For years now I have puzzled at the whole mess of our energy policy. People keep telling us that soon (or now) solar-panelled electricity, or wind, or something, will be cheaper than coal, so we should be transferring, at once. Such oracles never tell us about the hidden subsidies that would make this really true, if it were apparently true. I’ve given up responding. It is plain to me that wind and solar cannot power an electricity grid without abundant base-level fossil-fuel energy. Well, along comes Gary Banks to tell it as it is.

For those who don’t know of him, Gary Banks is a thinker and economist who was the first Chairman of the Productivity Commission (1998-2013) and then the Dean of the Australian and New Zealand School of Government (until January this year). He is someone whom I know slightly, but I read whatever he writes with great interest. I may not agree with everything, but it always clear and accessible. The other day he gave the annual Infrastructure ‘Oration’, which I thought so good I sent the link to friends (most of whom had already seen it). You can read the whole Oration here. I have picked out those sections I really ‘resonated to’, as we now seem to say, which focus on what is being called our ‘energy crisis’, and the emphases in bold are mine, not his. Much of what follows was continuous, or almost.

‘There is no shortage of issues of relevance to infrastructure about which one could “orate” in these interesting times. My intention until a few weeks ago had been to focus mainly on the economic side – infrastructure’s important contribution through productivity growth to raising the living standards of all Australians. I was going to remind you of the gains from the structural reforms of the 1980s and 90s, and what it took to get them. And I’d intended to then revisit the ‘to do list’ I compiled in 2012, at the end of my tenure at the Productivity Commission, to see how it was faring five years on.

As some of you may recall, that ‘list’ was prompted by a remark by Glenn Stevens [Governor of the Reserve Bank], who, when asked at a ‘summit’ in Brisbane what could government do to raise Australia’s productivity, replied, “well the Productivity Commission has a long list of things to do. … Go get the list and do them!”…

The list turned out to be quite long. The infrastructure section included recommendations for better decision-making processes, governance arrangements, pricing and regulation; along with other specific reform proposals for transport, communications, water and energy – all evidence based and stress tested under the Commission’s public inquiry processes. Their common message to governments could be summarised most simply as a need for better spending, regulation and management of infrastructure services, with greater reliance on market incentives. It quickly became clear in revisiting my 2012 ‘to do list’ in recent weeks that its relevance had not diminished – on the contrary!

For example, in a 2014 report, the Productivity Commission identified a (still) ‘urgent need’ to overhaul processes for assessing and developing public infrastructure and to reform its governance, including further privatisation of assets where this had already proven beneficial and improving regulatory frameworks. In its 2016 Plan, Infrastructure Australia called for better planning and coordination, investments based on evidence-based priorities, along with better management of existing assets, including through private ownership and cost-reflective pricing of services to users…

As a number of reports have shown, policy issues of relevance to infrastructure extend well beyond ‘infrastructure policy’ per se. Other sections of the ‘to do list’ that if addressed would enhance the performance of economic and social infrastructure, include reforms to achieve more flexible labour market arrangements, a less distorting and punitive taxation system, and more efficient regulation in key areas such as planning/zoning and the environment. Within the last category, the Mandatory Renewable Energy Target received special mention…

While developing remarks along these lines, my train of thought was repeatedly diverted by the unfolding energy ‘crisis’. Even by today’s standards, the misleading, disingenuous and partisan nature of the energy policy ‘debate’ seemed to have plumbed new depths. So be it, I thought, it’s no longer my job to call out such things. But then a state premier went and made the following observation:

“We’ve got market failure. We know there is an investment strike. The private sector just isn’t building power generation.”

I must confess that this took the wind out of my sails – if you’ll pardon the analogy. The electorate was being told by a political leader that the problems they were experiencing – high prices, failing supply and costly emergency measures – had nothing to do with the government. It was the fault of the private sector and its perverse refusal to invest in power generation. Abraham Lincoln’s warning that governments can’t fool all of the people all of the time is once again being tested. The inconvenient truth is that the increasingly high prices for increasingly unreliable electricity are a direct consequence of the increasingly high utilization of renewable energy required by government regulation.

Energy markets are admittedly complicated things. However the logic is unassailable that if a cheap and reliable product is penalised, while expensive and less reliable substitutes are subsidized, the latter will inevitably displace the former. No amount of sophistry, wishful thinking or political denial can change that basic economic reality.

Changing the mix of energy use away from low-cost but emissions-heavy fossil fuels has of course been the whole point. While Australia’s own actions can have no discernible impact on global carbon emissions, let alone on Australia’s climate, there is broad support for the idea that playing our part is a precondition for a joint international endeavour that could. This requires a leap of faith, but it is a legitimate policy objective, even if a particularly costly one for this country given its resource endowments.

The resulting costs and difficulties have been greatly compounded, however, by governments choosing a policy path that is essentially anti-market, one violating basic principles of demand and supply. The energy crisis is self-evidently not the result of market failure but of government failure…

The actions of private investors are not hard to understand. They will generally not invest in a project unless the returns are likely to be sufficient to cover the costs and provide an adequate return on their capital — given the risks involved and the alternatives on offer. Following regulatory interventions, returns from fossil fuel generators have gone down, while the risks of investing in them have gone up. I suppose the consequent reluctance to invest could be called a ‘strike’, if one needed an emotive term, but it is really just a rational response to the forces at work.

Unlike government enterprises, private companies cannot be relied upon to provide cover for a government’s policy mistakes. In that light, the SA Treasurer’s lament that privatising ETSA was “the worst policy blunder in the history of South Australia” may have not only been a big call, but more revealing than intended. Not to be outdone, the new Secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions has triumphantly declared that “experiments in privatisation have failed!”.

