To see what is in front of one’s nose requires a constant struggle
—George Orwell, 1946
With consumers reduced to playing the clown (or donkey) in the absurdist farce that is Australia’s energy policy, examining the role of the nation’s Ministry of Power through an Orwellian lens is an illuminating exercise. One is struck by the eerie similarity between the ministries in 1984 and those established to deliver an “affordable, reliable and secure” stream of electrons — and many megawatts of Big Green fantasy — to every household on both sides of the Black Stump, naturally under government guarantee.
As in Orwell’s fictional Oceania, our Ministry of Power has its slogans and faux facts: “Ignorance is Strength”; Ideology before Idiocy”; “Greener is Cleaner”; “Power before People”. It has its newspeak and doublethink, its useful idiots and apparatchiks. It,too, is in a constant state of war against a foe even more powerful than Big Blackout: the big bogeyman of our age, climate change.
The Ministry of Truth’s purpose is to rewrite history or change the facts to fit Party doctrine. For example, if Big Brother makes a prediction that turns out to be wrong, the Ministry corrects the record to make it “accurate”.
Yet “climate” has become almost a dirty word in this context. Few ministers have the courage to go there, and certainly not the current incumbent. Is it because they are afraid of getting snake oil in a 26% solution on their hands?
The stakes are high. Should supporters of a Just Transition and the Greens get their key demand – an even higher RE target — a bigger mess awaits us. (See J Nova, 2 August, 2018, link here; T Quirk, 2 August, 2018, link here; G Lloyd, The Australian, 3 August, 2018: “Political play for power””, link here; A Bandt, ABC RN interview , 6 August, 2018). The political class can hardly plead ignorance. It was warned about the Curse of RET when the Great Pyramid of Gaia was discovered years ago.
So what is the Ministry of Power’s endgame? Perhaps further disrupting the national energy market is more about salvaging ministerial credibility than modifying the climate. Surely it’s not about duping the public and seriously enriching the carbon capitalists now operating in the RE space? Perish the thought that our dedicated, honest, hard-working and courageous political class would knowingly afflict hapless consumers in order to line the pockets of mates!
The complexity and opacity of the Emissions Guarantee renders it deeply flawed. Fixing its flaws by making it simpler and its prices transparent, undermines the political imperative that the scheme is designed to meet.
— B Mountain, Director, Victorian Energy Policy Centre
One of them is a government agency, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, which has already invested billions of dollars of public money on this colossal folly: the belief being that more RE and less coal-fired power somehow will shift our weather closer to an undefined “just right” Goldilocks state, presumably forever. Yet the CEFC makes no mention of such a belief in its reports. The climate-elephant in the room has been buried under rhetoric about lowering Australia’s “carbon” [dioxide] emissions and living in a “carbon [dioxide] constrained” world. The CEFC does not concern itself with either the veracity of this core belief or question the legitimacy of its mission. Its focus seems solely on how to spend the ten billion dollars allocated to it six years ago.
At 30 June 2018, total CEFC investment commitments since inception exceeded $6.6 billion. After allowing for repayment, amortisation and any cancellations, the CEFC investment portfolio was $5.3 billion at 30 June 2018.
— CEFC Statement
The CEFC auditor did not mention it, at least not specifically. His interest was mainly in financial matters, such as the quality, type and rate of investment expenditure, not the risk that the group’s existence could be threatened by controversies that continue to rage, to the discomfort of both the climate orthodoxy and political class.
My objective is to obtain reasonable assurance about whether the financial statements as a whole are free from material misstatement, whether due to fraud or error, and to issue an auditor’s report that includes my opinion.
— Independent Auditor’s Report
In CEFC’s Mission Statement it claims to deliver a “positive return to taxpayers”. Yet in the latest quarterly investment report there is this qualification of “expected rate of return” (page 2): “Returns have not been adjusted for positive externalities or public policy outcomes associated with the investments”. Presumably returns have not been adjusted either for “negative externalities”; such as the impact of forcing more RE into the national grid on consumer electricity bills.
As for “public policy outcomes”, one wonders what happens when the climate circus comes to a halt. The value of billions of dollars invested in RE “assets” presumably would have to be written down, if not written off entirely. That would set the cat among the pigeons, both at the CEFC and in the electorate. Are there also conflicts of interest here? After all, the alliances now in place between alarmist scientists and the financial sector – such as in the Climate Bonds Initiative – seem too close for comfort. Can objectivity co-exist with such cosiness?
How odd too that in the CEFC’s – and the government’s – “carbon constrained” world, there is this glaring paradox. The Department of Industry, Innovation and Science forecasts that coal will be the nation’s most lucrative export this financial year, reaching $58.1 billion and overtaking iron ore ($57.7bn) for the first time in a decade. (Reference link: here) Australia is on the cusp of a new era. Not of prosperity, but of hubris. Thanks to a self-inflicted energy crisis, the country’s lunacy is approaching the certifiable.
How did we get to this point? The madness began with the Gillard government’s passage of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation Act 2012, and the 21 bills – including a carbon tax – of its Clean Energy Future Legislative Package the previous year. The 2012 Act granted CEFC ten billion dollars to spend over the following five years. Clause 10(b)(i) also empowered it to “give effect to the Climate Change Convention, including by investing in clean energy technologies that could reasonably be expected to control, reduce or prevent anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases.”
The Climate Change Convention was the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change enacted in New York on May 9, 1992. “In a reform like this you have to play the long game,” then-minister Greg Combet told the National Press Club on April 13, 2011. With the help of Al and Clive’s Travelling Salvation Show – and Messrs Windsor and Oakeshott – it has survived years of political turmoil, including what Combet called the “mobile scare campaign” of Tony Abbott.
Eleanor Hall: What did you expect from this meeting when you helped to set it up?
Don Henry: Well, firstly, I actually hadn’t expected Mr Palmer to say yes to a meeting. I was pleasantly surprised when he agreed with some considerable interest to have a meeting and I know that Mr Gore appreciated that he wanted to have a meeting. I was fortunate to sit in on the private discussions between them….We knew when we walked into the public statements that Mr Palmer was going to stop the repeal of the Climate Change Authority (CCA) and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) and that he was not going to allow changes to the Renewable Energy Target (RET) and put off any review until 2016. They were very significant announcements. They didn’t agree on everything but they did agree on some really, really important things.
THE EIGHT COMMANDMENTS OF BIG GREEN.
- I recognise no greater authority than Big Green, or in her absence, Big Brother.
- I accept that all the nasty things that happen in the world are due solely to anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions.
- I shall not question or criticise the Ministry’s attempt to control the climate, either on or off the premises, however ambitious or silly it may appear to me.
- I will recite the Ministerial mantra: “guaranteed affordable, reliable and secure power” at least five times a day, either on or off the premises, whether or not I believe it.
- I shall not question Ministry policy designed to force a rapid transition to a carbon-constrained economy, on or off the premises, however destructive or pointless it may appear to me.
- I agree to shrink my carbon footprint by a verifiable amount every month and to reduce my expiration of carbon dioxide.
- I will never mention the weather – or climate – in my conversation or correspondence; at least not in the same tweet as the NEG or RET.
- I will cease singing or humming the song, Photosynthesis, to either myself or others, both on and off the premises.