Nats double down on commitment to coal, Joyce rants against wind and solar | RenewEconomy

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If there were any questions over the National Party’s commitment to the coal sector after the loss of Matt Canavan from the resources portfolio, they were quickly answered by new deputy leader David Littleproud who reasserted his party’s commitment to a new coal generator in Queensland on his first day in the job.

In an interview with ABC’s RN Breakfast program on Wednesday, Littleproud trotted out the three consistent assertions of the coal lobby; that you can reduce emissions using more coal, that more coal generation is necessary to lower electricity prices and that baseload power is a necessary feature of the future energy system.

Each of these three assertions have been repeatedly debunked, but it confirms that it’s business as usual in a Morrison cabinet that will continue to face internal divisions over a need to act on climate change and the fossil fuel advocates within its ranks.

It is understood that Queensland Nationals MP Keith Pitt is the front runner to take over Canavan’s former positions as the minister for resources and Northern Australia when new ministerial appointments are announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday.

Pitt himself has been an outspoken advocate for a new coal-fired power station in Queensland, so while Canavan – who liked to describe himself as “Mr Coal” – has exited the federal cabinet, the pressure to push forward with the Collinsville project is likely to continue.

Pitt has also been a strong supporter of a nuclear industry in Australia, and will have the backing of failed Nationals leadership candidate Barnaby Joyce, who again argued for nuclear power to be considered as part of Australia’s efforts to reduce emissions as part of a bizarre Facebook rant against renewable energy.

“We have to recognise that the public acceptance of wind towers on the hill in front of their veranda is gone, and the public dissonance on that issue is as strong as any other environmental subject,” Joyce said.

“If zero emissions are the goal then surely nuclear energy should be supported, but it is not. If wind towers are a moral good and environmentally inoffensive, why can’t we have them just off the beach at Bondi so we can feel good about ourselves while going for a surf? It would cause a riot.”

“Do you want a 3,000ha solar farm next door to you? Lots of glass and aluminium neatly in rows pointing at the sun. I am not sure others will want to buy that view off you when you go to sell your house.”

The coal industry might have lost its most enthusiastic advocate from the federal cabinet, but the Nationals were quick to show that it won’t lead to any changes on the party’s energy and climate change policies.

In his interview, Littleproud, who is also tipped to take on the now vacant agriculture portfolio, told the ABC that investments in new coal generators would help lower emissions and lower electricity prices.

“You need to make sure that you create an environment in the marketplace with a mix of renewables and coal-fired power stations, and if you can improve the emissions of coal fired power stations, you should make that investment if it means that we hit our targets and we reduce energy prices,” Littleproud claimed.

It has been well established for some time that the cheapest source of new electricity generation capacity are renewable sources like wind and solar.

A recent update to the CSIRO’s GenCost assessment of the costs of different generation technologies re-confirmed that new wind and solar are, by far, the cheapest sources of electricity generation. Even when additional storage is accounted for, prices of firmed renewables are competitive with fossil fuel generators when the costs of carbon emissions are considered.

Renewables are already helping to drive down electricity prices.

This week, the ACT, which has recently achieved its 100 per cent renewable electricity target, is also set to see an almost 7 per cent fall in its electricity prices this year, as the territory’s investments in wind and solar projects have helped deliver lower electricity prices for Canberra households, ensuring they continue to pay some of Australia’s lowest electricity prices.

But this also didn’t stop Littleproud asserting that it is possible to achieve reductions in greenhouse gas emissions while still embracing coal.

“You can invest in clean coal technology in and reduce emissions,” Littleproud said.

“I’m not disputing the science, what I’m saying is I’m not gifted academically to have that science background myself.” – @D_LittleproudMP when asked about his recent statement that he didn’t know if climate change was man made. #abc730 @leighsales #auspol pic.twitter.com/sFh44eNP2a

— abc730 (@abc730) February 4, 2020

Again, there are fundamental limits to how much emissions from coal-fired power stations can be improved. Even with a complete transition to the Coalition’s favoured high-efficiency low-emissions (HELE) coal power station technologies, the most generous estimates put the amount of emissions reductions at 20 per cent.