In blaming the private sector for Australia’s energy problems (and I note the new ACCC inquiry into alleged misdemeanours by electricity retailers) there is a real risk that the policy mistakes that led to it will be compounded by further policy mistakes, rather than leading to corrective actions that acknowledge regulatory error. We seem destined to end up in a third or fourth best world, as economists express it, when the first or second best were well within reach.

Thus we observe at the Federal level the threat of regulatory intervention to withhold gas exports for domestic use – while at the same time state and territory governments ban or curtail exploration and production. We even see governments re-entering the energy business. South Australia is to spend a lazy half billion on a new gas generation plant. The Commonwealth is contemplating investing in clean coal generation using its $5 billion northern infrastructure fund, the Minister responsible declaring “the only people who can get rid of sovereign risks are the sovereigns!”. And while finance has never been scarce for viable energy projects in the past, the government is now planning to fill the gap caused by regulation through the previously derided Clean Energy Finance Corporation. Moreover it is proposing to establish a more general infrastructure financing vehicle within the Prime Minister’s own department (which a recent IPA submission depicts as “solving the infrastructure problem we don’t have and ignoring the one we do”).

Then there was the dramatic announcement of a “nation building”expansion of the tri-governmental Snowy Scheme that had been rejected as uneconomic in the 1980s. Whether or not this Utopia-like initiative can be justified on today’s numbers, it seems clear that any thought of privatising such a politically attractive asset has become a thing of the past. Following the WA election, Western Power must also take its place on the privatisation ‘no go’ list.

To add to the irony, we are seeing a new wave of interventions to help the very firms which emission reduction policies were intended to drive out of business. The Portland aluminium smelter, perhaps the most intensive user of electricity in the country – an operation requiring heavily subsidized power even when it was cheap – has received substantial additional taxpayer support to help forestall the inevitable. And, following belated recognition of the implications of the closure of the Hazelwood power station, there was considerable pressure on the Federal Government to deploy taxpayers’ funds to keep it open. While this did not eventuate, it would be surprising if the country’s other base-load generators did not have claims for assistance bolstered as a result, especially given the precedent in Europe.

The intervention spawned by the failure of energy/carbon policy accordingly looks to become a self-perpetuating process. It is disturbingly reminiscent of the conventional industry protection dynamic of times past, in which assistance to import-competing firms imposed costs on downstream users and exporters, who in turn demanded (and often received) assistance of their own. In the end it became apparent, even to supposed beneficiaries of the system, that “protection all round” was a chimera, responsible instead for a decline in industry performance and in the living standards of Australians.

More disturbing still is the fact that such interventions have not been confined to energy markets, with bad old policy habits re-emerging more widely. The headline act in this respect would have to be the NBN, which continues to affirm the wisdom of doing the numbers before announcing the policy. Then there is the saga of our home-made submarines, built with home made steel, which seem set to rival the Collins Class fiasco, but at even higher cost – especially given the grim energy outlook in the favoured state. Coastal shipping and its heavily unionised workforce continue to benefit from the renewal of anti-competitive regulation at the cost of farmers and miners. And we have just had the re-regulation of Queensland’s sugar industry. Meanwhile, on the trade front the anti-dumping regime has been made even more protectionist (in a rare instance of bipartisan agreement), and future reductions in our trade barriers have become contingent on reciprocal offerings by foreign governments, rather than for the domestic gains on offer.’

This is much less than half of it. The rest is just as good. Maybe someone important will pay attention to it.

 Afterword: I’m sorry for the awful errors in the first paragraph, which I’ve now fixed.

Join the discussion 59 Comments

  • Aert Driessen says:

    A very timely piece Don, thank you, depressing as it is. I have never witnessed bipartisan ignorance and arrogance to this extent. So I doubt that this will be read by those that should, let alone acted upon, apart from a few Conservatives who won’t be able to make a difference before an election. It’s like watching a slow-motion train wreck. But it will end, sometime, when it gets so cold that warming alarmists will be looking for rocks to hide under, and ditto for when the energy grid collapses. Keep up the good work.

  • Neville says:

    This is the part that really annoys me.
    “Changing the mix of energy use away from low-cost but emissions-heavy fossil fuels has of course been the whole point. While Australia’s own actions can have no discernible impact on global carbon emissions, let alone on Australia’s climate, there is broad support for the idea that playing our part is a precondition for a joint international endeavour that could. This requires a leap of faith, but it is a legitimate policy objective, even if a particularly costly one for this country given its resource endowments”.
    Bjorn Lomborg has used the IPCC software and a far too high sensitivity and still finds that there will be no measurable change by 2100. That’s IF every country carried out Paris COP 21 to the letter. There is no chance of that happening and with a lower sensitivity to co2 and much higher emissions by 2040 ( EIA data) the entire fra-d is really just a multi trillion $ waste and fairytale. And the poor bloody taxpayers of every country will have to pay for this delusional garbage for the foreseeable future.
    Doesn’t anyone understand simple logic and reason and simple maths anymore? Can anyone tell me how their mitigation nonsense will make any difference and why aren’t more people in business and unions etc making more noise and demanding an explanation?

    http://www.lomborg.com/press-release-research-reveals-negligible-impac t-of-paris-climate-promises

    • Aert Driessen says:

      I don’t know why Gary Banks and we still use the term ’emissions-heavy’ to describe fossil fuels. The principal emissions are water vapour and CO2 and both are good for our planet. The term is disparaging. Particulate pollutants have long been (mostly) removed.

      • Chris Warren says:

        Water vapour and CO2 are good for our planet ….. WITHIN LIMITS.

        • Boambee John says:

          Chris

          What are those limits

          • David says:

            CO2 < 400 ppm

          • Chris Warren says:

            Boambee John

            I think those limits are whatever rate of CO2 equals the ability of the ecosystem to reabsorb the gas.

