I expect that the federal government will now want to repeal the Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation, now that they have been shown to be the most egregious liars regarding the South Australian blackout in September 2016 and the most recent one last week.
Documents obtained by FOI by the Australia Institute demonstrated that Turnbull’s office had been told early on September 29 that the failure of electricity pylons led to the loss of major transmission lines during the storm, which prevented the wind power generated being transmitted. This was followed by the shutting down of the Torrens Island gas-fired power generation plant either due to a lightning strike or by automatic shutdown as a means of protecting the plant. The Torrens Island plant was the biggest local power station online at the time.
Subsequently, Malcolm Turnbull attributed the loss of power in SA to the knocking over of the power lines, but did not mention the failure of the gas-fired power plant. He subsequently linked the blackout to the state’s use of renewable energy, calling it a “wakeup call” for state leaders who were trying to meet “completely unrealistic” renewable targets. He then had the gall to say “What’s the pathway to achieve that? Very hard to see it. It’s a political or ideological statement”. This is simply the pot calling the kettle black and is completely reprehensible. He then went on to state “We’ve got to recognise that energy security is the key priority and targeting lower emissions is very important, but it must be consistent with energy security”. He then called for an overhaul of Australia’s numerous state-based renewable energy targets and said that the nation need to move to a single national target. Needless to say, that target would be the laughably inadequate target of 23.5%, which itself will not be met given the failure of corporate welfare in the guise of the Emission Reduction Fund.
The problems with the gas-fired power generation in SA manifested itself again during a blackout in the state last week, when the non-profit company, the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO*), issued ‘market notices’ when electricity demand soared due to the extreme heat. However, there was no response. As a consequence, according to AEMO, there were three thermal generators on that day that were unavailable. This unavailability was attributed to “technical issues”. Although there has been much finger pointing at AEMO, it refused to accept full responsibility, but did concede that its demand prediction and weather forecast were less than accurate.
When Labor went on the attack, Mark Butler stated that Turnbull “took a decision in September to use the SA blackout as an opportunity to start a campaign against renewable energy”. In response, Turnbull attempted to backtrack and stated that it was only the breaking of the transmission lines which caused the blackout, seemingly unaware of his own statements linking the blackout to the “completely unrealistic” renewables target. However, he tried again to implicate renewables in stating that the introduction of a “massive amount of wind energy” made the SA grid very vulnerable. On top of that, he stated that “they have not taken into account the need to provide backup” for their renewables, and “they haven’t put in place energy storage”. This drivel simply ignores the fact that there were gas-powered generators which were present but not turned on.
Last week, New South Wales was also on the brink of supply shortages but the state government called on industrial consumers to reduce their demand to prevent blackouts. Unlike South Australia (40% renewables), New South Wales only gets 6% of its electricity from renewables. The head of the Tomago Aluminium smelter, who ramped down their operations at the government’s request, labelled the need to shut down a disgrace.
This was all capped off by the idiotic efforts of Scott Morrison bringing a lump of coal into the House of Representatives chamber a few days ago. This monumentally stupid stunt beggars belief. Is this what passes for debate these days? Is this the most sophisticated argument Morrison could come up with? Accusing the other side of ‘coalophobia’? How stupid must his staff be if they knew what he proposed to do, and did nothing to dissuade him?
This stupidity on the part of the government has proceeded to a stage where a diverse alliance of industry, community and environmental groups is calling for a bipartisan energy policy. This group includes the Business Council of Australia, Australian Industry Group, Australian Aluminium Council, Australian Steel Institute, Cement Industry Association, Australian Conservation Foundation, Clean Energy Council, World Wildlife Fund, Australian Council of Trade Unions, Australian Council of Social Services and the St Vincent de Paul Society. The statement demands that all political leaders stop partisan behaviour and work together to reform Australia’s energy systems to deliver reliable, affordable and clean energy. How parlous is the state of our parliament if groups like this, many almost sworn enemies, felt it necessary to join in such a plea?
It would be nice if a bipartisan approach actually happened, but nothing will change because the Liberal and National parties have been bought by the fossil fuel producers (hence the lump of coal). You will notice that although several of the big coal and petroleum producers signed this plea, through their lobby groups, the Liberal Party’s biggest donor was absent, presumably because Hugh Morgan will not countenance the concept of human induced climate change. Nor will many of the parliamentarians. Such people as Tony Abbott, Eric Abetz, Kevin Andrews, Cory Bernardi, Brian Burston, David Bushby, Matthew Canavan, Michaelia Cash, George Christensen, Jonathon Duniam, Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, Pauline Hanson, Alex Hawke, Barnaby Joyce, Craig Kelly, David Leyonhjelm, Ian Macdonald, Fiona Nash, Ken O’Dowd, Barry O’Sullivan, Stephen Parry, Tony Paisin, James Paterson, Malcolm Roberts, Ann Sudmalis, Angus Taylor and Tim Wilson, and probably about a dozen others, at one time or another, have all rejected the understanding gleaned from over forty years of study by thousands of climatologists, glaciologists and physicists by which we know that the planet is heating up and it is on a trajectory which will make some parts uninhabitable through extreme temperatures or sea-level rise. However, all that accumulated knowledge doesn’t matter, because the people in the companies that have purchased this party, don’t believe it either, and as they own the party, what they say goes because it is not the planet or the people which matter, but their bottom line, and nothing else.
*AEMO is a non-profit company limited by guarantee and its membership comprises governments (60%) and industry (40%) and has operated since 2009