Opinion Paul Bongiorno: Exhaust smoke and mirrors can’t hide the Morrison government’s energy failings

Paul Bongiorno: Exhaust smoke and mirrors can’t hide the Morrison government’s energy failings

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It seems Energy Minister Angus Taylor can’t help himself when it comes to using fake numbers to justify not taking action to curb Australia’s emissions at the expense of fossil fuels.

Though he is formally dubbed as “Minister For Emissions Reduction” his latest effort unveiling his agenda for a future fuels strategy shows it actually increases transport emissions by 6 per cent over the decade to 2030.

The minister goes to extraordinary lengths to claim that hybrid vehicles will emit less pollution than 100 per cent electric ones.

He does this according to analysis by Dr Jake Whitehead, a transport economist and United Nations lead author for its International Panel On Climate Change, by ignoring the emissions of extracting, shipping and refining imported fuel so that his figures have “likely underestimated pollution” for petrol/diesel vehicles by 20 per cent.

Mr Taylor, you may remember, embarrassed himself and the government by using fake travel costs to attack Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore after she had the temerity to call out the Morrison government for being climate laggards.

Weeks out from the last election he used a fake image on Twitter to show a Nissan Leaf electric vehicle being charged by a petrol driven generator on a weekend camping trip.

This puerile demonisation of electric vehicles is of a piece with the Morrison government’s near complete capitulation to fossil fuel interests at an increasingly greater cost to Australia’s national interest.

On Monday Prime Minister Scott Morrison proclaimed that his government, through the Joint Strike Fighter initiative, was “delivering sovereign capabilities to keep Australia safe”.

Neither he nor his minister are doing the same when it comes to fuel security, a situation lamented by one of Australia’s most distinguished soldiers Major General, now senator Jim Molan.

Australia holds just 28 days worth of fuel – well below the international safety standard of 90 days to meet any crisis, last year Mr Taylor did a $94 million deal to buy crude oil from the American stockpile.

There are, however, major import time lag and refining issues with the arrangement, made worse by a blinkered vision that fails to see that a rapid transition to electric vehicles – cars, trucks, trams and trains – would go a long way to address this strategic vulnerability.

Renewable energy is, after all, Australian made.

Mr Morrison has a preference he says “for net zero emission by 2050”, but he said last week at the National Press Club, “When I can tell you how we get there, that’s when I’ll tell you when we’re going to get there”.

The Prime Minister also claims he will do it by “technology and not taxation”; a proposition Malcolm Turnbull scoffed at when Tony Abbott, after successfully demolishing “Labor’s carbon tax”, introduced a policy of Direct Action.

That policy directly taxed Australians to pay polluters, as Mr Turnbull said almost 10 years ago: “Any suggestion you can dramatically cut emissions without any cost, is to use a favourite term of Mr Abbott, ‘bullshit’.”

Scott Morrison ‘prefers’ to reach net zero emissions by 2050. Photo: AAP

Since then, renewables are cheaper than any new coal or gas alternatives to produce electricity, and when it comes to “technology to get there” – we already have it.

Every technology roadmap we get from this government involves increasing, not curbing, carbon emissions whether it is “the gas-led recovery” or new petrol-driven hybrids.

Not only is transport a major source of emissions in Australia, it is made worse by the fact that the country has among the dirtiest petrol in the world, because we have no mandatory standards for fuel emissions.

And of course this suits the big petroleum companies just fine under the cover of cheaper petrol and diesel – never mind that it means we cannot import the most economical, modern engines because as Stephen Corby wrote in Cars Guide, “Our fuel is not clean enough”.

There is plenty of factual data to support Labor leader Anthony Albanese’s criticism of the PM on Monday for not actually doing anything significantly serious in this space.

Mr Albanese said: “He is all smirk and mirrors when it comes to action on climate change. Australians know that.”

If they do, it’s not because the government has come completely clean with them.

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