            The same applies to other GHG’s as well.

            I do not think anyone will disagree with this. I do not think we can leave the world’s next couple of generations with the problem of forever increasing CO2 atm. concentrations.

          • ianl8888 says:

            @ David

            > “CO2 < 400 ppm"

            That's your uninformed, biased guess. Mine is CO2 < 8000ppm. Look at the proxy measurements for, say, the Cretaceous and then get back.

    • Doug Hurst says:

      I agree Neville. The case against the alarmists and our energy policy is so obvious and convincing I worry about public ability to small a rat, even a big one like this. I have always believed that the truth will eventually win out, but this is taking so long it’s beginning to look like a major propaganda victory for faith over fact.

      • bushwalker says:

        The public don’t have to have opinion over the truth/falsity of AGW, they just need to be able to read their energy bills. Malcolm Turnbull is just too “sophisticated” to believe this line is worthy of him.

  • David says:

    “…. will be no measurable change by 2100.”

    Nev here is some measurable change from last week.

    https://www.businessinsider.com.au/this-is-how-far-coral-bleaching-has -spread-on-the-great-barrier-reef-2017-4

  • David says:

    After listing a series of policy “failures”, Bank’s one solution is stop out sourcing for advice and grow the capacity of the public service to offer advice.

  • Neville says:

    Here is my comment at the off topic post this morning. I think this fits into this post because it highlights the disregard for proper science, logic , reason and data. Hansen was involved in some strange events and forecasts over the last 30 years but he was blatantly honest about COP 21. He said it was BS and fra-d and S&W energy were fairytales.
    Neville says:
    April 15, 2017 at 10:55 am

    Michael Mann made a presentation to Sydney Uni in FEB 2017 and it amazes me why nobody challenged his ridiculous claims. Yes there were a few sceptics who challenged him in the Q&A but his answers were mainly more infantile appeals to authority.

    Remember he is by far the most high profile scientist???? from the CAGW camp, since the retirement of Dr Hansen. But unlike Hansen he thinks that Paris COP 21 is a winner and without it we would warm to the same temp trend during the Cretaceous. His point is that if we didn’t have COP 21 ( and more drastic action to come apparently) we would experience the same temp as the Cretaceous. But this would happen in just 100 years ( 2117 ?) not 100 million years or at a rate of change 1 million times faster than the Cretaceous. Yes that’s his claim. Does anyone else in the CAGW camp really believe this stuff?

    During the Cretaceous temps started at about 17 c and then rapidly move to a much higher level and plateaued at about 25 c for about 60+ million years. Co2 levels started at about 2300ppm and dropped to about 850ppm during that time. IOW co2 levels dropped 1450 ppm while temps rose by about 8 c during that time.

    Here’s a link with graph showing the Berner, Scotese temp, co2 data for the last 600 million years. I can well understand why so many scientists are upset with this bloke and this video shows many more bloopers. If this is the CAGW side’s best scientist then they really are scrapping the bottom of the barrel. Little wonder that McIntyre, McKitrick, Steyn etc found him to be such a rich source of strange claims. And Steyn quickly wrote a book using quotes from all types of scientists condemning Mann and his HS study.

    http://www.geocraft.com/WVFossils/GlobWarmTest/A6c.html

    Here’s the link to Mann’s video in Feb 2017 at Sydney UNI. They wisely disabled comments for his video.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rfjBM_BB-ic&t=725s

  • BB says:

    I am somewhat puzzled and see it as a mess. The South Australian government after the blackout last year discovered the state electrical system could cause embarrassment. The whole grid went black in the state. The government’s policy is reducing electrical use by causing closure of business and households moving to solar. At least that is what he AEMO is saying. Others say private diesel generators are also a booming market in South Australia as well.

    The proposal to fix it is to spend $500 million on a gas power station and battery backup. Presumably the idea is a large outage of the wind power will be picked up by the battery backup which will allow enough time for the gas power station to kick in. I thought all fossil is evil! The RET mandates renewable energy must be taken. What is going to happen?

    Is this government power station going to be held in reserve and not used except for emergencies? I think more than likely being owned by the government it will be run at capacity and it will be expected as now that private gas power stations pick up the tab if renewable energy drops. Will they be there though?

    All of our governments have set up a situation where there is fear uncertainty and doubt. Finance is staying away existing power stations are mothballing. Since 2014 a relatively small amount of wind power stations have been added and a significant number of coal-fired power stations have closed.

  • Neville says:

    US EPA chief Scott Pruitt has called for the US to pull out of Paris COP 21. Let’s hope they do this as soon as possible,because it may put more pressure on other countries and force them to look at the science, data and co2 emissions that are soaring in the developing world.

    Meanwhile the US has had the largest decrease in co2 emissions in the world. Their use of cheaper gas instead of coal has been the main driver of this co2 reduction. Here’s the link.

    http://www.thegwpf.com/epa-chief-scott-pruitt-calls-for-u-s-to-exit-pa ris-climate-agreement/

    And huge new gas discoveries are being found in the US. This discovery is 304 trillion cubic feet of gas and new oil discovery as a bonus.

    http://www.thegwpf.com/huge-304-trillion-cubic-feet-of-natural-gas-ame ricas-largest-us-gas-field/

  • spangled drongo says:

    Another Greenie lie about coal. They can’t help themselves:

    From the Oz: “Green groups opposed to the $16.5 billion Adani coalmine have been accused of propagating “fake news” after circulating images of “coal dust” on beaches near the Abbot Point coal ­terminal that was revealed to be black mineral sand called ­magnetite.”

