Published in the Fifth Estate 8/3/2018
There’s been an interesting exercise in prevarication from energy minister Josh Frydenberg in the AFR this week. He’s written a homily on the resilience of the energy market that recalls the gall of his former boss Tony Abbott.
The Greens cop enormous brickbats for Taking Credit for Things, but Frydenberg has taking this kind of hubris to a new level.
Given his party’s slavish underwriting of the obsolete fossil fuel industry, it takes a special kind of chutzpah to take credit for a rebounding energy market. But that’s exactly what Frydenberg has done in laying that wreath at prime minister Malcolm Turnbull’s feet, despite the PM being dragged screaming into the present only by events such as the closure of Liddell power station and SA premier Weatherill’s defiance in proving the viability of renewables.
Frydenberg casually attributes the newfound gravity in gas prices to Turnbull’s intervention in the market, a fiction that conveniently ignores the PM’s implicit approval of flagrant price gouging and distribution manipulation.
Turnbull has been happy to allow gas companies to market our natural resources overseas, without the distraction of paying taxes to ensure domestic wealth like those radical Norwegians. Claiming to have salvaged 70 petajoules is a bit rich: having been belatedly reined in, gas companies are finally coming to account for charging Australians exorbitant rates to buy their own gas back.
For some time now Turnbull and Frydenberg have been attempting to bribe, coerce and strongarm the states into accepting the alleged inevitability of coal seam gas, such as was foisted onto an unsuspecting Queensland in the 1990s. That experiment was a morass of unbelievable high-level corruption, lies and disinformation from both industry and government, as claimed by whistleblower Simone Marsh, among others.
The energy minister’s claim that Queensland is doing the heavy lifting in the gas market is doubly exasperating; it assumes that the country, nay the planet, needs more emissions, a damaged Great Artesian Basin and yet another source of fossil fuel; secondly that Australians agree with the Coalitions views on CSG.
His blithe amnesia over environmental concerns about gas extraction only adds to an apparently portfolio-wide credibility deficit. In an era where the disruption of the Polar vortex is causing serious consternation among leading scientists, this is rather more than concerning in a federal minister than, say, the behaviour of Barnaby Joyce.
Concerning certainty and job creation from his pet projects, Frydenberg calls for an evidence-based approach; it’s hard to imagine better evidence of effective innovation than the Tesla battery experiment, hard to conceive of any more compelling proof of climate change than the apparently unfixable problem of the Earth’s air-conditioning. While jobs from renewables look to soon outstrip those in mining and lock in dispatchable power to the grid, the evidence for conventional energy investment seems to exist nowhere outside government white papers.
Well, we’ve dealt with the alleged volatility of South Australia’s energy market – as far as our business leaders are concerned it’s a done deal. In the shadow of that groundbreaking experiment we have a prime minister, lauded by Frydenberg for his “pipeline reforms”, looking for sneaky ways to fund the Adani mine.
But when such internationally renowned analysts as Jeremy Rifkin claim we’re on the brink of “the first new economic system that’s entered onto the world stage since capitalism and socialism”, when such trifling events as the Third Industrial Revolution and the fossil fuel industry becoming the “biggest bubble in history” are casting Frydenberg, Turnbull and their fellow coal enthusiasts in the same light as the inexhaustibly spurious Donald Trump; that’s when we can assume that aspirational opinion pieces like this one are the dying gasps of mouthpieces who prefer the charity of their political donors to the good graces of posterity.