Doomed Planet

When a Treasurer Hawks Such Tommyrot, be Scared

The Melbourne Institute is a research-only department in the Faculty of Business and Economics at the University of Melbourne. It partners with The Australian in delivering an annual Economic and Social Outlook conference. The latest such conference was held in Melbourne on November 2.

I know little about the Melbourne Institute. I assume it’s left-centric. A safe assumption these days, I’d say. Thus it deals in misapprehensions about the real world. An ideal setting for the federal Treasurer, Dr Jim Chalmers, to confabulate on the topic of “Energy, the economy, and this defining decade.” And he outdid himself when he covered what he called “the energy transition.” This, of course, is the transition from cheap and reliable energy to dear and unreliable energy. Though government ministers don’t see it that way, being all congregants in the church of the climate-change cult.

I’ll regurgitate below some of what Chalmers said. I’m not making anything up. But don’t be fearful. Nothing can possibly go wrong. After all, we are in the hands of obsessive zealots in headlong pursuit of turning Australia into a “superpower.” In their hallucinatory world, “our ability to become a superpower is reliant upon our ability to generate cheaper, cleaner, reliable, renewable power.” There are three things which make this objective hard to achieve and harder to swallow. Actually, there are more than three, but three will do.

The first is that many other wannabe countries are after the mantle of becoming green-energy superpowers. Not all can be winners. For instance, when the jetsetters at the World Economic Forum identified six likely leading candidates for producing green hydrogen, Australia was missing. There was China, the EU, India, Japan, South Korea and the United States. And Australia? A mere afterthought, appended among Chile, Namibia and Morocco et al. Memo to Chalmers: Talk to Klaus Schwab to get higher up the list.

The second is that the tyranny of distance seriously hampers Australia in exporting green energy; that is, in the unlikely event we can ever defile sufficient pristine land and seascapes to produce enough of it. We can fantasise about building undersea cables to, say, Singapore (apropos Sun Cable); or about making and shipping green hydrogen. But these ventures are never going to fly commercially. They will all flop once government subsidies subside. They are pie-in-the-sky.

The third thing is that while we are busy dismantling our reliable-energy generation our competitors will continue to be variously reliant on coal, oil or gas, as in China and India and in most of the rest of Asia, and/or they will be investing in nuclear energy. The whole business of wind, sun and batteries might be propped up for domestic consumption, if allied with despotic powers to keep the peasants in line as power prices soar and blackouts ensue, but forget it as an export industry.

But hold on. Hope springs eternal, as they no doubt say at AEMO.

“We receive 10,000 times more solar radiation each year than we can use,” Chalmers said.

Yes, he really said this. What does he mean? I know the sun powers the earth. We’d be a dead planet without the sun. I also know that if we received only one-ten-thousandth of current solar radiation we’d be dead. Presumably, he means that there’s an abundance of sunshine if only we could harness, transmit and store enough of it, cheaply enough. Ah, spotted it, there’s the rub.

Never mind there is always wind. “Our offshore wind potential is estimated to exceed the capacity of the world’s current coal-fired power stations,” Chalmers said. How unhinged from reality is it possible to get? Who among his jejune apparatchiks wrote this drivel for him? To, again, state the bleeding obvious, just because it’s windy out at sea doesn’t mean we can capture, transmit and store such turbulence in the form of electricity at an affordable price. Chalmers must be aware surely of the UK government’s recent failure to attract bidders to build offshore wind turbines. From Reuters: “Offshore wind developers stayed away from Britain’s latest renewable energy auction…arguing the price offered by the government did not reflect rising industry costs, something which is hampering wind projects globally.” That’s wind projects globally, Jim.

But, ever the optimist, ”we have the largest pipeline of renewable hydrogen investment proposals in the world,” he said. By a pipeline of proposals he means plans. Robbie Burns comes to mind: “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go gang aft agley.” (That is ‘awry’ to Sassenachs.)

Amid the quixotic, a hint of realism shines through:

It’s important for me to acknowledge that without more decisive action, across all levels of government, working with investors, industry and communities, the energy transition could fall short of what the country needs.

Indeed it could, and certainly will, unless we change course, including by turning a deaf ear tout de suite to the siren call of net-zero.

16 thoughts on “When a Treasurer Hawks Such Tommyrot, be Scared

  • ianl says:

    >” … an abundance of sunshine if only we could harness, transmit and store enough of it, cheaply enough”< [part quote from the article]

    Yes well, photosynthesis has already done that for us, of course, but now we are doomed by deliberate legislation to try and repeat it in a 15 year period, with hopelessly inadequate tools.

    Ask Chalmers et al *how in detail* we achieve 30GW daily of cheap, reliable power supply and his arms just wave around. Even Twiggy has now conceded that covering the Simpson Desert with windmills and SiO2 panels for Singapore will likely just burn money (his).

  • cbattle1 says:

    What we need is a green “great leap forward” and a series of “five year plans” to defeat global warming. Massive projects worked for Mao’s China and Stalin’s Soviet Union; all it takes is a dictator leading a totalitarian government, and we will achieve “Net Zero” way ahead of schedule!

  • Stephen Due says:

    Australian governments seem to be incapable of linking the idea of electricity supply with the idea of industrial productivity. This is not just a matter of keeping the domestic lights on and the aircon running, or even charging the battery of the EV (supposing it has not already caught fire).
    The aluminium smelters at Geelong (closed in 2014) and Portland (still going) have been important employers in South-Western Victoria. When operating together, these operations consumed about 20% of Victoria’s electricity supply. Their power came from coal-fired power stations. Industry on this scale cannot operate off windmills and solar panels. This might be an extreme example, but the fact is that productive industrial activity is uneconomical without cheap and abundant power. It seems our governments have no interest in the ongoing viability of manufacturing industry in Australia.

