There’s plenty of bad news around right now. Not least is that Iran shut down its economy last week because the temperatures soared to 51 degrees.
With this scenario, the gas exploration underway in the Beetaloo Basin and the Middle Arm Precinct in Darwin– or any expansion of fossil fuel supply – is suicidal. And now, to complicate matters, there are greenies protesting renewable energy transmission lines and offshore wind farms – both are happening in Victoria. One step forward…two or more, backwards.
Among the good news – and yes, we need to work a bit harder these days to find it – is that the unstoppable Martijn Wilder has been appointed chairman of the federal government’s $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund. This is an outfit that aims a riposte (of sorts and well delayed )to the US’s strangely titled Inflation Reduction Act, a clean energy and climate action behemoth named, presumably, for those who never read past the headlines… (good call, Mr Biden).
In Oz, the NRF is designed to fire up clean energy manufacturing, lest the investors all jump offshore to the US, where the signals are loud and clear (in all but name).
It will focus on providing finance options in seven priority areas: renewables, medical science, transport, agriculture, resources, and defence.
Its purpose is “to fast-track innovation in the emerging net zero economy, including loans, equity investment and guarantees”, with the need to make sure “all investments contribute towards net-zero”, according to climate change and investment advisory Pollination that Wilder founded four years ago.
Industry Minister Ed Husic said the new fund was the biggest investment in manufacturing capabilities “in living memory” it will include former Liberal minister Kelly O’Dwyer, former Australian Workers Union secretary Dan Walton, and former Australia Post boss Ahmed Fahour.
Wilder seems really pleased with the announcement, given his social and general media profile in recent days. “You’ve got this tremendous sort of coming together of the UK, the US, Australia, Germany and Japan all looking at things around critical minerals, around hydrogen, around manufacturing,” he told The Australian Financial Review this week:
And what a guy to do the job. Wilder, who headlined one of our events a few years ago, is a knockout high-octane performer. Interviewing him is like competing for attention with what seemed like at least six alternative trains of thought at once – and several phone calls.
But he’s busy for good reason and his past is testament to that: he’s been was previously chairman of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, a former member of the Climate Council and Clean Energy Finance Corporation boards, and principal of Baker McKenzie.
The way Pollination has rocketed is proof of the energy inside that company. We’ve heard the company is now at around 300 employees and hiring at the rate of two a week.
The Indonesian Investment Authority said the hope was to “unlock the unparalleled potential” of nature-based solutions in Indonesia, “a nation uniquely positioned with the world’s second-largest low-cost NBS potential, holding 75 per cent of South East Asia’s carbon stocks.”
CEO Ridha W Wirakusumah said he was “extremely optimistic about Indonesia’s ability to initiate and host the high-quality projects that global investors are actively seeking and to execute them at a scale.
Now that’s a complex and sensitive issue we need to keep an eye on. We know that Australia does not supply enough timber for its needs and imports a lot – not all are certified to the high FSC standard.
And we know that without a market for carbon credits, it’s too easy for low-income occupants of a forest region to sell the timber for logging or palm oil plantations.
Wilder says he will keep a foot in both camps and remains chief executive of Pollination to keep the wheels spinning (fast), we imagine, while he revs up the (EV) engines in the new gig.
From bad to worse
If the Melbourne Cricket Ground is the high temple of a nation’s addiction to a football game, then Amazon’s new so-called fulfillment centre just north of that city is our newest temple of doom. It will be a massive 11 times the size of the MCG – that’s 209,000 square metres to our more technically minded readers, spread over four floors.
Can you imagine the sophisticated robotics, the highly refined fractional logistics that will give the retail behemoth the edge over competitors?
In our feistier days (because we’re so polite these days, huh?), we used to call the retail property industry the landfill industry – because products, or “stuff”, made its way from the shops through our homes briefly before ending up – you know where.
That notion of consumer indulgence is now on steroids. We can languidly flick through our phones that lure us into pleasant calmness by showing us cute images of carolling animals or slick reels of yummy food to make while those clever mind bots work out what we like and causally, painlessly get us to tap “buy” with Amazon, like Santa, delivering things we probably don’t need to our front door.
Someone one day needs to cut out the middle person and send the stuff straight to the landfill. Maybe pre-packaged in biodegradable materials, and better still, the whole thing can be compost-ready.
It’s clearly a time when the planet has arguably moved on from the anthropogenic era to the ferventi (Google it).
Somehow the YIMBY (yes, in my backyard) movement reminds us of the scrolling analgesics on our phones.
It’s a movement on the rise and gathering all young renters in its wake. We get it, there is a massive housing crisis, and we must fix it.
But like the reels, the YIMBIES offer a single idea as a magic to the problem: more housing will lower prices and make it affordable for the young hopefuls.
We wish it was so simple. We wish that housing’s Pied Piper Peter Tulip was right, that more housing will lower prices. But it won’t. The experts who understand housing is far more complex say Australia doesn’t have the capacity to deliver anywhere near enough housing to make the prices fall.
And if it did and the prices fell, it would be because the place is so dense it’s become undesirable.
So the young hopefuls are doing an excellent job of amassing enough political voter clout to knock councils on the head (some of which absolutely deserve it) and make them approve housing developments faster.
But, as our experts say, the only thing that will do is deliver more unaffordable market-based housing. The market is not a charity.
If the YIMBIES could go a little more complex and demand more affordable social housing, that would work in all our backyards.