In his review of the National Electricity Market, chief scientist Dr Alan Finkel compared the emissions intensity of different generation technologies, showing that the HELE coal-fired power stations promoted by the Nationals will still produce 0.7 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent for each megawatt-hour of electricity produced, and is only slightly below the NEM’s current average emissions intensity.

When the science, and the international commitments made under the Paris Agreement, are calling for governments to achieve zero net emissions by 2050, a 20 per cent cut in coal power station emissions is going to be grossly insufficient.

It’s a position that leaves the Nationals at odds with science, but also the business community which is undergoing an accelerating exit from the coal industry. This includes BlackRock, which manages USD$7 trillion (A$10.15 trillion) in investments, which announced in January that it was divesting its portfolios from thermal coal companies.

Littleproud argued for the need for “baseload” power, suggesting that coal-fired power stations are necessary, as Australia currently lacks sufficient levels of battery storage.

“We’ve still got to have baseload, the thing is that we don’t have battery storage to the capacity that we need to be able to keep the lights on,” Littleproud said.

With the emergence of new energy management technologies, a growing market for energy storage that is outpacing growth in coal generation in Australia, demand response platforms and the falling prices of renewables, the concept of baseload is quickly becoming outdated.

With system planners recognising the crucial role that a ‘flexible’ energy system will have into the future, pushing new inflexible baseload power stations, like a new coal generator, into the energy system will only be counterproductive.

Chair of the Energy Security Board, which has been tasked with redesigning Australia’s energy market in response to the widescale transformation underway in the energy sector, labelled Australia’s existing “baseload” generators as “dinosaurs”, singling out coal-fired generators Bayswater and Liddell saying that their inflexibility made them poorly suited to a future energy system.

There has been a surge of installations of large-scale battery storage systems, and new investments continue to be made in deploying storage projects, while coal-fired generators are readying to exit the market.

The renewed push from the Nationals for a new coal generator appears to have been bolstered by the findings of a $10 million feasibility study into a potential new coal-fired power station in Collinsville. The feasibility study was funded as part of the government’s Underwriting New Generation Investments initiative and has yet to be released publicly.

“Collinsville, there’s a there’s now a report that’s come back to say that that business case should advance and then obviously, that will be backed by the economics of it,” Littleproud told ABC’s RN Breakfast.

The saga of the Collinsville power station has been a source of tension within the Coalition party room. Outgoing resources minister Matt Canavan had been desperate to get the project off the ground, and confronted prime minister Scott Morrison when he thought progress on the proposal was progressing too slowly.

Those tensions continue to play out in the party room, with a fiery confrontation occurring during the first coalition party room meeting of the year, and after a summer dominated by bushfires and calls for stronger climate action.

Several Nationals members shouted down calls from moderate Liberal MPs, who called for the Morrison government to demonstrate that it was taking climate change seriously.

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Against the Death Cult: We Must Not Let Ruthless Ideologues Destroy the Climate and Kill Us All

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Agriculture

The Niger delta is burning. The oil companies plumbing the river basin of its black gold have found an ingenious way of dealing with the natural gas they consider a waste by-product of the extraction process. Capturing the gas would be costly, inefficient – so instead, they flare it off. Across the delta, towers of flame burn day and night, some of them stretching ten storeys into the sky.

Gas flaring was officially banned in Nigeria in 1984 – but still, two million people live within four kilometres of a flare site, at risk of the cancers, neurological, reproductive and respiratory problems linked to the pollutants released into the air. The soil is hotter, and crop yields have dwindled; “You plant, and before you know it, everything is dead”. When the rains come, they are black. Oil spills spew from the pipelines of Shell and ENI, the biggest operators in the area. Shell has reported 17.5 million litres lost since 2011; Amnesty International say that’s likely a hefty underestimate. The spills have poisoned drinking water, and destroyed the livelihoods of the fishermen who once combed the delta. 

