The Vision of Mr Albanese

By November 6, 2019Other

At the end of the last month Anthony Albanese MP, the Leader of the Opposition, delivered what he called ‘the first in a series of Vision Statements’. I’ve had to produce a few of these in the past myself, so I groaned a little, and then read on. The media scratched around trying to find how to summarise it, as I had to, and they decided that it was about climate change. It isn’t, really. Mr Albanese seems to take some kind of Catastrophic Anthropogenic Climate Change for granted, so there are only a couple of references to it. I guess that a future Vision Statement will deal comprehensively with climate change

What he does seem to do is to focus on the jobs and wealth that might be created were Australia to take seriously the shift to alternative energies (though not by stopping the export of coal, which is not mentioned at all). So after a longish peroration in traditional Labor style (how Labor is the true guardian of the workers, because of its roots in the union movement, and how effete, tired and pointless the Coalition Government is), he gets into what I think is his main theme.

…we must first and foremost be in the business of creating wealth, as well as ensuring it is distributed fairly. Labor is proudly and resolutely pro-growth.

That is a bit unusual for a Labor leader, but we need to remember that this is a Vision. And he goes on like this.

And some of those opportunities lie within the global efforts to tackle one of the greatest challenges we face today: Climate change. The world is decarbonising. With the right planning and vision, Australia can not only continue to be an energy exporting superpower, we can also enjoy a new manufacturing boom. This means jobs.

Well, the world is decarbonising, I suppose, but not at any real speed. The demand for coal is increasing, and though the power available from alternative energy sources is also increasing, there is no prospect that I can see that in the short or medium terms coal and fossil fuels generally will be supplanted. For most countries, coal and oil are the backbone of their electricity grids, and the problems with replacing fossil fuels with alternative energy sources are well-known — intermittency, the short capacity of batteries, and the need for fossil-based back-ups, not to mention the sheer cost and scale of wind turbines.

Now Mr Albanese switches to a new concept altogether.

Or the dividends from a hydrogen economy that can help our major trading partners, such as Japan and South Korea, make the switch to hydrogen. This goal is also consistent with our ambitions as set out in the Asian Century White Paper. It urged Australia to improve human security through the development of resilient markets in basic needs, such as energy. Indeed, experts tell us achieving 50 per cent renewable energy at home while building a hydrogen export industry would create 87,000 good, well-paid jobs. Chief Scientist Alan Finkel sees a hydrogen export industry that in ten years could be worth $1.7 billion.

A hydrogen economy? How close is that? Well, not at all. Yes, hydrogen is abundant. All you have to do is break down a water molecule into its constituents of oxygen and hydrogen. There is a lot of water, so in practical terms hydrogen is virtually renewable. It is also fuel-efficient, and doesn’t have harmful emissions when it is burned. Why aren’t we using it now? Because breaking down the water molecule is difficult and expensive, and you need a lot of fossil fuels to  do so. More, hydrogen is both difficult to store safely and highly flammable. Hmm. Well, this is a Vision. No matter, Mr Albanese can see ahead.

Australia can be the land of cheap and endless energy – energy that could power generations of metal manufacturing and other energy intensive manufacturing industries.

Yes, All these things could happen, but they’re a long way off. And in the meantime, as 11,000 or so scientists said today, the world is facing a climate emergency, even if that is not obvious from the evidence, and there aren’t anything like 11,000 climate scientists in the world. Mr Albanese charges on.

Our resources and capability also offer us the scope to be the capital of mining and processing of the key ingredients of the renewables revolution. Australia is the second largest producer of rare earth elements. We have the greatest reserves in the world of iron and titanium, the second greatest reserves of copper and lithium, and the third greatest deposits of silver. Just as coal and iron ore fuelled the industrial economies of the 20th century, it is these minerals that will fuel the clean energy economies of the 21st. It is expected that the growth in electric vehicles will mean global copper production in the next 25 years will be larger than all the copper mined in world history.