  • spangled drongo says:

    In spite of the US doing more than any other country to reduce CO2 emissions due to nat gas taking over from coal, coal is still in demand and the tens of thousands of jobs Obama did away with by closing over 400 CF power stations, are starting to come back:

    https://patriotpost.us/articles/48510

  • spangled drongo says:

    What a clever lot we are. Not only destroying ourselves over a possible non-problem but that same possible non-problem could save our backsides.

    As Jo says:

    Don’t panic now, but all the coal burnt in China has been cooling the Antarctic Peninsula:

    http://joannenova.com.au/2017/04/there-goes-that-scare-antarctic-penin sula-cooling-by-almost-1-degree/

    • Chris Warren says:

      Really this Drongo is an idiot ….

      the link says;

      As usual, with a climate graph, there are steps and stairs, and there is a trend up in the last 50 years.

      You do not demonstrate cooling if the temperature trend is up.

      • spangled drongo says:

        And poor blithering chrissie not only denies that he and his religious cohorts have been screaming CAGW from this when we all knew it was warming for lots of reasons but since it has been cooling this century the silent denial is deafening.

        Never mind chrissie luv, when those under-sea volcanoes start up again who knows, your dreams my yet come true.

        In the meantime try living in the real world:

        https://wattsupwiththat.files.wordpress.com/2008/01/antarctic_temps_av h1982-2004.jpg

        • David says:

          SD you find a piece of evidence that you think supports your skeptic view on AGW and then rush to post it online, often with some infantile commentary. The same science that tells us we have had some “mixed” temperature trends in parts of Antarctica, also reports that the entire planet has been warming.

          wikipedia.org/wiki/Antarctica_cooling_controversy

          • bryan roberts says:

            David, wikipedia may be a useful resource, but it is by no means either accurate or unbiased.

          • spangled drongo says:

            Davieluv, if you wish to give us a link on Antarctica cooling from Wiki, do make sure it’s live.

            You should know that the alarmists are very busy at wiki and it has many links on that subject, particularly those that deny the facts.

            I can see though that you obviously didn’t study my two links on this subject properly:

            “In light of all the above, the evidence is clearly mounting against those who point to warming on the Antarctic Peninsula as proof of CO2-induced global warming. For in the most incredible manner, warming trends that were once among the highest recorded on earth have slowed and even reversed to show cooling.”

          • David says:

            Bryan @11.37 am

            Wiki “..is by no means either accurate or unbiased”

            Really? Well the Wiki post does cite 34 articles (most of which are peer review), drawn from both sides of the argument. Unlike SD who constructed his argument from one pathetic blog- post from Jo Nova and a link to an un-referenced map, most of which indicated a warming trend anyway.

          • spangled drongo says:

            The blitherers and botherers strike again.

            When you’re a bit obtuse davie, it is better to say nothing and leave us in doubt rather than say something and prove it.

            As per my links the message should be clear to both you and chrissie that the Antarctic Peninsula is doing what it has done in the past, namely warmed and cooled, as would be expected with natural climate variability.

            As per the peer reviewed paper from Nature which you failed to check:

            Turner, J., Lu, H., White, I., King, J.C., Phillips, T., Scott Hosking, J., Bracegirdle, T.J., Marshall, G.J., Mulvaney, R. and Deb, P. 2016. Absence of 21st century warming on Antarctic Peninsula consistent with natural variability. Nature 535: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature18645.

            And BTW, davieluv, Jo Nova has more brains and science in her little finger than ever dreamed of in your tiny mind.

        • Ross says:

          Your posts are getting odder and odder Drongo. This one is just nonsensical. Try again.

  • Neville says:

    More lies about air pollution from Green researchers in Canada. Prof Ross McKitrick sets up a more detailed and much larger data-base and finds it is all BS.

    https://notalotofpeopleknowthat.wordpress.com/2017/04/10/mckitrick-on- air-pollution-the-models-get-more-deaths-from-air-pollution-than-you-w ere-death-from

    More on the McKitrick study. Unbelievable Green’s BS but true, thanks to McKitrick’s forensic skills and ability to frame a proper study to check their lies and BS.

    https://notalotofpeopleknowthat.wordpress.com/2017/04/10/ross-mckittri ck-on-air-pollution/

  • Neville says:

    As the earth approached the start of the Holocene temp rose in the NH by 4 to 5 c in just a few decades. Co2 levels were stable and yet a number of new studies now show this extreme warming over a very short period.

    http://notrickszone.com/2017/04/13/new-paper-northern-hemisphere-tempe ratures-rose-4-5c-within-a-few-decades-14700-years-ago/#sthash.NGE8DwQ g.dpbs

    Our modern warming after the end of a minor ice age (LIA) is just 0.8 c since 1850 ( last 167 years) or just 0.5c per century according to HAD 4 data.
    Conclusion

    Modern rates of temperature change and sea level rise are quite modest and unremarkable relative to the magnitude of the changes in the geological past (that are 30 to 40 times larger or faster). The abrupt and pronounced historical temperature and sea level rise events occurred without any significant changes in atmospheric CO2 levels.

    In contrast, during the last 100 to 150 years there has been a dramatic rise in anthropogenic CO2 emissions and atmospheric CO2 concentrations…but no accompanying dramatic rise in temperatures or sea level.

    Thus, the conceptualization that human activity or CO2 concentration changes are the primary drivers of temperature changes and sea level rise does not seem to be supported by the geological evidence.
    – See more at: http://notrickszone.com/2017/04/13/new-paper-northern-hemisphere-tempe ratures-rose-4-5c-within-a-few-decades-14700-years-ago/#sthash.NGE8DwQ g.dpuf
    Historical Sea Levels Rose 5.3 Meters/Century

    Central Greenland’s surface temperatures rose by as much as 12°C during this time frame (14,700 years ago to 14,500 years ago). Consequently, glaciers and ice sheets disintegrated rapidly and sea levels rose by about 18 meters (“12-22 m”) in 340 years. An 18 m rise in 340 years is the equivalent of 5.3 metethan 30 times faster than today.

