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WA Liberals go nuts

Kirkup’s ignorance will cost conservatives dearly

27 February 2021

9:00 AM

27 February 2021

9:00 AM

I’d never heard of Zak Kirkup until recently. He is the teenage-like leader of the Liberals in Western Australia, soon to be ex-state leader of the opposition and possibly ex-politician. Needless to say, I’m not bothering to put him in my mental Rolodex.

Let’s face it, the Liberals never had a chance in the upcoming WA election given the political dominance of the Labor premier, Mark McGowan. But in light of the state Liberals’ recently announced energy policy, all sensible individuals should be hoping that McGowan increases his majority.

This is because the Liberal’s energy policy is completely nuts and I don’t use that adjective lightly. Mind you, Kirkup and his loony political mates don’t realise how nuts the policy is because they are not smart enough to understand the economics and engineering of running an electricity grid, let alone other energy issues.

Let me run through the basic details of this recently cooked-up policy, a policy that has much in keeping with recent climate-related ideas floated by billionaire Western Australian, Twiggy Forrest.

The New Energy Plan involves the electricity system achieving net zero emissions by 2030, with two large coal-fired power stations in Muja and Collie shutting within four years. But that will be OK because $100 million will be set aside for a training and transition fund to help the ex-workers. To do what is unclear.

But that’s just for starters. The real kicker is a $9 billion, 4,500-megawatt energy project to convert water into hydrogen that will then be exported. There will also be a 1,500 megawatt solar and wind project to provide electricity to various parts of the state, including to Perth.

Of course, none of this is cheap.  There will be a $100 million fund to attract renewable energy firms to WA. Liberal David Honey, who goes by the title of energy and renewables spokesman, claims that the big resources companies operating in WA are likely to be so impressed by the plan that they will invest in renewables at an unprecedented rate.

Underscoring Kirkup’s complete ignorance of the practicalities of what he is proposing, including the impossible timing, he asserts that the plan ‘will create tens of thousands of jobs right here in WA. We’ll bring back manufacturing and help create a renewable energy future, not only for our state but for the rest of the country.’

He obviously doesn’t have a clue, with the only likely outcome of such a ridiculous plan being the loss of tens of thousands of jobs. But it’s the vibe that Zak loves.

‘It will make sure we reduce power bills, it will make sure the state government has a net zero emissions target that is ambitious and bold, but underpins where WA needs to be for the decades to come.’

Show me a country, Zak, where such a rapid and enforced transition to renewable energy has led to lower power bills.  Would that be Germany or Denmark or the UK? And what about power bills in California, a state where Zak would find many fellow climate travellers?

I’d also like to have a discussion with Zak about his assumptions on the shape of the marginal abatement cost curve. Of course, he would be seriously bamboozled at this point – ‘the what curve?’ would be his likely response – but this curve is critical because it shows the relationship between the costs to an economy of enforcing reduced emissions.

Every credible estimate of this curve shows a curve that slopes slowly upwards initially – there could be some low-hanging fruit – followed by a rapid escalation in the cost of reducing emissions, particularly towards net zero emissions. In other words, mandating lower emissions carries economic costs.

But somehow Zak thinks he can wave his wand and alter the curve so dramatically that the economy actually benefits from closing coal-fired plants and potentially wasting billions of taxpayer dollars on fanciful green schemes. The hydrogen plant is doubtless part of Twiggy’s grand plan but it is unproven at this stage, particularly at that scale.

As far as the WA premier, Mark McGowan, is concerned, there are many reasons to dislike the man, particularly given his dictatorial tendencies during Covid-19. His quite unhinged approach to border restrictions as well as his willingness to arbitrarily institute lockdowns should give many level-headed voters reason to hesitate about voting for Labor in the state election.

But on energy, he’s the man. He quite rightly says that Zak’s plan is unachievable. ‘Should the policies that they announced be implemented, all it would mean is many, many billions of extra debt, huge increases in family power bills, rolling blackouts across the state and huge job losses.’ And those are the better points.

He sums up the plan by saying, ‘Everyone should be very fearful about what they have just put forward. We don’t need reckless, inexperienced and dangerous people in charge.’

Hopefully when Zak has crashed and burnt after the election, he will be able to reflect on his folly. Mind you the WA Liberals have unwisely declared that they will persist with this policy madness even after the election.

I have a helpful suggestion for Zak: migrate to New Zealand where he can find a real home wrapped in climate madness. You may have read that the large aluminium smelter in Invercargill at the southern tip of the South Island will close in a few years.

Powered by hydro-electricity, you might have thought that Saint Jacinda would bend over backwards to see it keep going, particularly as it provides many well-paid jobs in a part of New Zealand with few other job opportunities. Mind you, it’s also a conservative part of the country.

But here’s the plan. Overcharge the smelter for electricity transmission, undermine the business model of the smelter, send the hydro-electricity north when the smelter closes and shut down coal-fired plants in the North Island.

Sure, there will be a replacement aluminium smelter built in western China powered by coal-fired electricity. So net global emissions will go up, but Saint Jacinda won’t care. It’s the vibe over there, too.

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