We are over the brink. People have already lost their lives to hurricanes and bush fires and flooding, to toxins and crop failures – all disasters rooted in fossil-fuel dependent extractive capitalism, bankrolled by a deregulated financial sector. People continue to lose their lives. Global temperatures soar, and a monstrous future slouches towards us from the ecocidal imaginations of the handful of humans directly invested in a doctrine of global annihilation. Now, the death drive built into the heart of our economy reveals itself in ever more undeniable terms; the skull is showing through the skin. 

Scientists at ExxonMobil confirmed the truth of climate change in the 1980s, at the very latest. Since then, Exxon and its fellow fossil fuel companies have spent decades sponsoring climate change denial and blocking efforts to legislate against apocalypse. Under their auspices, newspapers and broadcasters and politicians revelled in a vicious subterfuge disguised as pious gnosticism; asking how we can know for sure that climate change is caused by human activity. In recent years, this strategy has buckled under the weight of public outrage and scientific proof.

The science is clear: only an ambitious, rapid overhaul of the fundaments of our economy gives us hope of survival. And that hope is tantalisingly within our grasp. We have the technology, and we have the financial capacity; all that’s missing is the political will to give those solutions heft, muscle and cold hard cash.

Now, culprit companies are suddenly flouting their green credentials to shore up their position as custodians of the future. Shell Oil has made a big song and dance about its investments in green technology. Goldman Sachs has funded research into how to make cities “resilient to climate change”. These are little more than attempts to seduce and cajole worried publics and skittish investors. Still these companies hoard over-valued assets, continue ploughing resources into carbon-heavy industries, show no signs of leaving enough fossil fuels in the ground to avoid the breakdown of the climate, the potential collapse of civilisation and the extinction of life on earth. Negotiators were banned from mentioning climate change in recent UK-US trade talks. the UK government has subsidised the fossil fuel industry to the tune of 10bn in a decade, and its legislators continue to take its lobby money in return. They defend their right to starve out and flood and burn chunks of human existence – and make money doing it. 

We are being held hostage by a cabal of ruthless ideologues whose only loyalty is to a doctrine of global death. Their success thrives on silence, isolation, manipulation, denial. They are united in their opposition to reality, in their determination to hunt down or hound out real alternatives that threaten their mortal stranglehold on power. All other doctrines are heresy, and their preachers envoys of a sinister delusion. They are unique guardians of a dark and dazzling reality.

If this took place among a handful of hippies beckoning oblivion from the heat haze of a california desert we would call it is: a death cult. Instead, it is orchestrated from sumptuous glass towers, from the velvet inner chambers of parliament – so we call it business as usual. 

To these science-backed suggestions that economic alternatives are possible – even urgent, necessary, beautiful – they react with vitriol and incredulity. Saving the world may sound appealing, but it clashes intolerably with the cultish diktat: ‘There Is No Alternative”. Partisans of the Green New Deal like Alexandra Ocasio Cortez are dismissed at best as well-meaning dreamers or childish hysterics, and, at worst, nightmarish envoys of backdoor totalitarianism. Indeed, grassroots activists have been murdered for organising against big polluters. The political allegiances are clear: Defending life is foolish. Annihilation is inevitable. We have only to accept it graciously, to walk into its arms.

Rightwing politicians barter casually about the difference between a decarbonisation target of 2030, 2045, 2050, 2060 as a matter of messaging and electoral success. As though that difference were not cashed out in millions of deaths. Such differences slide off the sunny, addled mind of the cultist, for whom life and death are indistinguishable. 

A chosen few will be spared; the golden ones who walk in the light. As the asset-stripping and plundering continues apace, so the market for luxury disaster insurance packages has grown, with companies offering high-tech flood defences, private firefighters, private security to guard against mobs of looters. Theirs is a gilded world where disaster can never truly happen to them – because it never truly has. That no insurance policy in the world will provide them with breathable air or sustainable agriculture is a matter for the others, the ghosts, the un-living, those whose existence never really registered. Us.   