  • Tricone says:

    Nature has already created effective energy storage, in the form of hydrocarbons.

  • Davidovich says:

    The Tasmanian Liberal (in name only) Government has announced the establishment of a ‘renewable’ facility in its northern region which will employ about 1200 people manufacturing cable for underwater transmission of Jimbo and Bowen’s abundant ‘renewable’ power to the world. Reality is irrelevant to the climate zealots and their plans are well underway.

  • bomber49 says:

    We have been captured by a cult. Next they will take virgins atop a pyramid and cut out their beating hearts to appease the weather gods and then kick the lifeless bodies down the steps to the cheering masses.

  • Stephen says:

    Net Zero by 2050 is an impossible pipe dream. Net Zero by 2150 could be done IF it’s actually necessary. A big if. Any how CO2 will at least double to over 800 ppm, there’s no stopping it, so everyone, even little Greta, better hope that us skeptics are right!

  • Stan Yeaman says:

    If I may add a comment to ianL, photosynthesis needs atmospheric CO2 to happen. By far the most efficient use of solar energy is photosynthetc energy which combines water with carbon dioxide to produce carbohydrates, ie food. The planet has been doing this for a very long time. Producing more carbohydrate (food) by photosynthesis is an infinitely more worthy aim for an overcrowded planet instead of foolish pipedreams of politicians whose understanding of basic science is close to zero.

  • Stan Yeaman says:

    Green hydrogen? Perhaps a clear understanding of the Second Law of Thermodynamics is sorely needed. It dictates every chemical reaction. The fundamental Laws of Science and of Economics will over-rule political science every time. Such a pity we do not teach the immutable laws of science in schools. If we did we would have a lot less dangerous ignorance along the corridors of power.

  • Ian MacDougall says:

    Stephen: You say: “Any how CO2 will at least double to over 800 ppm, there’s no stopping it, so everyone, even little Greta, better hope that us skeptics are right!”
    If you ‘skeptics’ are right, then 198 scientific organisations (at last count) around the world, including the CSIRO, the Royal Society and the AAAS have to be wrong. (Every good scientist is a born-again skeptic, eager to prove others wrong on whatever, and so make a name for theirself.) You ‘skeptics’ have also to ignore that there is no ‘saturation’ level in nature where the greenhouse effect peters out. (The prominent Ostrich School theoretician Ian Plimer is dead wrong on that point.) Nor is the absorbed solar energy confined forever to the CO2 molecule which trapped it. Those lovely activated plant food molecules then pass that energy they have absorbed on to other molecules in the atmosphere, notably those of water, which then form raindrops and fall, make their way to the ocean, and go on to melt the sea ice and polar caps, raising the level of the world’s one ocean.
    That, after all, is how a microwave oven works. Water molecules absorb at a frequency of around 2.45 gigahertz, and a wavelength of around 12.2 centimetres, and then pass that absorbed energy to molecules of starch, sugars, proteins, and anything else in the oven and so heat its whole contents.
    So the fossil-carbon lobby is steadily turning the Earth into a gigantic microwave oven, with or without the editorial approval of this otherwise excellent journal.

    • Geoff Sherrington says:

      The Australian Academy of Sciences has been captured by an interest group that is pushing science that proper scientists find unsafe. In a recent report on climate change, this AAS group wrote of the dangers to Australia of a 3 degree warming world. I asked them to retract the paper and gave many examples of their poor scholarship. They did not retract, nor attempt to answer. It is a pity that more scientists do not call them out. They disgrace professional science. Geoff S

  • mags of Queensland says:

    This is the same bloke who acknowledged that fuel prices was one of the main factors driving up the inflation rate but won’t do anything about it. The same bloke who has announced $250 million for green energy production but none for the infrastructure needed for the extra million people his government is going to inflict on an already overcrowded and under resourced country. You couldn’t make this stuff up.

  • en passant says:

    Right now there is a ‘hunger-striker’ outside Parliament house who says he won’t eat again until Oz stops exporting fossil fuels. I support him and hope he is joined by many others of his ilk and that they keep their word.
    Secondly, the taxpayer funded lawfare against the taxpayer continues unabated. Note: The crushing of the Voice Referendum was not even a speed bump that slowed down our self-harm demise.
    Two Torres Straits Islanders are suing the Federal government over rising water levels in the Torres Strait … No doubt the Green puppeteers from RortsRus Partners will be government funded lawyers. I think I know the answer: it’s called the Tide.
    But all of that blood-sucking is just a distraction that will take time to bankrupt Oz, so the best solution is for the Defence forces to abandon their former obsession with the old-fashioned ‘courage, loyalty, mateship’ of the blood & guts war thing and spend their time on core issues that will confuse the enemy without violence.
    It’s OK to break down now and weep while sucking your thumb …

  • rosross says:

    The Wokerati live in an echo chamber. That is always dangerous. They are not alone for it seems to be more common in this age. We saw with Covid, we see with climate change and we see with many agendas, the push to silence criticism, prevent debate and dissent and censor views which challenge the narrative.

    Because all they hear is their own echo, constantly sounding back to them what they believe, it becomes impossible to apply rational thinking, let alone critical thinking and division grows where those who oppose the Green Dreams, which, by the way, is the name of a drug vets use to euthanize animals, and sometimes on a bad day themselves, are by necessity deemed evil, insane, stupid, pick a word, and summarily ignored.

    However, as we saw with the Referendum on the voice, it is wise not to underestimate the common sense which many quiet Australians possess. The echo chamber is often destroyed by the ringing of the bell of reason when ordinary Australians get to have a say.

    Governments simply do not have the power they think they have in an age where while it is easier to lie and serve up propaganda, it is also easier to destroy the lies and return the propaganda dish uneaten.

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