Once again, there is a great jump from the present to the future. There is a slump in lithium prices at the moment, and a rise in price awaits growth in electric vehicle sales and battery production. There are all sorts of optimistic forecasts about a surge in EV sales, but they have been with us for some years now. China has cut subsidies for EVs, and demand there dropped at once. These subsidies have been reduced or abandoned in other countries, too. It is certainly not clear, at least to me, that there will be a rapid increase in EV sales and production in the next decade, though I expect some growth. 

And, to make again an argument that I have made in earlier essays, since around 85 per cent of our electricity comes from fossil fuels, the EV does little with respect to greenhouse gas emissions, and therefore to the notion that they are a means by which we can forestall ‘climate change’. But Mr Albanese seems to dismiss that issue, and concludes like this.

Simply put, the road to a low-carbon future can be paved with hundreds of thousands of clean energy jobs, as well as supporting traditional jobs, including coal mining. Labor wants to lead that clean energy revolution.

EVs are not part of the road to a low-carbon future, and it is idle to suggest they are. Alternative energy sources can’t be programmed to power them. I simply can’t see where the hundreds of thousands of clean-energy jobs are going to come from, unless they are massively subsidised. Altogether, this is an odd speech. What exactly does Mr Albanese think about climate change, anyway? There is no guidance in his address. Somehow hydrogen and rare earths are going to change the way Australia works, but exactly how, and when, is completely unclear. Certainly not in the next three years. It’s a vision, yes, but you couldn’t build viable policy on it.

I guess we need to wait for the next Vision speech. What will it be on?

Join the discussion 18 Comments

  • David NB says:

    Let’s stop using carbon polluting machines to make pins, and instead hammer them out manually, one by one. Think of the jobs!

  • Aert Driessen says:

    The hundreds and thousands of jobs that renewable energy will create will come from cleaning the solar panels after every dust storm like we had last week, and to dispose of the turbines when they have to be decommissioned (20 years life?). Albo has completely lost it, and I doubt that he will remain leader for long enough to present a second Vision Statement. We live in a fantastic country on a fantastic planet, if only politicians would just leave it to the common sense of the 95% to do the right thing, punish the other 5%, and stop screwing us all around.

    • Chris Warren says:

      Why the Fascism????

      “..punish the other 5%,…

      • Boambee John says:

        “Why the Fascism????”

        Bit rich coming from someone who wants to control, and reduce, world population. If there truly is an imminent “climate emergency”, then the only ways to achieve population control within a relevant time frame will inevitably require authoritarian or totalitarian measures. Do you support such measures, or do you blithely deny that they would be necessary to meet your objectives?

  • Neville says:

    Perhaps Albo and Labor have fallen under the spell of Ross Garnaut AGAIN.
    There are big problems with the hydrogen economy (???) and number one is to produce hydrogen at a competitive cost, compared to coal, gas, hydro or nuclear.
    Of course to use any of these energy sources to produce hydrogen seems a strange waste of money and time and so called renewables are problematic at best and certainly not reliable base-load power.
    Garnaut seems to think we should first suffer economic pain for a possible better future sometime later this century. What a joker he is.

    https://wattsupwiththat.com/2019/11/06/claim-we-must-unleash-the-climate-friendly-hydrogen-unicorn/

    And don’t forget Australia and the entire SH is a NET co2 sink and nearly all of the extra co2 emitted in the last 30 years ( about 60 ppm) has come from China, India and developing countries in the NET SOURCE NH. See CSIRO Cape Grim Tas.

  • Neville says:

    Here’s Garnaut’s latest essay at the Conversation. Certainly a lot of ifs , buts and maybes.

    https://theconversation.com/australia-could-fall-apart-under-climate-change-but-theres-a-way-to-avoid-it-126341

    And here’s the latest delusional nonsense from the 11,000 scientists blurb. I prefer Our World in Data.

    https://theconversation.com/11-000-scientists-warn-climate-change-isnt-just-about-temperature-126261

    • Boambee John says:

      Neville,

      Oh yes, the 11,000 “scientists” (apparently around a quarter of them are self-described as “student”, “researcher” or “retired, so their actual credentials are unclear, except for Professor Micky (sic) Mouse of Namibia) are calling for world population to be stabilised or preferably reduced. They discreetly hint at “proven methods” to do this, but avoid details.

