Former PM Malcolm Turnbull has again weighed into the perennial climate wars, launching a social media broadside and calling his former colleagues “bats–t crazy” just as Energy Minister Angus Taylor was unveiling another piece in the nation’s power roadmap.
Mr Taylor made his third major energy announcement in the past week, sharing a Low Emissions Technology Statement, which commits Australia to looking at more efficient hydrogen power, better energy storage for renewables, carbon capture and storage, and soil carbon.
Butm despite an avalanche of policy documents and announcements, clean energy advocates say the plans are short on details of how the government plans to meaningfully reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“There’s a lot of hype and spin and marketing, but very little to reduce emissions over the next critical decade,” Richie Merzian, director of The Australia Institute’s climate and energy program, told The New Daily.
“There’s so many questions left.”
A week of energy policy announcements built to Mr Taylor’s centrepiece speech at the National Press Club on Tuesday. There, he further detailed the Morrison government’s Australia’s Technology Investment Roadmap.
The government wants to incentivise the energy sector to produce more, cheaper power. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has repeatedly claimed to be “technology agnostic” on the source of the power, and under the roadmap energy generation is split into several categories.
Power types are being split into ‘priority’, ’emerging’, ‘watching brief’ and ‘mature’. Coal and gas are in the last category, where the government will not prioritise future public investment and instead leave spending to the private sector – except in the case of “market failures”.
Solar and wind renewables have also been lumped in this category, at the bottom of the list for government investment.
Instead, ‘priority’ technologies are clean hydrogen, energy storage, low carbon materials such as steel and aluminium, carbon capture and storage, and soil carbon.
“Getting the technologies of the future right will support 130,000 jobs by 2030, and avoid in the order of 250 million tonnes of emissions in Australia by 2040,” Mr Taylor said, claiming they would “significantly reduce emissions from energy, transport, agriculture and heavy industry.”
However, in a question session following his speech, Mr Taylor said there was no specific definition a “green” energy source, simply saying “bringing down emissions is the goal”.
“We want to do stuff that works,” he said, echoing a phrase from PM Morrison last week.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese derided the roadmap as a “mud map” and claimed it would not create jobs or achieve climate goals.
Independent MP Zali Steggall said it was “a historical sightseeing tour of technologies like carbon capture and storage, that have cost a lot and delivered little”.
Mr Turnbull, who was rolled in August 2018 over an internal dispute tied to climate and energy policy, fired a missive on Twitter in the hours before Mr Taylor’s speech. Sharing an article from The Guardian about support for renewable energy, he wrote “as for coal” and attached a section from his recent memoirs with the term “bats–t” highlighted.
In a later interview on the ABC, Mr Turnbull called a floated government proposal to underwrite the cost of a new gas-fired power station “crazy”, and criticised what he called “random interventions” by Canberra. He also claimed that plans for a so-called ‘gas-led recovery’ were a “fantasy”, claiming it would not be cheap or plentiful enough.
The support for renewables is hardly surprising it has been at this level for years – Australians know how effective clean energy is, after all we have the highest penetration of rooftop solar in the world. As for coal – a vignette from my book https://t.co/rFOdoM8ikZ pic.twitter.com/GA5gSHe3VQ
— Malcolm Turnbull (@TurnbullMalcolm) September 21, 2020
Mr Merzian said despite the multiple government policy announcements in recent days, he was still unclear how they would help Australia meet emissions reductions goals.
“The minister is a consummate salesman, he competently sold his plan, but it doesn’t do what he says he wants it to do,” he said.
“2030 is the target they’re focused on [for emissions reduction], but the plan has no credible emissions reductions over the next decade … it fails on its fundamental point.”
Mr Merzian said it was “a good thing worth celebrating” that coal rated barely a mention in the government’s assorted policy documents. But he feared it was simply being replaced by gas – a change, he said, would deliver little significant emissions reductions.
“There is little in the last week and a half that will benefit renewables. We’re seeing a vanguard, a clear push from the fossil fuel industry to get their hooks into the next climate plan,” he said.
“They have one solution to every problem, and that’s fossil fuels.”