The Party of the Future vs. The Party of the Past
There is no better way to see the difference between the Labor Party and Tony Abbott’s Coalition Government than the announcement by Bill Shorten that a Labor Government, if elected, will be committed to 50% renewable energy in Australia by 2030.
This is an ambitious, bold and some would say risky gamble on the mood of the electorate given the toxicity around the Carbon Tax debate for the previous Gillard Government. Already the Liberals are wheeling out old arguments in an attempt to scare the crap out of people: they are saying that your electricity bills will rise due to a new carbon tax (which is an ETS); that jobs will be lost in the energy sector, that we are cutting off our noses despite our sun-burnt, Australian faces; and of course, we will kill the coal industry in Australia, meaning our exports of coal will drop as a result of such a policy.
Let’s debunk some of these scare tactics one-by-one shall we:
- Electricity bills will rise as a result of this new Carbon Tax (which is in Emissions Trading Scheme)
Yep, your electricity bill will rise… if you don’t join in on the fun and install solar and battery storage on your own dwelling. You see, investment in renewable energy of course costs money, but to make the claim that prices will rise in isolation of other factors is misleading. Subsidised solar and storage for residential dwellings is an obvious part of this policy, and this means that increases in electricity costs from your mainstream supplier will be more than offset through government-assisted solar and/or storage at your own premises.
Even without much government assistance, and frankly piss weak Feed in Tariffs, the benefits of installing solar are immense right now. This article by Finn Peacock at solarquotes.com lays it out for you to consider and is well worth the read.
The other point to clarify is that an Emissions Trading Scheme is not a Carbon Tax, it is a floating price on carbon emissions that uses market forces to find the optimal price for carbon in our economy.
Now, you would think that the ‘free-market’ devotees who are the Liberal Party would prefer this option as opposed to dolling out cheques to polluters through a reverse auction ( a key part of the Goverment’s impotent Direct Action policy). An ETS is a much more hands-off (invisible hand-in) approach that ought to be far more appealing to their sensitivities. And as for the public who have swallowed the bile from Tony Abbott and Co that their policy is much better for Australian tax-payers, the reality is that it is a Carbon Tax by stealth; it is your money that they are paying to polluters after all.
2. Jobs will be lost as a result of increasing renewables
In the fossil fuel fed energy sector a valid response to that concern is: derrr!
Of course jobs will be lost if we transition away from traditional, dirty energy towards cleaner, renewable forms. But that’s ok in a dynamic, multi-faceted economy, because there will be a dramatic increase in the number of clean energy jobs which, surprise surprise, have a need for many of the skills being deployed in the dirty energy sector of today. But this transfer of labour to the renewables sector could be only half of the story if the Labor Party included investment in energy efficiency and embracing the concept put forth by Jeremy Rifkin that our homes can be the ‘mini power plants of the future’.
Imagine the building boom in retrofitting homes if a progressive government had the right policy settings for energy efficiency upgrades of dwellings. You wouldn’t have the building and construction industry complaining about the boom and bust cycles associated with the construction of new dwellings. If we were all on a pathway towards being prosumers (producers and consumers) of energy, then there would be decades of work to be done by the manual trades.
Rifkin says it best in his book ‘The Third Industrial Revolution’, and once again, it is well and truly worth a read.
3. But our exports of coal will be affected!
News Flash! The coal price is already tanking, and if our Governments, State and Federal, do not take action to avoid the risk of stranded assets and their budgets relying on diminishing returns from these assets, then you know who will be paying the bill at the end of the day: tax-payers.
China has such poor air quality that they have been forced to change policy and rapidly increase renewables, as well as put a cap on coal consumption by 2020. In short, our export markets for coal are drying up because the rest of the world is well and truly on the pathway to having more renewables in their energy mix.
Finally, the important point to remember about the coal industry and the jobs it creates is that, during the production stage of mining, there aren’t that many jobs anyway, it is in the construction stage of mining operations where the jobs are, and that stage is pretty much behind us (unless a few controversial projects are given the green light to proceed).
The fact that Tony Abbott has done everything in his power to undermine renewables is both strange from an ideological stand point, yet expected from a political one.
Ideologically, the idea that each individual home could be its own ‘mini power plant’ that produces, consumes and sells electricity on an open market ought to be one that is music to the individual ears of neo-liberals like the current Abbott Government. The very notion of people being forced to consume a good (coal-fired electricity) from a monopoly (coal-fired generators) should be anathema to free-market, individualistic folks. ‘Choice’ and ‘Individual Freedom’ are the rallying cries of the Liberal Party, yet when it comes to energy policy they err on the side of Big Dirty Energy.
From a political standpoint it makes perfect sense though. It is well known that corporate interests feed the coffers of the Liberal Party machine, and that with such feeding comes influence over policy. The Liberal Party is beholden to the vested interests of a few energy producers who are looking to ‘protect their patch’ of the market, to the detriment of the people they are supposed to represent.
This decision by the Labor Party to embrace renewables permits it to claim the mantle of: ‘The Party of the People’. Renewable energy is an energy source, when distributed across the rooftops and farmlands of the nation, that cannot be owned by any one player. It is effectively an open source good that requires some technology to be harnessed by anyone and everyone. It is abundant and no one corporation or individual owns it.
The Labor Party is the only choice if you want energy freedom, a clean and bountiful environment, and the jobs of the future. This next election that is looming over the horizon is a very important one. We have seen the type of society Abbott wishes to create in Australia and for the vast majority of us (even many traditional Liberal voters) we do not like it. The world changes quickly these days, and we quickly need to get our nation, our society and economy on a pathway that has a solar or wind-powered light at the end of the tunnel.