      The Indian and Chinese experiences make it clear that even authoritarian or totalitarian methods struggle to simply reduce population growth. To reduce population size in any timeframe that matches the demands of their so-called “climate emergency” will take much worse methods.

      And the 11,000 are far outnumbered by the 32,000 plus who have signed a petition rejecting the climate “science”, if you like the idea of “consensus science”, which I know you do not, but others do!

    • Neville says:

      Thanks for that BJ. Here Andrew Bolt pulls apart their claim of 11,000 scientist’s BS and fra-d.
      Just pathetic , yet the media laps it up and then tries to con the rest of us with their nonsense.
      And the Conversation is happy to print this garbage?

      https://www.heraldsun.com.au/blogs/andrew-bolt/11000-scientists-including-professor-mickey-mouse-warn-of-climate-emergency/news-story/95501dffad5c64507874f47f15d8b50b

  • Tezza says:

    Your instincts are right as usual, Don. My reading of Mr Albanese’s ‘vision’ is that it is just the next round of the traditional Labor game of ‘picking winners’ in an attempt to suggest an answer to the perennial question of ‘where are the jobs going to come from?’
    Instead of answering “From the hundreds of successful things entrepreneurs will find succeeding in the market, among the thousands that will be tried and fail”, Albanese says ‘hydrogen’, and all the associated new energy wishful thinking.
    The interesting practical question to ask him would be “and how is Australia going to pioneer this visionary hydrogen economy?” I bet there’ll be some very old-fashioned, tried and failed answers to that question.

  • BoyfromTottenham says:

    Albo says:”Australia is the second largest producer of rare earth elements. We have the greatest reserves in the world of iron and titanium, the second greatest reserves of copper and lithium, and the third greatest deposits of silver. Just as coal and iron ore fuelled the industrial economies of the 20th century, it is these minerals that will fuel the clean energy economies of the 21st. It is expected that the growth in electric vehicles will mean global copper production in the next 25 years will be larger than all the copper mined in world history.”

    Where the hell does Albo think the enormous amounts of electrical and diesel energy required to mine and refine copper , lithium and silver will come from? About 40% of a typical truck-based surface mine’s costs are for truck fuel, and refining copper is basically an electrical process requiring megawatts of power. Take away the diesel fuel and coal-fired power stations and we cannot mine and refine much at all.
    And the same goes for hydrogen – it takes vast amounts of electricity to split H2O into H and O, and then more energy to compress it or turn it into ammonia, and still more to turn ammonia back into H and N. I won’t even start to talk about how dangerous hydrogen gas is – just think of the Hindenburg disaster!
    Albo is either telling porkies on a galactic scale with this ‘vision’, or has absolutely no idea about the realities of what he is proposing (or should I say the (hydrogen) balloon he is floating).
    If this is the best that the ALP can do, we can look forward to at least a decade or two of the Libs in power.

  • spangled drongo says:

    Albo is in a bind because of his need of the Greens preferences to have any chance of winning govt so he cannot address Labor’s problems with anything other than pollywaffle.

    Because he can be shredded in any serious debate he can only hand wave, from a considerable distance, at his problems.

    He cannot possibly develop policies with any credibility while he has to walk both sides of the street at the same time. And his hydrogen proposal is just something to convince the elites that he has their interests at heart while anyone with detailed knowledge knows that it has been tried and found wanting.

    Looks like the girls were too smart and Albo got the job as the great unelectable.

  • spangled drongo says:

    Jay Weatherill and Craig Emerson have written a 26 recommendation report for Labor and not one mention about climate change and the energy problems attached.

    But like No. 6 below, they mostly seem to be motherhood statements:

    6. Without compromising existing support, Labor should broaden its support base by improving its standing with economically insecure, low-income working families, groups within the Christian community and Australians living in regional and rural Australia.

    https://www.theaustralian.com.au/nation/alp-election-review-26-ways-to-fix-broken-labor/news-story/ac96759a79710a746eec4c2ec072e43c

  • JMO says:

    On my last trip to Japan in March 2018 I teed up with Toyota a 30 min chauffeur drive in a Toyota Miraii (Japanese for futur), a hydrogen powered fuel cell electric electric motor front wheel drive Camry size car. It has 2 Hydrogen tanks (hydrogen compressed in aluminium honeycomb so it would not explode, yet can store more hydrogen that way rather than compressing it – a quantum mechanic property of aluminium). Anyway it was quiet and responsive, and a range of up to 650km. It could be fueled up in 3-4 minutes. After a1/2 hour drive pulling up at the Toyota Miraii outlet near Tokyo Tower, the driver pressed a switch which opened up hot water- the car’s waste.