Broadcasters tried to haul Boris Johnson before the court of the living on Thursday night for the climate change debate, to account for Conservative policy proposals which present a 50% risk of tipping the world into irreversible, runaway climate breakdown, to account for his fossil fuel backers. He responded by threatening them with censure and legal action. Cult leaders can tolerate no scrutiny of their fragile world picture, no challenge to their power. 

We can break the stranglehold, and commit the death cultists to the bleak annals of history where they belong. It is time to choose only those who have chosen life.   

Eleanor Penny is a writer and a regular contributor to Novara Media. 

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Keanu Reeves Goes Public with Girlfriend for the First Time in Decades

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If there’s one thing that the internet can agree on, it’s that Keanu Reeves is an all-around great guy. From his roles in some of our favorite action thrillers, to his more dramatic roles in films like Dracula, he’s a multi-talented actor, sure – but that’s not why the internet loves him so much. He’s also known for being one of the nicest (and least problematic) celebrities on the planet.

Reeves has lived a life marred by tragedy, and has only ever come out of it with generosity and kindness for the world around him. The internet is basically obssessed with this incredible dude.

But his latest red carpet appearance has got everyone excited – because he’s finally gone public with a girlfriend!

He currently resides in the Hollywood hills after gaining fame in an impressive range of massively successful movies.

He first rose to fame in a pretty unlikely franchise.

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989) told the story of two slackers travelling through time. It was so successful that it was followed by a sequel: Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey in 1991.

But Reeves has never stuck to just one genre.

In 1992, he starred in Gothic horror-romance, Bram Stoker’s Dracula – although his performance in this rather overblown movie has been pretty much universally panned.

Reeves is perhaps primarily known for his roles in action movies.

He starred in buddy-cop thriller, Point Break, in 1991, alongside Gary Busey and Patrick Swayze. It was a commercial smash and went on to garner a cult following.

He continued this trend in 1994’s Speed.

The suspenseful thriller told the tale of a rigged bus that would explode if it slowed down. Reeves starred alongside Sandra Bullock and Dennis Hopper, but has since shaded the film by refusing to star in the sequel. His reason? “The movies I wanted to make were movies I wanted to see.” Ouch.

But there’s no doubting where Reeves gained most of his fame.

His role as Neo in The Matrix franchise is what really made Keanu Reeves into a household name. The movies are still thought of as touchstones within the science fiction genre.

But Reeves isn’t just an actor.

He’s also a talented musician and spent many years playing bass for alternative rock band, Dogstar, in the ’90s.

There are many strings to his bow.

He’s made a name for himself particularly because of his versatility, playing leading men, brooding heroes, and goofy losers with equal panache.

But aside from his professional achievements, Reeves hasn’t had such an easy life.

via: Shutterstock

He’s faced a life that one wouldn’t wish on their worst enemy. First, he and girlfriend, Jennifer Syme, suffered a tragic loss when their premature baby was stillborn in 1999.

via: Shutterstock

Soon after this tragedy, in 2001, Syme crashed her car into three parked cars and was thrown from the vehicle, dying instantly.

But Reeves hasn’t let this tragedy make him bitter.

via: Shutterstock

Instead, he’s become an incredible philanthropist. He’s well known for supporting a wide range of charitable causes, from PETA to Stand Up To Cancer.

And that isn’t all.

It was recently revealed that Reeves gave all his profits from the sequel from The Matrix to the crew. And he didn’t even want credit for it, saying, “I’d rather people didn’t know that. It was a private transaction. It was something I could afford to do, a worthwhile thing to do.”

Reeves has been fairly quiet on the acting scene in recent years.

But that’s all set to change in coming months as Reeves will be starring in the third part of the John Wick franchise, Parabellum, out this month.

But, in spite of his fame, Reeves is known for being fairly private.

In the past, he was always less-than-eager to take part in interviews and was known by the press for being a little difficult to deal with.

Including what’s going on with him romantically.

Until now, that is. Because last night, Keanu walked the red carpet at the ACMA Art + Film Gala, and he wasn’t alone.

