Oh For More of This Common Sense!

Left media keep public in dark on renewablesCHRIS MITCHELL

The left media’s reaction to Labor’s win has been eerily similar to that after the 2007 win by the Rudd government. Picture: Getty Images
The left media’s reaction to Labor’s win has been eerily similar to that after the 2007 win by the Rudd government. Picture: Getty Images
  • 9:08PM JUNE 12, 2022

Many media commentators have welcomed the election of the Albanese government as the beginning of the end of culture wars in public policy.

The problem is they don’t see their own positions on climate change, the power industry, or China and the Pacific as simply the left end of the same culture war debates they hate the Coalition having. Many have suggested Peter Dutton’s appointment as Opposition Leader shows the Coalition has not learned the right lessons on climate from the election of teal independents in former safe Liberal seats or Greens in similar seats in Brisbane.

The left media’s reaction to Labor’s win has been eerily similar to that after the 2007 win by the Rudd government when the ABC, the former Fairfax papers and Crikey all treated Kevin Rudd like a messiah. They later criticised the election of the “climate denying” Tony Abbott as opposition leader in November 2009 after the failures of Brendan Nelson and then Malcolm Turnbull.

Yet nine months later at the August 2010 election Abbott proved his critics wrong when he won 72 seats, the same as PM Julia Gillard.

Gillard was forced to do a deal with the Greens and other Independents to secure minority government after the 2010 poll.

Albanese has resisted the hubris that was Rudd’s undoing.

The Greens and teals, on the other hand, have been wallowing in hubris but are now being mugged by the reality of power politics, a reality on show all year in Europe as consumers there learned renewables really are unreliable and are not as cheap as advocates claim.

Remember, Europe’s power problems started before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine when a winter wind drought struck the continent. It’s a renewables lesson many journalists still do not understand. As Andrew Bolt pointed out in the News Corp tabloids last Thursday, Germany has spent $750bn to get half its electricity from renewables but needs its coal and gas generators on permanent standby for when the wind does not blow or the sun shine. It now has Europe’s highest power prices.

Climate writers, duped by renewables advocates and investors, keep wrongly claiming renewables are cheaper than coal and gas. It’s true only if you are happy with an unreliable power system.

The National Electricity Market’s design is deliberately stacked against coal while renewables suppliers are not paying for the storage technologies or the network expansion their product will need to firm renewables. Coal-fired power stations that keep the grid running all night need to run 24 hours a day but cannot compete at five-minute bidding intervals in the market during the day, against renewables that don’t work at night.

Former Energy Security Board chair Kerry Schott. Picture: AAP
Former Energy Security Board chair Kerry Schott. Picture: AAP

This column spelled it out in February in an interview with former Energy Security Board chairwoman Kerry Schott, who warned all energy supply companies here would need to rely more heavily on gas and energy storage technologies, especially pumped hydro, as coal was phased out. Schott explained why Australia needed an enormous expansion of the national power grid.

“The way you deal with intermittency is first of all by having a lot of transmission to add renewable capacity, and to use different weather patterns across the network.”

Power generated in different regions and states could be fed to areas where wind and solar was underperforming on a particular day. In other words, we will build far more generation capacity than we need and far more transmission than fossil fuels need just to keep renewables reliable. We will then need to add tens of billions in storage technology for nights and cold winters.

Climate writers regularly repeat another left-wing lie: that Australia needs to phase out reliance on coal and gas exports because fossil fuels will soon be stranded assets as the world moves to 100 per cent renewables. Yet thermal coal and gas prices are at all-time record highs. The two fastest-growing carbon dioxide emitters, China and India, plan to keep lifting coal generation (China by 300 million tonnes a year and India from one billion to 1.5 billion tonnes a year).

Global emissions, despite $US2 trillion spent on renewables, rose 6 per cent last year to 36.3 billion tonnes. Australian emissions actually fell 3.2 per cent, even though culture-warring climate writers, the Greens and teals claim we are falling behind. The public would not know it from following most media but Australia is on track to meet its Paris 2030 emissions reduction targets while most of the big-emitting nations are not.

Labor has signalled it will resist the foolish push from the Greens and teals for faster emissions reductions. The Greens want our Paris target increased to a 75 per cent emissions reduction from 2005 levels by 2030. Labor took 43 per cent to the election and the Coalition 26-28 per cent. The Greens also want net zero by 2035, compared with 2050 for Labor and the Coalition.

Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong. Picture: Getty Images
Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong. Picture: Getty Images

The Greens want the phasing out of all domestic thermal coal mining, burning and export by 2030. Exports of thermal and coking coal are Australia’s second-largest foreign exchange earner after iron ore. The Greens would damage Australia’s ability to pay for its imports and finance its social security programs. China would simply keep increasing emissions annually by more than our total national emissions. Yet many climate writers here openly support the Greens’ climate policies.

Reflect on the hypocritical campaign by the ABC and Guardian Australia over the past two years against the Coalition’s Kurri Kurri gas generation plans in the NSW Hunter Valley and compare that with the past week’s overblown reporting about the east coast gas shortage.

As Dennis Shanahan pointed out in The Australian on Wednesday, the gas crisis is in part the result of a deliberate decision by the Gillard government in 2012 not to introduce a national domestic gas reservation policy in the way the former WA Labor government did in 2006. This newspaper editorialised strongly in favour of such a policy throughout the Rudd and Gillard years.

Perhaps the silliest media left culture-warring since the election has been reporting of China’s influence in the South Pacific after its deal with the Solomon Islands in May. Surely someone at the ABC should have asked new Foreign Minister Penny Wong or one of the Pacific leaders it has interviewed regularly why island states concerned about sea level rises – that they think are linked to climate change – would turn to China, the world’s biggest emitter of CO2.

And that’s without mentioning another obvious flaw in the logic. The ABC’s own fact-checking unit concluded in December 2018 that most Pacific island atolls are not sinking – as found by a peer-reviewed Auckland University study that showed many were actually rising as offshore corals washed ashore. Still, focusing on facts does not make reporters feel as righteous as helping to “save the world”.

It’s been confusing to hear government leaders in NSW and Victoria demanding more gas after themselves banning or restricting gas exploration, and cheering on the reopening of some coal generation after they have spent years claiming to be ahead of the federal Coalition by bringing forward coal plant closures.

CHRIS MITCHELL

COLUMNIST

Chris Mitchell began his career in late 1973 in Brisbane on the afternoon daily, The Telegraph. He worked on the Townsville Daily Bulletin, the Daily Telegraph Sydney and the Australian Financial Review before  joining The Australian in 1984. He was appointed editor of The Australian in 1992 and editor in chief of Queensland Newspapers in 1995. He returned to Sydney as editor in chief of The Australian in 2002 and held that position until his retirement in December 2015

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