  • spangled drongo says:

    Cory Bernardi also nails it:

    “Like many parents, I often reflect on the state of the world we are leaving our children. As a South Australian, I worry that the jobs and opportunities for my children won’t be available in their home state. After all, thanks to government we can’t even keep the electricity on so it’s difficult to imagine how investment will flow here to create the jobs of the future.

    Nationally, I worry about the debt binge of successive governments and the seemingly broken contract of society that Edmund Burke described as being a “partnership… between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born.” The spendthrift ways of government and households alike will end very badly and that legacy will be felt for generations to come. Asking our children to pay off the consumption debts of today is a moral failing and yet that is what many of your public leaders expect.

    Every populist spending demand – from the likes of Senator Nick Xenophon and his allies in the Labor/Green team – in return for passing legislation, adds to our national debt, yet is justified in order to puff-up some egos and fluff some comfort pillows for their voter base. Last week was a prime example. In return for passing tax cuts, Xenophon demanded a ‘solution’ to the energy crisis in the form of one off payments to compensate for the high cost of electricity. What he never mentioned was that his policy of a 50% renewable energy target and his longstanding ideological support for big-government and uneconomic and inefficient policies has created the very crisis he claims he wants to solve.

    Like so many of Xenophon’s ‘solutions’ it involves spending more of taxpayers’ money and increasing our national debt. How any politician can blithely ignore the state of our national finances and think the debts of the last ten years will be cured by more spending strains credulity. Unfortunately that’s what many of them believe. They are caught in the ‘if only’ trap. If only we can spend more on (insert your chosen focus group here) everything will be ok. Regardless of the policy area, the lived experience is that whenever government gets involved the ‘cure’ is often worse than the ‘illness’.

    Energy policy is a prime example. The irrational political demonisation of coal fired power and the subsidies for renewables has made our power among the most unreliable and expensive in the Western world. The ‘cure’ is apparently more taxpayer funded subsidies. Despite spending more on education, our measurable outcomes in reading, writing and arithmetic have declined. We now have high school graduates that know everything about gender fluidity but nothing about Western civilisation. Too many university graduates can’t get jobs whilst too many of us can’t get a plumber because trades training has been spurned in favour of degrees in sociology.

    Apparently the ‘cure’ is more education funding and diversity classes rather than re-focusing on the building blocks of learning. Over a third of our national budget ($153bn) is spent on welfare and social security. How did we become a country where so many are reliant on the efforts of others to sustain their lives? The answer to that lays at the feet of our political class. They have sought to solve immediate problems without heed to the more substantive and longer term problems their quick fix creates. It’s a process that is common to most of the major political players and it is being compounded by the free spending cross-bench that believe greater and more expensive government programs are the key to their political success.

    Regrettably, by the time they realise that incurring new spending to paper over their failed previous policy ideas is just an expensive cover-up, either they will have long left the political scene – leaving our children to pick up the cost – or they will yet again blame someone else. To borrow and redeem the words of one of our worst ever Prime Ministers: “this is the great moral challenge of our time.” When this false edifice of moral vanity eventually comes crashing down, I suspect it will be left to Australian Conservatives to pick up the pieces.”

  • Neville says:

    Another study finds that a warmer climate is a more benign climate as Dr Lindzen told us decades ago. Certainly explains why some post LIA warming has led to recent lower cyclone occurrence and other storms. Certainly deaths from extreme weather events have dropped dramatically in all countries since the 1920s. See Lomborg, Ridley, Goklany and Rosling.

    http://hockeyschtick.blogspot.com.au/2015/01/new-paper-finds-global-wa rming-reduces.html

    Ken Stewart has updated his UAH V 6 pause data after the big fall in March. Three SH regions and OZ still showing a pause for around the last 18 years or so of the data base. South Polar region has been cooling slightly since DEC 1978.

    https://kenskingdom.wordpress.com/2017/04/15/the-pause-update-march-20 17/

  • Don Aitkin says:

    There’s a useful essay on WUWT, called ‘The Lure of Free Energy’, that rather bears on my own essay. You could read it at

    https://wattsupwiththat.com/2017/04/14/the-lure-of-free-energy/

    • spangled drongo says:

      Yes, that is so true, Don. Apart from the usual run of RE blunders we have committed, one of my “favourites” is the solar thermal plant the Qld govt built at Windorah which is an off-grid town in the far south west of the state.

      Windorah had been using a diesel powered generator which consumed ~ 100,000 litres of diesel a year and for the cost of ~ $100,000 per house the govt funded this solar plant while using the diesel generator as backup.

      I have been told by a reliable source that the diesel generator still consumes 100,000 litres a year and the solar thermal plant is flat out keeping the mirrors clean out there in the dust.

      In other words the horrendous cost was to no net benefit whatsoever energy wise and CO2 emissions have not only not been reduced, they have been increased enormously.

      When running and maintenance costs are added the waste is even more frightening.

      But it is so typical of the disaster that is RE yet it never gets a mention.

      When will people face facts and stop the mad crazy bureaucrats and politicians slaughtering taxpayers money?

  • David says:

    To SD @ 7.39pm

    FFS SD, I have never met someone who so consistently mis-interprets scientific papers. (OK maybe Neville) Here is the abstract from the paper you have dug up. Read it slowly. The natural variability they are referring to is across regions. Read the last sentence a couple of times!

