Let’s put pensioners before Paris

Pensioners’ pockets before Paris purity – in its essence, this is what the current energy debate over the Finkel Review is all about.

Low energy bills help pensioners, families, small businesses, farmers and manufacturers balance their budgets. Power is an essential commodity - we rightly expect it to be available on demand and supplied at an affordable price. This has been a key to our success as a nation. Affordable and reliable power has been the primary international competitive advantage on which much of our jobs and economic growth has been based.

In recent times, policy failures have driven up the cost and driven out the more efficient and cheaper suppliers in favour of the more expensive and less reliable sources (ask any South Australian).

As a Nation we have been blessed with abundant supplies of cheap and clean coal. This natural bounty has helped underpin our economy, create countless jobs and improve our standard of living for generations. Yet for some bizarre reason, recently we have unwisely busied ourselves in denying ourselves the benefits of this gift. Nevertheless we willingly sell this gift to countries around the world – as we should. But why deny ourselves the advantage we give others?

Indeed, we’ve effectively sent our manufacturing overseas by pricing our own out of the market, particularly through higher energy prices..

The scenario is this: due to crooked thinking and a largely well-meaning but misguided belief we’re reducing our emissions to do “our bit” to save the world from global warming, extreme weather, climate change (take your pick, or, all 3 if you like).

Currently, we produce 1.3% of the world’s carbon emissions.

We’ve reduced our emissions and intend to continue to reduce our emissions even further by setting renewable energy targets, clean energy targets, with regulations and subsidies that we can’t afford – indeed, we’re actually in deficit and debt and being bankrolled by, amongst others, China.

China (whcih has no limits placed on its CO2 emissions until 2030 under the Paris Accord) is building a new coal fired power station every week then buying our coal to become a manufacturing powerhouse. So our pathetically small reduction in CO2 emissions here in Australia is more than offset by China’s massive increases.

I’m not sure that anyone could reasonably argue that Chinese CO2 is more wholesome, environmentally friendly or sustainable than Australian CO2. This begs the question – what is the actual environmental benefit in Australia slavishly following the Paris Climate Change targets which are in fact non-binding and from which one of the main players (the USA) has recently walked?

In this morass with our haemorrhaging budget deficits we send over $180m to some UN climate fund. This is borrowed money which our children will need to pay back with interest. And to whom? You’ve guessed it – China. A country which can keep increasing its emissions with our coal, develop its economy and wealth so it can lend money to Australia so we can pay the fund, yet pays nothing itself.

These are just some of the stark facts which provide the backdrop against which the examination of the Finkel Review needs to be undertaken. The Review threatens rather than promises virtual central command and control, reviews, programmes, studies, calculations and at the end of it a 42% equivalent clean or renewable energy target with unbelievably cheaper energy prices.

If 42% delivers cheaper prices why stop there. Why not double the savings and go for 84%?

Our current problems are largely due to the path we’ve blundered down – mainly with good intentions but with devastating consequences as to price and stability of energy supply. The remedy we are offered to overcome this is to give us even more of the same.

Not surprisingly, we are told business as usual is not an option. That is agreed. But even more of the same is definitely not the answer. We need to step beyond the hyperbole and Paris “purity” and ask the tough questions:

  •          Has our reliance on renewables increased energy costs?
  •          Have increased energy costs cost us jobs and wealth?
  •          Has the reduction in our jobs and wealth seen an increase in jobs and wealth and increased CO2 emissions elsewhere?
  •          Has the increase in CO2 emissions elsewhere more than offset Australia’s reductions?

Sadly the answer to all 4 questions is an unequivocal “Yes”.

Reform is needed. Reform based on facts and our national interest. Reform which puts our pensioners’ pockets before Paris purity. I’m looking forward to a fulsome discussion with my colleagues in coming days on achieving a sensible outcome on this issue.

About Eric

Eric Abetz has been a Liberal Senator for Tasmania since 1994 and has served in a range of Leadership, Ministerial and Shadow Ministerial roles.

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