    As for the infrastructure, Toyota built 91 hydrogen fuelling station around Japan. Yes they DO things there. I noticed a few driving around Tokyo along with myriads of Hybrids. I did not see any full electric cars. Toyota said to me Elon Musk has got it wrong, hydrogen is the future, for a company who got the first Hybrid on the road with the Prius in 1997, I think Toyota just may be right. I now have 2 hybrids- a Toyota Crown Hybrid (grey import) and a hybrid SUV – a Lexus RX 450h. The Crown is a very powerful quiet economical car ( the 147 kw electric motor gives 275 Newton metre of torque from rpm 1 ! Then a further 350 odd Nm from the petrol engine ( a more highly tuned Aurion motor) when it gets up quickly to 3000+rpm). It will give the base model Tesla a run for its money at about 1/3 the price and a heck a lot more range.

    Toyota are now launching their 2nd generation Miraii, now a rear wheel hydrogen powered car. They are moving so far ahead of the others car manufacturers.

    • spangled drongo says:

      JMO, I think you’ll find that Hyundai are just as advanced as Toyota in hydrogen EVs.

      I was referring to hydrogen ICE vehicles which, because hydrogen is a much less dense fuel, fuel consumption was over 3 times as heavy. Plus all the other problems like fuel disappearing through evaporation and requiring huge amounts of energy to produce, they have been forgotten about.

      Many of these problems still carry over to the EVs and the net CO2 footprint is not necessarily any better.

      But like all energy solutions, if we allow technology to supply the answer rather than religious belief, we will progress.

      • BoyfromTottenham says:

        Speaking of religious belief, I think this bit of Jungian psychology tells us a lot about the Labor view on things:

        https://preludecharacteranalysis.com/explore/thinking-vs-feeling

        Basically, Jung thought that people are broadly characterised as either ‘Thinkers’ of ‘Feelers’, and the chart at this link shows the stark difference between the two, which IMO closely corresponds to the differences between the Liberals (the Thinkers) and Labor (the Feelers). Unfortunately, there is a chasm between the two, which is especially noticeable regarding their attitude to climate change, where Labor’s ‘passionate subjectivity’ renders them unable to use rational thinking to analyse this complex problem. As Jung says ‘Feeling types tend to make their decisions based on values, subjectivity and the impact on others.’
        Unfortunately it appears that these two mindsets are a fixed part of our personality, and are therefore not amenable to change. So it appears that the Thinkers are (barely) in control of the Liberals, and the Feelers are (well) in control of the Labor party. God knows where we go from here!

  • Boambee John says:

    If Mr Albanese wants to collect a few kudos, and probably a lot of votes, he could do what Mr Morrison seems incapable of doing: denounce the entire panopoly of the Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming hysteria. Its effect on even its supporters is to cause mental health breakdown. The depths to which CAGW drives people is demonstrated in the reporting from an ABC (Australia) journalist, introduction below.

    “Breaking up over climate change: My deep dark journey into doomer Facebook
    James Purtill, ABC

    The Near Term Human Extinction SUPPORT Group was set up in 2013 and now has 6,400+ members and a description that reads: “For people who have accepted that HUMAN EXTINCTION IS INEVITABLE IN THE NEAR TERM due to anthropogenic global warming (AGW) and the consequences, based on trends determined by scientific research.” (Their caps locks).

    It politely adds: “This is a forum for friendly and non-threatening discussion.”

    But clarifies: “Note: If you believe that humans will survive, we ask that you join other more relevant groups such as Positive Deep Adaptation.”

  • Ian says:

    Hi Don, has something changed with your page? My iPad won’t scroll down the article any more. It’s still OK on the desktop. I love reading your essays, thank you.

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