    “Since the 1950s, research stations on the Antarctic Peninsula have recorded some of the largest increases in near-surface air temperature in the Southern Hemisphere1. This warming has contributed to the regional retreat of glaciers2, disintegration of floating ice shelves3 and a ‘greening’ through the expansion in range of various flora4. Several interlinked processes have been suggested as contributing to the warming, including stratospheric ozone depletion5, local sea-ice loss6, an increase in westerly winds5, 7, and changes in the strength and location of low–high-latitude atmospheric teleconnections8, 9. Here we use a stacked temperature record to show an absence of regional warming since the late 1990s. The annual mean temperature has decreased at a statistically significant rate, with the most rapid cooling during the Austral summer. Temperatures have decreased as a consequence of a greater frequency of cold, east-to-south-easterly winds, resulting from more cyclonic conditions in the northern Weddell Sea associated with a strengthening mid-latitude jet. These circulation changes have also increased the advection of sea ice towards the east coast of the peninsula, amplifying their effects. Our findings cover only 1% of the Antarctic continent and emphasize that decadal temperature changes in this region are not primarily associated with the drivers of global temperature change but, rather, reflect the extreme natural internal variability of the regional atmospheric circulation.”

    I once claimed that Jo Nova had published no peer review papers. Turns out, I was wrong. Someone on this site (I forget who) hysterically informed me that she was a co-author on one paper published in 1993 that reported on some biological process in a mouse model.

    As far as I can see her only substantive contribution to Climate science is as a muse, when she announced to anyone silly enough to take her seriously that she was on the losing end of $20,000 bet with Brian Schmidt with respect to some predicted temperature increases.

    You cannot make this stuff up.

    • bryan roberts says:

      David,’ I’ told you (quite calmly, I recall) that a paper by Joanne Codling was cited in Medline. Since you were busy denigrating her intelligence, the subject of the paper was and is irrelevant.

      • David says:

        Oh, it was you Bryan. So you admit it.

        One unrelated paper hardly makes Nova an expert in Climate science.

        • bryan roberts says:

          “So you admit it.” Why should I not? You made an incorrect statement, and I corrected it.

          “One unrelated paper hardly makes Nova an expert in Climate science” but apparently one ‘climate’ paper playing with numbers does make ‘tamino’ (aka Grant Foster) an expert.

          What’s good for the goose, David.

        • JimboR says:

          Good one Bryan… I got quite a chuckle out of you comparing Jo Nova with Grant Foster. Oh, and some of us still consider maths (aka “playing with numbers”) important.

          https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Grant_Foster/publications

    • spangled drongo says:

      Poor ol’ davie.

      Is it that you won’t get it [religion] or you simply can’t get it? [incapable?]

  • Don Aitkin says:

    Reader JohnM emailed me on this issue, and he has since allowed me to post here some of his letter:

    ‘Because of various free trade deals Australia has given away most of its manufacture. Our habit now is to dig something out of the ground and sell it for $1 profit per unit to another country then pay $10 when that unit is returned as manufactured goods. So where do we get the $9 to bridge the gap?

    The government’s attitude has been a mix of …

    – kick the can down the road to make it a problem for a future government

    – claim that Australia will be a “smart country” and offer global services (to which I say in your dreams because there’s very few assembly line workers who can be retrained into professional fields)

    – borrow money, which of course requires repayment of the principal plus any interest. IIRC the current bill for interest exceeds $100 million per week.

    – increase taxes or make a grab at personal savings

    – allow people to buy from overseas via the Internet for $6 in the belief that it’s the merchants here who are selling the product at $10, but while satisfying the customer the absence of payment to merchants here will mean less employment. (There was a time when we cared about people but now we see jobs being sacrificed, as if the people doing the job didn’t matter, so that the masses can buy something at a lower price.)

    On top of all this we have the renewable energy debacle. Installation of these systems might be one of the few growth industries in this country but when you take into account the subsidies required to support this industry you end up with a hugely expensive job-creation scheme.

    Worse, it’s a situation that discourages business investment because (a) the energy supply is seen as unreliable and (b) the rate of company tax is unattractive but necessary for the government to find the money to pay for its follies.

    I also see governments applying bandaid solutions to previous bandaids applied to problems of the governments’ own making. This applies at both federal and state level. The SA government proposing to build a gas-fired power station is a prime example of the nonsense.

    People talk of sustainability. What’s clearly unsustainable is to continue the current economic mess, a mess that will only worsen with the level of subsidies to renewable energy and its prioritisation over conventional generation.

  • Neville says:

    According to the British Antarctic survey study the Ant peninsula has been cooling since 1998 at a rate of 0.5 c per decade. Other studies now support the British AS study. This NATURAL cooling is overcoming the so called CAGW, but this area will probably always change over time. It certainly has done so in the past . I can supply a link if required.

    But if you want to look at the complete SP region you can find slight cooling since DEC 1978 using UAH V 6. There is no warming for UAH V6 for TLT and minus -0.02 c cooling for UAH V 6 TMT. This is the same cooling trend as RSS V 4 TMT. Here’s their link.

    http://www.drroyspencer.com/2017/04/uah-global-temperature-update-for- march-2017-0-19-deg-c/#comments

    Using the RSS tool you can find very slight warming of SP region since DEC 1978 for TLT V 3 of 0.002 c and TTT V 4 of 0.006 c. But for TMT V 4 there is stronger cooling of -0.02 c. Here’s the link.

    http://images.remss.com/msu/msu_time_series.html

    • Chris Warren says:

      So how much food can we grow in Antarctica?

      Is this where refugees should head?

      Can we airlift icebergs in Antarctica and drop them in the North Pole?

      Should Santa Claus relocate?

      Can I buy real estate in Antarctica?

      • bryan roberts says:

        So how much food can we grow in Antarctica?
        Enough to support the refugees.
        Is this where refugees should head?
        Sure. No-one else wants them.
        Can we airlift icebergs in Antarctica and drop them in the North Pole?
        No, but we can probably tow then there.
        Should Santa Claus relocate?
        You have not yet see the u-tube video?
        Can I buy real estate in Antarctica?
        Sure, provided you move in and build within the next twelve months.

