The Australian government takes a polarised view of the climate-change hoax. First, it will bring “more frequent and extreme weather events that will impact ecosystems, infrastructure and the built environment, food production, health and global security.” Yet, second, it will bring opportunities. To wit, “Australia is in a strong position to benefit from the global transition to net zero…with some of the world’s largest reserves of critical minerals such as lithium, cobalt and rare earth elements [and] With more abundant wind, sun and open spaces Australia can generate energy more cheaply than many countries.”
The two quotes above are from the latest Intergenerational Report, which purports to describe what the next 40 years will look like. I will come back to the second of the quotes. The report has been extensively covered in the media. References have been made to the first such report, issued in 2002, and its failed forecasts. A popular choice is that first document’s forecast that Australia’s population would hit 25 million by 2040. A miss by a mere 22 years; the target having been reached in August 2018.
The are two reason why intergenerational forecasting exercises are useless. First, government ministers and their apparatchiks who compile them are inclined to the naive belief that their policies will work. Behind this naivete is a flawed recollections of past failures. Second, and most importantly, life happens way beyond the term of the prevailing government.
Governments should be in the business of getting policy settings right; not in producing 290-odd pages of fanciful futuristic bumf. Lifting productivity is the main economic goal. That’s straightforward in a well-run country. Ignore any proposition which includes the word ‘planning’. Ignore advice from Big Business (apropos the Business Council of Australia in particular) and from unions (apropos the ACTU). Contain government spending, and reduce business taxes and regulations. If governments fail on any of these three measures then productivity will suffer. If they succeed brilliantly, productivity will soar. Everything else is irrelevant. Simple as.
Judge governments on what they do in their first term to lift productivity. As a general rule, ignore the bumf. Yet, there is an ominous ring to the latest bumf. It can’t be as easily thrown away and ignored as could the previous pathetic attempts at crystal-ball gazing. And so back to the second of the opening quotes and its attendant optimism about Australia’s green export opportunities.
France has formed a nuclear alliance of 14 European countries. Italy and the UK are also involved, though as yet outside the formal alliance. The US is the largest producer of nuclear power. New developments have stalled over the past 20 years, due mainly to the effect of nuclear accidents at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima. But there are indications that this is changing. According to Forbes, two nuclear reactors are starting up in Georgia this year, and the commercial development of small modular reactors is likely to be a game-changer. Pew Research has found growing majority support for nuclear power among Americans. According to the World Nuclear Association both India and China “have well-considered policies to increase dramatically their use of nuclear power.”
It was and is inevitable. If you believe in the climate hoax (and those that matter say that they do) then nuclear power is the only viable option. Low density, unreliable, intermittent wind and solar power won’t do. Only nuclear can supply dispatchable (non-emitting) power. The world will move in that direction. Personally, I think that is profligate when, as with Australia, you have cheap black and brown coal, but that is by the way. Nuclear is going to be the world’s chosen path. All else means owning up to the climate hoax. That ain’t going to happen. Too much vested interest and precious reputations are at stake.
Meanwhile back in La-La Land, in Chris Bowen’s territory, a search of the whole Intergenerational Report reveals just one mention of nuclear. Here it is.
Renewable energy is already the cheapest form of new energy in Australia, with onshore wind and solar photovoltaic technologies having a lower cost of electricity, after accounting for integration costs, compared to gas, coal or nuclear electricity generation.
Having determined to abandon coal, the foundation of Australia’s competitive advantage in generating electricity, the brilliant idea is to embrace a form of energy which the world is effectively on the brink of leaving behind. To think, as per the Intergenerational Report, that this “could lead to exports of energy-intensive green metals, and electricity through undersea cables and hydrogen,” is ultra delusional. Which country is going to buy Australian electricity made from wind and sun, delivered through an undersea cable? Chris Bowen’s territory, did I say? This is Monty Python territory.
Within the Intergenerational Report is a time bomb. It has Australia resolutely setting out on a road to ruin. Real per capita incomes are forecast to be 50 per cent higher by 2062-63. But how likely is that if we insist on using the wind and sun to power the nation? Unlikely. Think of Argentina. Between 1975 and 1990, real per capita income fell by more than 20 percent. There are no guarantees.