Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Its refreshing to see a senior politician say something sensible about climate change. Australian Agriculture Minister David Littleproud is more worried about affordable, reliable electricity, so people can heat their homes or pump water to irrigate their fields, than whether mankind is causing climate change.
Alright, Meg, our questioner, has got her hand up. So jump up, Meg.
Yeah. I do agree. What we do need is a strong National Energy Guarantee. Unfortunately, the terms that we’ve got at the moment just don’t do the trick. Unfortunately, they don’t. The emissions targets are too low. And so, therefore, we’re not able to encourage the use of renewables pretty much any further than they are currently this year. And, unfortunately, what it does is it encourages the use of coal and gas to continue in business as usual, and it’s…
Meg, can I just interrupt? From the beginning of your question, your original question, I took it that you’re essentially saying this drought is related to climate change, man-made climate change. Is that correct?
Yes, I believe so. I… I think… I know that Australia has always had droughts. I know that, you know, the whole world has always had droughts, but we only have to look around the world to see the events that are happening now. The Arctic Circle, you know, wildfires. I mean, it’s very clear that all these effects of our weather are being affected by climate change.
Now, David… Thank you very much, Meg. David, do you accept that, first of all? That principle?
Let me say that farmers have been dealing with the changing climate since we first put a till in the soil. It’s been changing since we first started agriculture and we’ve been adapting.
So, David, the fundamental question is whether man-made climate change is causing droughts like the one we’re seeing now? That’s what Meg is suggesting.
Well, look, that’s a big call. I don’t… Look, the reality is… The reality is, I don’t really give a rat’s whether it’s man-made or not. If we want to go to renewables, if we move to renewables for a healthier environment, to breathe better air, that’s great, let’s do it, but let’s do it in a responsible way, a responsible way that we can all afford. And we can transition that. But we can’t do it at the moment. We’ve got to be able to turn the lights on, turn the pumps on, and be able to afford.
Because you know what the biggest thing is I get out there? I talk to pensioners, in my own electorate in Warwick, and it’s cold at the moment, bloody cold. They can’t afford to put the heater on. And you know what?
(AUDIENCE MEMBER CALLS OUT INDISTINCTLY)
It’s got to be… It’s got to be reliable. It’s got to be reliable…
Hang on. Sorry. We’re going to have to let the Minister speak so you can hear what he’s got to say.
Look, that’s a great aspiration. But at the moment, it’s got to be reliable, it’s got to be sustainable, and it’s got to be affordable. And we’ve got a responsibility to make sure that we do that in a responsible way. Now, we’re doing that through the NEG and working through that to make sure that we do have an energy policy that meets our international commitments but makes sure to each and every one of you, you can afford to turn on the lights – a fundamental right for each and every one of us in a developed country like this, that you shouldn’t feel afraid to turn on a heater or light at night.
Video of the exchange:
I have visited towns in David’s electorate. Queensland is a warm state, but David’s electorate straddles the Great Dividing Range, and includes cool alpine regions which sometimes experience snowfall in winter, places where reliable, affordable home heating is an absolute necessity.
There is nothing reliable or affordable about renewables.
With fossil fuel backup, achieving a high percentage of grid electricity from renewables means paying for two sets of electricity infrastructure – the expensive renewable infrastructure, and the fossil fuel infrastructure which has to be kept operating at hot idle, ready to jump in when the renewable supply fails.
Renewable backed by batteries is an even more ridiculous proposition – no matter how much renewable capacity you build, there is always an unacceptable risk of a blackout. Periods of prolonged wind droughts or clouds blocking the sunlight will bring down your grid, unless have the option of importing most of your power for days or weeks on end from reliable sources.