  • Neville says:

    Here is a link from their ABC about the BAS study. Who knows what caused this NATURAL cooling trend of minus -0.5 c a decade since 1998.

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-07-21/part-of-antarctica-gets-a-chill- after-warming-fast:-study/7647276

  • PeterE says:

    I say, put down that test-tube and look at this: CO2 has risen to 400ppm. Wow! That’s alarming. What’s the cause? Maybe it’s the burning of fossil fuels. Oh my Gawd! Don’t panic, what are we going to do? Ask the modelers to peek at the future. You scientists are brilliant. We’ve done the models and there will be flood, fire and famine. You modelers are brilliant. What to do? Don’t Panic, ask the manufacturers. You scientists, and modelers are brilliant. Windmills and solar panels are the way to go. But how will we get the public to act? Ask the economists. You scientists, modelers and manufacturers are all brilliant. The answer is to put a price on it. That’s the way to drive change. Brilliant. Tell the media, brief the politicians and ask the internationalists. Spread the message. Punish the perpetrators. Destroy capitalism. Brilliant. Don’t panic.

  • Neville says:

    Extreme warming occurred in Greenland about 14, 500 years ago and also coming out of the Younger Dryas 11,500 years BP. On Greenland temp increased by 10 C in just ten years. And co2 levels were way below today’s 400ppm. Here’s the quote from NOAA and the link.

    https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/abrupt-climate-change/The%20Younger%20Dryas

    ” The end of the Younger Dryas, about 11,500 years ago, was particularly abrupt. In Greenland, temperatures rose 10°C (18°F) in a decade (Alley 2000 (link is external)). Other proxy records, including varved lake sediments in Europe, also display these abrupt shifts (Brauer et al. 2008 (link is external)).

    The Younger Dryas is clearly observable in paleoclimate records from many parts of the world. In the Cariaco Basin north of Venezuela, for example, temperatures decreased about 3°C (5.5°F), although some of this cooling might have been due to greater upwelling of colder subsurface water (Lea et al. 2003 (link is external)). In many parts of the Northern Hemisphere tropics, conditions also became drier (Hughen et al. 2000 (link is external); Wang et al. 2001 (link is external))”.

  • Neville says:

    The Steig et al 2013 study of the West Antarctic ice sheet (WAIS) over the last 2,000 years showed a decline in temp but more recent precipitation over the last 50 years or deceleration of SLR. Certainly the first 1,000 yrs of the graph are warmer than the last 1,000 yrs up to the yr 2,000. So the overall trend is cooling over the past 2,000 years.

    http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/v6/n5/full/ngeo1778.html

    Here again is the Royal Society graph showing the “all models” trend for Greenland ( some SLR) and Antarctica ( negative for SLR) for the next 300 years or until 2300.

    http://rsta.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/roypta/364/1844/1709/F4 .large.jpg

  • Neville says:

    The US has just opened a new carbon capture and useful money making power plant. It captures 90% of the co2 and then uses that waste gas to enhance higher oil recovery in an old oil well. In fact it allows 30 times more oil to be recovered every day.

    https://wattsupwiththat.com/2017/04/18/clean-coal-carbon-capture-and-e nhanced-oil-recovery/

    Here is part of the press release. But compare this super efficient provider of cheap, reliable energy to the S&W garbage that we are building now in OZ. And it’s costing a fortune as SA knows and Vics are just starting to find out.

    “THE 240MWE FACILITY IS THE LARGEST POST-COMBUSTION CARBON CAPTURE PROJECT IN THE WORLD

    WASHINGTON, D.C. — Secretary of Energy Rick Perry took part in a ribbon-cutting ceremony today to mark the opening of Petra Nova, the world’s largest post-combustion carbon capture project, which was completed on-schedule and on-budget. The large-scale demonstration project, located at the W.A. Parish power plant in Thompsons, Texas, is a joint venture between NRG Energy (NRG) and JX Nippon Oil & Gas Exploration Corporation (JX).

    “I commend all those who contributed to this major achievement,” said Secretary Perry. “While the Petra Nova project will certainly benefit Texas, it also demonstrates that clean coal technologies can have a meaningful and positive impact on the Nation’s energy security and economic growth.”

    Funded in part by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and originally conceived as a 60-megawatt electric (MWe) capture project, the project sponsors expanded the design to capture emissions from 240 MWe of generation at the Houston-area power plant, quadrupling the size of the capture project without additional federal investment. During performance testing, the system demonstrated a carbon capture rate of more than 90 percent.

    At its current level of operation, Petra Nova will capture more than 5,000 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per day, which will be used for enhanced oil recovery (EOR) at the West Ranch Oil Field. The project is expected to boost production at West Ranch from 500 barrels per day to approximately 15,000 barrels per day. It is estimated that the field holds 60 million barrels of oil recoverable from EOR operations.

    The successful commencement of Petra Nova operations also represents an important step in advancing the commercialization of technologies that capture CO2 from the flue gas of existing power plants. Its success could become the model for future coal-fired power generation facilities. The addition of CO2 capture capability to the existing fleet of power plants could support CO2 pipeline infrastructure development and drive domestic EOR opportunities”.

    U.S. Department of Energy

  • Brian Austen says:

    This is essentially an economist’s take on the world. I and most of my contacts have a different and more straightforward view. It is best articulated by Wal Socket, as the energy consultant, portrayed by John Clarke. In interview with Btian Dawe. “We don’t have a system Brian, we have an energy market.” Just when was the constitution changed to give the Federal Government responsibility for energy?

  • Neville says:

    This would have to be the joke of the year. There will be a “March for Science” tomorrow and this is apparently being led by people like Mann who used the wrong data upside down to generate strange results.

