal Party riven with the climate wars and associated subsidies for renewables, he lashed out at the federal Liberals. He publicly excoriated his fellow party members, telling them that they should reconsider their positions, ”We want Australia to move forward on climate change. Not stand still.”

Renewable energy subsidies have poisoned the Australian electricity industry, converting it from the cheapest to among the dearest in the world. It will be difficult, perhaps impossible, to unwind the effect of this act of political vandalism on the economy. The ALP is openly promoting further such action and there is no sign that the Liberal Party’s “broad church” can accommodate the differing views and interests on energy which would allow it to make a start in reforming the damage of previous policies.  

Alan Moran is with Regulation Economics. His latest book is CLIMATE CHANGE: Treaties and Policies in the Trump Era.

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