So federal treasurer Scott Morrison has been showing off what he got for Christmas in parliament today – a big chunk of coal gifted to him by none other than the Minerals Council of Australia, we hear, and passed around and cradled by doting backbenchers.
If it were any other week we might feel disheartened by this stunt, however following some uplifting articles published on The Fifth Estate this week regarding the unstoppable nature of renewables, it just smacks of desperation.
So we’re not disheartened. We’re embarrassed. Embarrassed that someone at the level of federal treasurer would stoop so low as to play the lead role in such a disgraceful MCA stunt. Though it’s not the first time such ridiculous, fossil-fuel funded stunts have entered parliament. Remember when Liberal Senator Ian Macdonald wore his orange hi-vis “Australians for Coal” shirt, promoting – let us guess – an extremely misjudged and now removed Minerals Council of Australia website, which, thanks to the snark of Australian social media commentators, backfired spectacularly? Just look at #australiansforcoal. Their 2015 #coalisamazing campaign saw a similar fate.
These stunts, however, fly in the face of any reasonable analysis of our energy future.
Take for example the cool analysis provided regarding global energy markets by Investec Asset Management’s Tom Nelson and Graeme Baker.
It found that in many global markets renewables were able to compete with other sources of power generation on a purely economic basis. That means excluding subsidies.
Solar and wind have seen massive drops in prices and there’s more to come too.
“The industry’s transformation from an alternative, subsidy-dependent policy tool to a mainstream energy source is well on its way,” they said.
There were opportunities in renewables for long-term investors, they said, even taking into account coal zealots like Morrison and Trump in the US.
“We believe there is now unstoppable momentum on a global scale that individual governments will struggle to derail. Falling costs, improving economics and broad-based public support will prevail, in our view.”
Regarding investment, our story on clean tech stocks showed they were already lucrative, with the Clean Tech Index again showing up the ASX 200 and Small Ordinaries indices – by a massive 20 per cent over the past year.
AusCleanTech managing director John O’Brien said the market just wasn’t listening to what was happening in Canberra.
This was because there were a lot of “decent companies making good money”, meaning they became insulated from government policy.
So it is with this in mind that we are emboldened to look through ScoMo’s dirty coal routine and smirk.
“This is coal. Don’t be afraid! Don’t be scared!” Morrison hooted.
“It’s coal; it was dug up by men and women who work and live in the electorates of those who sit opposite.”
One, we should be scared. As the most polluting power source, coal is sending the planet to an early grave. What Morrison called “pathological, ideological opposition to coal being an important part of our sustainable and more certain energy future” is in fact just common sense.
Coal an important part of our sustainable energy future? It’s like saying cigarettes are an important part of a healthy diet. Oh wait, that’s exactly what they used to say.
Two, isn’t it cute ScoMo’s anthropomorphising the increasingly automated coal extraction equipment of global mining firms? Coal mining accounts for less than half a per cent of the national workforce, and promises to decrease more, thanks to high-tech robots coming in to replace those pesky wage-seeking men and women. Nationally, coal mining is projected to cut its workforce by 21 per cent by November 2020. And that’s the federal government’s own Department of Employment projections.
If you want to talk jobs, let’s talk renewables. In the US there’s twice as many people employed in solar than work in coal mines. The Australia Institute says there’s already more solar workers employed in Australia than coal workers too.
Morrison said coal had ensured Australia had an energy competitive advantage for the past 100 years. Sure, but time doesn’t go backwards, so how about we look at the next 100 years? It’s definitely not going to provide us with any advantages over that period.
Let’s not be too incautious though. With talk of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation having to fund imaginary clean coal, there is some danger in Morrison’s posturing. While renewables are increasingly able to compete with traditional energy sources, they may not be able to if our politicians choose to favour coal and increase the already extortionate subsidies that go into fossil fuels.
But looking at the states, there seems to be little support for the federal government’s ideological agenda. We’ve got multiple states now with net zero targets, while others are being pressured to adopt such measures.
The states will be a key battleground in agitating for change, so this week’s news that the Victorian Liberals have supported Labor in its moratorium on fracking is comforting, and follows the bipartisan support against fracking in South Australia. Those regional seats that want their farmland protected must have a lot of sway. Lets hope the regions can see through the government lies and see the benefits of renewables in terms of energy prices and long-term jobs.