    Oh and he does like to use any ruse he can to hide declines and hide his data from other interested researchers and tell other researchers to delete info etc. Also he thinks that Paris COP 21 is a game changer and may help to stop temps reaching the levels of the Cretaceous period by 2117. YES he really believes this stuff. Funny that, because Dr Jim Hansen using very simple maths said that Paris COP 21 is just BS and Fra-d. He also said that people who believe in S&W energy are like people who believe in the Easter bunny and the Tooth fairy. Gosh ,who do we believe????

    Anyway Jo Nova has a very good summary about these so called scientists.

    http://joannenova.com.au/2017/04/stand-up-and-march-for-science-say-pe ople-who-dont-know-what-science-is/
    “Stand up and “March for Science” say people who don’t know what science is

    The March for Science is on Saturday.

    Will J Grant and Rod Lambert struggled with the message behind “March for Science” at The Conversation. We should march, they said a month ago, because “science is a human process” . Which will be news to people who thought science was about evidence and reason. On Saturday they will be marching for the kind of science that is “passion” and “belief”. Don’t turn up thinking this is about the dispassionate Laws of Physics. You’ll be at the wrong rally.
    Is the March to solve a problem or create one?

    The March seems to be fighting strawmen. It is supposedly about “Encouraging scientists to share their research” (as if scientists like to hide their research). We know they hide their data, their methods and their adjustments, but when the ABC turns up to interview them, they don’t seem to hide their opinions. They hide their declines but don’t hide their Nobel Prizes (even if they didn’t get them). Do they need encouragement?

    And the March is there, apparently, “affirming science as a vital feature of a working democracy”, who says it isn’t? Like voters have been asking for witchdoctors instead? Absolutely no one is questioning science’s role in democracy. Science has such an incredible halo, it is considered to be so-above-question that everyone wants to brand their version of reality as “science”. There are no marches for stone-age solutions, no “anti-science” movements (except inadvertently by those who think models produce evidence). But those who falsely cloak themselves in the science flag want us to think there is an anti-science movement, so this feeds their own comfortable delusion.
    There is major muddying going on here

    What does it mean to “advocate for open and accessible science?” . These are the same people who fight to the death to prevent heretics from publishing a paper, or from doing a radio interview, or from opening a research centre. The point of including statements like that is to blur the reality for onlookers and fool the puppet marchers. It’s just more “fog”.
    It’s a march for “robust funding” (give us the money)

    Those who can’t discover something useful have to march in the streets instead. The March is one big Pat-on-The-Back for the crusaders for taxpayer funds.
    It’s a feel good March: feel good about your IQ

    The organisers want Marchers to feel like they have the high ground, the smarts, but check out the advice to the noble superior mind:

    Don’t pick fights (either verbal, physical or metaphorical) with people who you think are dumb, wrong, dangerous or unpleasant.

    That ugly sentiment gets repeated (in case you missed it):

    But do stick to your guns. [Whatever they are, eh?.] Appealing to broader interests doesn’t have to mean pandering to interests that you think are dumb, wrong, dangerous or just plain unpleasant.

    People with a different scientific opinion are obviously dumb, wrong, dangerous or just unpleasant. Plenty of smug warfare going on here.

    Grant and Lamberts advice includes telling Marchers “Now is not the time to try to “correct” the misconceptions and “woo” of people who might not be as scientifically informed as you. ” He might as well put out a clickbait advertisement for a free booster shot of scientific ego. This march is for the A+ science students who never got A but know they should have. Come march with us, we are all so clevah.

    And they’ll need to be clever if they are going to simultaneously follow his advice and “not correct misconceptions” while they also “stick to their guns”.

    Advice, point 7, is to bring sex workers:

    Publicly embrace others, and get them to embrace you. If anyone should stand out at this march, it’s people who aren’t scientists. Do you know a group of firefighters, senior citizens or sex-workers who’d be prepared to march with signs saying “[non-science group of people] for science”? Give them a call and get them on board. Maybe get them to dress in uniform!

    Lamberts and Grant wrote this article a month ago but openly admit they were struggling to explain why they were marching.

    Don’t miss the clarity in the closer:
    Now get out there

    There’s still a bit of time to think about this and get it right. Of course, what “right” means will differ from person to person, so let’s get that clear before rushing out on April 22 and making all kinds of different noises.

    For skeptical scientists, if we were Marching for Science we wouldn’t have to work out what we were marching for with four weeks to go.

    It’s a wonderful feeling to unite with like-minded people, but let’s strive to show we are united for something that non-science people can relate to as well, or we’ll be portrayed as being united against those very same folks.

    So even when you are making “different noises” in a march that no one knows what the mission is, it’s good to unite with “like-minds” — people who are just as confused.

    As for being afraid of being portrayed as being united against “those very same folks” — the Marchers might stop calling them dumb, wrong, dangerous and unpleasant maybe?”

  • Neville says:

    More incredible junk science from Flannery and Steffen’s Climate Council. They actually state that renewables will help us fight their CAGW and will be cheaper as well. How do these con merchants get away with these lies and why doesn’t somebody challenge then before we waste endless more billions $ on this fra-d?

    Here is part of their nonsense.

    “Investing in more gas will lock in high electricity prices and pollution for decades to come. Our new report, ‘Pollution and Price: The cost of investing in gas,’ shows that tackling climate change and protecting Australians from worsening extreme weather requires our electricity system to produce zero emissions before 2050.

    Gas is not sufficiently less polluting than coal to garner any climate benefit. Furthermore, greater reliance on gas will drive higher power prices. While renewable energy can provide a secure, affordable alternative to new fossil fuels”.

    http://www.climatecouncil.org.au/price-of-gas

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