Planking for Australia

This new “planking” business isn’t easy. I put on the washing-up rubber gloves and a pair of Wellington boots, shimmied up the front power-pole and stretched out across the high-voltage wires. Just as my mate went to take the photo he discovered the batteries in the digital camera were flat. So he left me there, stranded, while he shot into town to get a new set. I had time on my hands — as well as some fairly awesome electrical current. 

Lying up there, stiff as a board, rubber gloves on one 400 volt wire, the Wellies hooked on another, waiting, I had time to ponder the “political planking” that is now firmly part of our body politic. The trick with political planking is to act with concern while actually being as thick as a plank. How could a fairly rational nation (as we were under the very watchful eye of John Howard) turn into such a ratbag country as we are now — and in less than five years? 

Melbourne’s Age newspaper ran a story last week about the City of Yarra’s plan to put a licencing fee on the footpath gas-heaters that provide warmth for outdoor latte drinkers.

Apparently the City of Yarra council is infested with Greens and the move is to strike a blow to reduce footpath-coffee-drinkers’ carbon footprint. The article went on to say that a council spokesperson said that the licence fee could go towards buying blankets for all the outdoor café patrons. One astute café owner pointed out that the cost of dry cleaning each blanket, every time it was used (Health & Safety), would counteract any carbon footprint impression. He could well be right. 

The thought of Melbournians sipping their flat whites, wrapt in a blanket, has a Monty Python aspect to it, but the City of Yarra gas-heater-caper actually exposes the Greens, and the Labor government’s total lack of reality when it comes to their climate change ideology. If their carbon tax/ETS gets the nod, people are going to get very, very cold in winter. Low income people will not be able to afford heating. To get warm in winter you have to burn something — wood, oil, gas or electricity. Perhaps aged pensioners will have to sit in the warmth of shopping centres all day, to survive. 

The basic premise of our western economic societies is that to improve the wealth and welfare of the less-well-off, things have to get cheaper. It is called competition. We get better at doing stuff, so more of our citizens can afford to buy stuff. The world stopped killing whales for lamp-oil because someone found petroleum; found how to dig it up; found how to extract kerosene and bingo — everyone could afford lighting. The petroleum discoveries led to the automobile, which replaced the horse. The point being that the trend towards advancement and betterment for peoples, whether we like it or not, is the free market. There weren’t too many Volvos floating about Soviet Russia. 

The Julia Gillard/Bob Brown/Christine Milne carbon tax and ETS isn’t following the rules. There is nothing “free-market” about what they are up to. Taxes don’t stop people drinking alcohol, smoking, buying and selling houses, flying or using petrol. Taxes raise money for governments. 

But the big trouble ahead for Australia, if the current political mob of plankers stay in power, is what they have in mind for the future. Remember the Greens will be never satisfied. Everything modern man does is a potential anathema to them.

One of the great ironies of the Greens is their split personality. How do a group of people who fight to save the pristine forests and rivers of Tasmania one minute, quite happily want to cover the beautiful Australian landscape with wind farms. Stunning coastlines desecrated by swirling wind-turbines. Bugger the Orange Breasted Parrot — and what’s a few mashed sea eagles when we can get some high-cost, unreliable, renewable energy. Perhaps we could get Bob and Christine to plank under a wind-turbine for a few days. The problem is that the landscapes that they want to save are for elitist canoe-trips down “wild rivers”, which Green city-dwellers like to reserve for themselves, on weekends. 

As the English sceptic Matt Ridley recently pointed out, it would take a wind-farm the size of Greater London to produce, on a very windy day, as much electricity as one coal-fired power station. Or a forest twice the size of Cumbria, each year, to supply a wood-fired power plant that was equal to a coal-fired one. His beef is that in the United Kingdom the Greens are quite happy to sacrifice the countryside to the carbon dioxide god. 

Then there are the ubiquitous solar panels — now they are worth planking for. The Greens and the Climate Change Minister, Greg Combet love to bang on about solar panels as a source of electricity. Oh dear! Calculations in the United States reveal that it would take all of America’s 90 million single-family detached homes, with their entire roof tops covered with solar panels to produce only half the nation’s supply of electricity. Or to put it into a starker perspective 1/500 of the entire land area of the United States would have to be covered with solar panels … that’s about 20,000 sq. kms of solar cells. 

Germany is worth planking too! Under their Green inspired Feed-in-Tariff the cost is running at 1 billion euros each month for solar installations, which are being paid for by Germany’s rate-payers. This crazy scheme only manages to produce 2% of Germany’s electricity. And that’s on a rare, sunshine day. 

In Australia, home of the roof-top solar hot water system, solar energy works. It works because it saves users electricity, and softens their power bills. The subsidised feed-in solar panels don’t work ethically, or financially, because the cost of the feed-in is lumped onto other electricity users power bills. They get planked. 

Unfortunately the carbon dioxide tax and ETS debate is centred on the emotional side of climate change ideology, rather than the lessons of history, economics and science. Someone should explain to the Greens, Labor and the independents that the world stopped killing whales because something better came along — something that improved peoples lives, not made them worse off. 

Now we have Cate Blanchett (with baby?) to contend with. As a Julia Gillard spruiker for the carbon dioxide tax perhaps she will explain exactly how many degrees of temperature the new tax will cool down Australia. Or the trick question “how does Australia’s largest coal-fired power station, Bayswater NSW, manage to burn 8 millions tonnes of coal per year yet, according to the ‘formula’, produce 19 million tonnes of carbon dioxide?” Go figure. 

Planking really is fun, political planking, that is. It’s about a silly as it is possible to get.


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