Reeves made a public appearance with his long-term girlfriend, Alexandra Grant (who looked totally gorgeous, by the way).

Grant is a full-time visual artist.

And a super talented one at that. Her Instagram page is filled with beautiful images she’s created. We knew Keanu would pick a good’un.

Reeves and Grant have acutally collaborated on some creative projects together. This includes the 2011 “grown-ups picture book” Ode to Happiness, written by Reeves and with illustrations by Grant.

This is one of the cutest couples we’ve ever seen – and it seems the internet agrees. Images of the two being generally adorable are cheering everybody up.

For more on Keanu, keep scrolling!

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Bill Nye Wants a Rematch With Tucker Carlson

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This week, Bill Nye joined The Last Laugh podcast to offer some advice to the 10 Democratic presidential primary candidates who will be participating in CNNs upcoming Climate Crisis Town Hall. After all, the Science Guy has a lot of experience making the case for climate action on TV.

Oh god, Nye says when I bring up the appearance he made on Tucker Carlsons show a couple of years ago. As one headline put it at the time, Bill Nye appears on Fox News and it doesnt go well.

The experience was just a lot of adrenaline, Nye tells me. He was in Washington, D.C., where Carlson tapes his show. It was a beautiful night, gorgeous, and Tucker Carlson was on the roof of the building doing his schtick from there. Fox invited him on to talk about climate change and he agreed, making his first appearance on that network in nearly a decade despite being a semi-frequent presence on CNN and MSNBC.

So we were going to go on the roof, beautiful night, this will be fun, Nye thought to himself. But then the producers told him he wasnt going to be on the roof with the host but rather in a small room on a lower floor of the same studio. They moved me, changed my chair three times to throw me off, he says.

During his introduction, Carlson mocked his guest as Bill Nye the Psychoanalyst Guy for claiming that climate change deniers suffer from cognitive dissonance. The host was clearly itching for a fight.

As the segment began, Nye quickly realized that every time he started to talk, Carlson would interrupt him. Working as fast as I could, I took my phone out and tried to show him with a stopwatch that he interrupted me every six seconds, Nye says. So its hard to make a point with him.

By the end of their nine minutes on screen together, Carlson was shouting at Nye, Im open-minded, you are not!

Carry on, Mr. Carlson, Im sure we will cross paths again, Nye told him, a bit ominously. They havent crossed paths since.

Hes really drifted off, with respect, Nye says of Carlson, who has become the most prominent white nationalist voice on Fox News under President Trump. I mean hes gotten odder and odder. Besides the racism, Nye was enraged by a recent show in which he attacked the metric system.

The other thing I wonder about Tucker Carlson is, hes got four kids, Nye says, turning more serious. I just wonder how his children feel about climate change. They keep a pretty low profile. I wonder about it, because it much more difficult to meet a climate change denier who is young.

Nye had a much better time making a cameo on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver earlier this year. God, that was a blast, he says of the sketch in which he lit a globe on fire to demonstrate the impact of climate change. As the longtime host of a childrens program, he has spent most of his career communicating his message in a kid-friendly way. But on HBO, he got to scream, The planets on fucking fire! at the top of his lungs. It was heartfelt! he says.

And yet Nye does not regret his attempt to get through to Fox News viewers on the climate crisis. Ill go back on there almost anytime, he says, explaining that he was asked back shortly after his original appearance but said no at the time and hasnt been invited since.

Ive offered to be on The Five and they wouldnt have me on, Nye adds of Foxs afternoon roundtable show. It wouldnt be fun, he admits, but youve got to meet people where they are.

Lets all go fishing at the other guys fishin hole, Nye says, explaining that he means that literally as well as figuratively. Because were more alike than we are different.

When I ask if that applies to him and Tucker Carlson, Nye sighs and replies, Yeah, I guess. Like Nye, Carlson used to be famous for wearing bow ties on television. He used to, Nye says of Carlson, but he lost his nerve.

Next week on The Last Laugh podcast: Stand-up comedian and host of Comedy Centrals Good Talk, Anthony Jeselnik.

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