The stupidity of Angus Taylor

Angus Taylor has been made Energy Minister in the Morrison government, and in his first speech he mentioned the government’s intention to curb rises in electricity prices, but made no mention of reducing greenhouse gas emissions created by burning fossil fuel for energy. Laughably, he then stated that “there will be no ideology in what I do” and that “my goal, the goal of my department and the goal of the electricity sector must be simple and unambiguous – get prices down while keeping the lights on”. After this speech at the Council of Small Business summit in Melbourne, he ducked out through a back door to avoid questions from waiting media1. Normally, for the energy minister to not mention emissions reductions would be unsurprising in that the responsibility for meeting Australia’s emissions reduction targets under the Paris treaty will now fall to the Environment Minister. However there are four factors which argue otherwise: the shambolic NEG mess2 created by the new deputy Liberal leader, Josh Frydenberg, when he was minister for Energy and Environment; the ideology of the delusional ultraconservatives of the Liberal Party that destroyed any mention of emissions in the NEG; Taylor’s previous history as a campaigner against renewables, especially wind power3; and the fact that the new Environment Minister, Melissa Price is a former mining company lawyer3.

While Taylor seems somewhat more urbane than his awkward predecessor (Frydenberg), and has declared that he is “not sceptical about climate science”, he followed this with “but I am and have been for many years deeply sceptical of the economics of so many of the emissions reduction programs dreamed up by politicians, vested interests and technocrats around the world”4. This is the new climate change denialism. It is unlike the halfwit denialism of the buffoons of the Monash Forum5, which was essentially a statement that climate scientists were either incompetent or were part of a huge conspiracy6. It is more sophisticated in that he says he accepts climate science, but does not accept that doing anything about it is ‘economically feasible’. This is demonstrated by his statement above indicating that these emissions mitigation measures are simply dreamed up by politicians, vested interests and technocrats; with no mention of the economists behind their design.

Taylor has campaigned against wind farms, both near his family’s property near Nimmitabel and elsewhere in New South Wales. When preselected for the seat he won in 2013, he spoke at a ‘Wind Power Fraud Rally’, which attracted 100 people, in front of Parliament House. This rally was organised by the anonymous and nasty group called “Stop These Things”3. The ‘host’ at the little rally was radio shock jock, Alan Jones, a renowned climate change denier of the halfwit type7. Craig Kelly also addressed the rally3, and he has a decent claim to being the thickest person in parliament8. The only difference between Kelly and Taylor is that the latter is more sophisticated and more articulate, as their views are much the same. Taylor was one of the loudest voices calling for the end of the renewable energy target in 2013, and he has called state-based targets for renewables “insane”3.

How Taylor is being stupid, is that he is ignoring reality. Firstly, the cost of subsidising green schemes only made up 16% of the increases in the average electricity bill, while network costs made up 42% and retail margins 26%. Secondly, while he sees “a strong role for commercially viable renewables [notice the implied slight that they are not], alongside continued focus on coal and gas”4, he is ignoring the rush away from coal worldwide9,10. Thirdly, building a new coal-fired power station, something the deluded ultraconservatives in the government have suggested, would generate electricity at a cost of $75 per Megawatt hour (MWh), whereas recent prices for wind have been about $60 per MWh11, and solar, about $55 per MWh12. While the government will say that generating power from old coal-fired power stations is less (it is about $40 per KWh11), this ignores the fact that almost all of Australia’s large coal-fired power stations are nearing the end of their life11. Fourthly, and obviously, Taylor is ignoring the reality of climate change, and the realisation by the populace that we have to do something about it, pretty damned quick. Fifthly, some of the smaller Pacific nations are starting to lose islands because of sea-level rise, and they are less than happy about it. This may make them less inclined to listen to Australia when deciding if Chinese investment in their nation is worth considering. Lastly, perhaps the most obvious indicator of Taylor’s stupidity is the fact that the European Union is pushing for what is called ‘climate change diplomacy’, and they have stated that they “are determined to continue playing a leading role in delivering on the promises of the Paris Agreement – and we want everybody on board”13. To this end, the European Union will refuse to sign trade deals with countries that do not ratify the Paris Agreement and take steps to combat global warming, and that a binding reference to the Paris Agreement would be needed in all EU trade agreements. Such a reference has already been included in a deal with Japan14.

Why would Taylor be so stupid? Because his party is paid to be. They are so dependent on the cash from their fossil fuel billionaire and corporate donors, that they are willing to crucify this nation as long as the money keeps flowing into the Liberal Party coffers.




  • Jim says:

    I just hope that battery technology improves very rapidly, because once the coal fired power stations get to the end of their life in the next few years, we may have a serious problem with base load power. Solar and wind power are great when the sun is out and the wind is blowing, but on a quiet night they are of little value. Gas fired power stations is one answer, but some new ones will need to be erected in the near future. Hydro is fine, but Australia has limited capacity for hydro power, particularly in times of drought–only a couple of years ago the Tasmanian dams were at about 15% capacity. Snowy Hydro 2.0 is years away, if it is ever built. The same remark applies to the pumped hydro schemes.
    Re the NEG–I never understood it. The subsidies given to solar power are/were hard to justify from a social point of view. Even with the subsidies, the capital cost of installing solar power meant that only reasonably well off people could afford the panels. In essence the poorer people are/were subsidising the wealthier people. We really lost control of power prices when the state owned power systems were flogged off to the private sector.

  • Jim says:

    Having now read those two articles, I find them less than impressive. The graphs used in the Giles Parkinson article are meant to show “the average daily'” supply over the year. What we need to worry about is when things are not average (any system should be able to cope with average conditions) as occurred in South Australia two years ago when due to a combination of atrocious weather (solar power generation would have been minimal) , a failure of some of the wind power computer systems, and the tripping of the Victorian interconnector meant that the whole state was blacked out. Power was gradually restored over the next day or so, except for Eyre Peninsula which had to wait several days because several of the transmission lines had been destroyed–this cost the Eyre Peninsula businesses several million dollars. However, if the then recently closed Port Augusta coal fired power station had been operational most of the problems on Eyre Peninsula would have been avoided, in contrast to the comments made in the Parkinson article that was written before the closure of the Port Augusta power station.
    Coal fired power stations are clearly on the way out. One good point that the ABC article makes is the need for a NSW-SA interconnector. The concept of pumped hydro has been around for many years, but like all hydro schemes the initial capital cost will be very considerable.

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