Amish ways good for some, the rest of us need power

Amish ways good for some, the rest of us need power, by Tony Abbott, from the full text of an address he recently gave in London.

Tony Abbott

Climate change is by no means the sole or even the most significant symptom of the changing interests and values of the West. Still, only societies with high levels of cultural amnesia – that have forgotten the scriptures about man created “in the image and likeness of God” and charged with “subduing the earth and all its creatures” – could have made such a religion out of it. …

Beware the pronouncement, “the science is settled”. It’s the spirit of the Inquisition, the thought-police down the ages. Almost as bad is the claim that “99 per cent of scientists believe” as if scientific truth is determined by votes rather than facts. …

What the “science is settled” brigade want is to close down investigation by equating questioning with superstition. It’s an aspect of the wider weakening of the Western mind which poses such dangers to the world’s future.

Physics suggests, all other things being equal, that an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide would indeed warm the planet. Even so, the atmosphere is an almost infinitely complex mechanism that’s far from fully understood. …

The growing evidence that records have been adjusted, that the impact of urban heat islands has been downplayed, and that data sets have been slanted in order to fit the theory of dangerous anthropogenic global warming does not make it false; but it should produce much caution about basing drastic action upon it. …

Unreliables and artificial markets are not a good solution:

Hydro aside, renewable energy should properly be referred to as intermittent and unreliable power. When the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine, the power doesn’t flow. Wind and solar power are like sailing ships; cheaper than powered boats, to be sure, but we’ve stopped using sail for transport because it couldn’t be trusted to turn up on time.

Because the weather is unpredictable, you never really know when renewable power is going to work. Its marginal cost is low but so is its reliability, so in the absence of industrial scale batteries, it always needs matching capacity from dependable coal, gas, hydro, or nuclear energy. This should always have been obvious.

Also now apparent is the system instability and the perverse economics that subsidised renewables on a large scale have injected into our power supply. Not only is demand variable but there’s a vast and unpredictable difference between potential and dispatch-able capacity at any one time. Having to turn coal fired power stations up or down as the wind changes makes them much less profitable even though coal remains by far the cheapest source of reliable power.

A market that’s driven by subsidies rather than by economics always fails. Subsidy begets subsidy until the system collapses into absurdity. In Australia’s case, having subsidised renewables, allegedly to save the planet; we’re now faced with subsidising coal, just to keep the lights on. …

Why are we sacrificing Austrealia’s economy? Who benefits?

So far, climate change policy has generated new taxes, new subsidies and new restrictions in rich countries; and new demands for more aid from poor countries. But for the really big emitters, China and India, it’s a first world problem. Between them, they’re building or planning more than 800 new coal-fired power stations –- often using Australian coal -– with emissions, on average, 30 per cent lower than from our own ageing generators.

Unsurprisingly, the recipients of climate change subsidies and climate change research grants think action is very urgent indeed. As for the general public, of course saving the planet counts -– until the bills come in and then the humbug detector is switched on.

Should Australia close down its steel industry; watch passively while its aluminium industry moves offshore to places less concerned about emissions; export coal, but not use it ourselves; and deliberately increase power prices for people who can’t install their own solar panels and batteries? Of course not, but these are the inevitable consequences of continuing current policies.

That’s the reality no one has wanted to face for a long time: that we couldn’t reduce emissions without also hurting the economy; that’s the inconvenient truth that can now no longer be avoided.

hat-tip Stephen Neil