I was going to write a post complaining about how awful recovering from tonsil surgery is, but I’ve been depressed about something even worse than that this week. So I’ll spare you the gory details about how tonsil scabs form (it’s truly gross, let me assure you).
Instead we’ll turn to the even gorier details of how a few powerful fossil fuel corporations and their allies in state and federal political parties are destroying Australia’s chance at a clean energy future.
Is it just me, or are things going from bad to worse on the climate change policy front in Australia? Wait, don’t answer that – I already know it’s not just me. Yes, we have the carbon price, and that’s awesome – but this week’s climate news has been immensely disappointing. And it’s not even over yet.
Last week, it was revealed that the Victorian Government (led by Premier Baillieu) plans to allocate billions of tonnes of brown coal, and run a taxpayer-funded PR campaign to improve the image of coal mining and power generation. It also looks like the Vic State Government will shelve its 2020 target of reducing emissions by 20 per cent. The ‘greenwashing’ strategy was revealed by The Age newspaper in a Cabinet Submission.
Perhaps Victorian climate activists should be flattered. It’s a testament to their hard work chipping away at the social licence of coal in Victoria that the Government feels it needs to do a PR campaign about how great coal is. Recent polling figures that show only 7 % of Victorians want more coal-fired power stations. 78% wanted more renewable energy, and 82% wanted more support for energy efficiency. No wonder the Government thinks they need a PR campaign to push through their pro-coal agenda!
Here’s what Environment Victoria Campaigns Director Mark Wakeham had to say about last week’s decision:
“This leaked strategy confirms our worst fears. The Baillieu Government has acted to undermine solar and wind power since being elected. Now it’s doing the coal industry’s dirty work by using taxpayer funds in attempting to improve the industry’s image. The Baillieu Government should be developing a serious plan to clean up our energy supply and embrace clean energy jobs instead of spruiking polluting coal.”
Mr Wakeham said the last coal allocation in 2002 had comprehensively failed and had not created a single job in the Latrobe Valley. “In 2002 the State Government gave three companies a total of 15 billion tonnes of coal to build three so-called ‘clean coal projects’ he said. ‘None of these projects materialised and the coal allocation did not create a single job.’ So why would the Government give away more brown coal? There’s simply no good reason other than the pressure they’re under from polluting companies like Exergen.
Then, on the weekend, Campbell Newman got elected in the so-called “sunshine state”. Already, the new Queensland Government has declared it will dismantle all of Queensland’s carbon reduction schemes to save $270 million for the state budget, including $75 million earmarked for the Solar Dawn project near Chinchilla, which is part of the Federal Government’s Solar Flagship Program. The $1 billion solar thermal project – a 250 megawatt power station – is one of the most exciting things ever to have happened to Queensland, and the Premier wants to cut its funding?! The “sunshine state” seems to have elected a leader that wants to go back to the dark ages. Haven’t you heard, Campbell? Coal is so 18th century…
On Tuesday, more bad news came. The Victorian Government announced they would scrap regulations that place limits on new coal-fired power stations. The former Brumby government had legislated for a limit on the carbon emissions each new power station would be allowed to produce, and in Opposition the now-Premier had supported it. But now, with this backflip, new Victorian power stations aren’t subject to any carbon-related limits.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, today the VCAT (Victorian Civil Administration Tribunal) overturned the EPA decision on HRL and approved a 600 MW brown coal power station in Victoria. Previously, the EPA had placed a limit on the HRL proposal that restricted the size of the power station to 300 Megawatts in the first stage of development. Today, VCAT has approved a full two-stage 600MW power station, doubling the power station’s greenhouse pollution and increasing the power station’s local air pollution.
In light of this decision, the $100 m Federal grant to HRL becomes absolutely critical to the HRL project getting off the ground. Greenpeace’s climate campaigner Julien Vincent said, “The Prime Minister must now intervene to protect both the environment and her climate credibility. HRL has been kept afloat for five years by a $100 million grant, paid for by the Australian taxpayer. She must now cancel this unpopular waste of taxpayer’s money and stop this dirty coal fired power station in its tracks.”
What is going on, Victoria? You’re the state that elected the first lower house Greens MP! You’re the most progressive state in the country! You act like you’re more mature and cultured than the other states! Grr..
Ok. So what can we do today? Write to Julia Gillard and Greg Combet asking them to cancel the $100 million grant to a polluting power station and put it into clean energy instead. You might want to remind them that in September 2011, a survey conducted by Newspoll found that 67% of Victorians supported the withdrawal of HRL’s $100 million taxpayer-funded grant and for it to be redirected to renewable energy. And that in February 2012, a petition of nearly 12,000 Australians called on Parliament to withdraw HRL’s grant and reinvest this money in renewable energy.
Because I’m stuck in bed, I can’t even do what I normally do when I feel this bad – which is go for a swim in the ocean to clear my head and think more productively instead of spiralling into despair about how bad things are.
Instead, I’ll turn my mind to what I can do to help make things better. So, stay tuned for the announcement of an exciting new project involving an innovative climate change road trip through rural and regional Australia. And yes, Victoria has just moved up the list to the first place I’ll be visiting…