By Rich Bowden
Picture credit: Channel 9
A simple question and one that we — as environmentally-concerned Aussies — need to be able to answer. For Angus Taylor is our new Energy Minister, charged (sorry) with the future of transitioning our wide brown land away from fossil fuel sources towards a renewable energy future. Apparently. Given the responsibility of lowering electricity prices for us long-suffering consumers and charting the course for a cleaner, greener energy future.
Unfortunately Angus is completely unqualified for the position. A management consultant heavily involved with the fossil fuel industry, he is hailed as part of Scott Morrison’s (ScoalMo) so-called “new generation” of government. However, with Angus, it’s definitely a case of (to quote The Who) “meet the new boss, same as the old boss”.
Bit harsh you may say. After all he’s only been in the job for a few weeks. Surely Minister Taylor deserves a shot at the Energy job to show us what he can do? Maybe he’ll turn into a champion for renewables? I’d love to think you’re right folks, and of course there’s always a chance he will see the (solar) light. But I think not. Indeed I think there’s more chance of the Wallabies wresting the Bledisloe Cup from the mighty All Blacks for the next five years straight than Angus being converted on the road to Canberra. Let’s have a look at the fellow’s past activities. Angus Taylor is a noted anti-wind farm advocate and spoke at a 2013 meeting organised by anonymous anti-wind group Stop These Things, which included noted anti-renewables advocate and shock jock Alan Jones.
As part of a co-ordinated campaign to demonise wind power, Taylor seems to have carried this irrational fear of wind over into his new portfolio. In an 18/9/2018 opinion piece for the Australian Financial Review, Mr Taylor makes the following, decidedly odd, comment.
“...we will back investment in baseload generation to retain supply and encourage competition. We will force divestments if necessary. Opening up our abundant natural resources – gas, coal, water and the sun – will ensure Australians receive the cheapest and most reliable electricity.”
The point made by renewable energy advocates such as the Australian Wind Alliance is that the minister has entirely neglected to mention wind power as part of the energy makeup.
Taylor also goes on to say in the opinion piece that “...emissions reductions are the least of our problems,” giving the impression that the government couldn’t really care about reducing harmful carbon emissions. However more worrying for Australians who care about the future of the environment and what this will mean for future generations was the following exchange with Sky News’ right wing host Chris Kenny.
Taylor claimed that renewables “will push out baseload power…. the intermittent generation that is being stuffed into the sector will have to be backed up, and that’s extremely expensive … networks will have to be rebuilt to absorb all of this new intermittent capacity coming in, and we all going to pay for it.” All these opinions appear to be based on fantasy and are in direct contradiction to findings published by the Energy Security Board, the ACCC, the Australian Energy Market Commission and The Australian Energy Market Operator.
Frightening enough yet the minister’s comments come just a week after even more controversial comments made to his old mate from the anti-wind rally Alan Jones. In the interview Taylor told Jones he thought there was “...too much intermittent power – wind and solar – in the electricity system” and that he was ready to do something about it (whatever that means).
So, why did our PM pick a bloke so unsuited for the job of guiding Australia’s energy policy into the 21st century and lead the charge towards a sustainable future? Worse still, is the promotion of Taylor to the energy portfolio a signal that he is being groomed as a future leadership contender? The way the Liberals recycle their leaders may mean Taylor will be PM by Christmas.
Those with their eye on the television news and political social media will recall ScoalMo was the one who brandished a lump of coal at the Opposition benches during Question Time earlier this year. Yes, I kid you not. Was our now PM a backbencher at the time, trying to curry favour with the fossil fuel lobbyists? Perhaps looking for a donation or three from the ranks of the Big Miners? No, Scotty was our Treasurer. Let that sink in. And when it has, realise that our Treasurer waving coal in Parliament were images that were shown around the world. We are a laughing stock when it comes to renewable energy policy, this perverse piece of political theatre has just served to underline this.
Taking this into account, would Angus be the perfect choice for ScoalMo to park his butt in the Energy portfolio, thereby destroying any chance the LNP may have had in supporting a renewable energy near future. Fossil fuel titans would be absolutely delighted with Morrison’s pick, allowing them to continue extracting fossil fuels for energy use at great damage to the environment and climate for the foreseeable future.
Part of the “keep kicking the can down the road for as long as you can” approach by fossil fuel companies to maximise profits has been to support the “right” candidate for top energy and environment portfolios. One who is guaranteed to support fossil fuels’ apparent right to keep polluting and sending our climate into a tailspin and pollute our country’s environment for future generations. In Angus Taylor, the fossil fuel companies appear to have come up trumps. The result of many decades of trashing and burning any attempt at sensible policy on encouraging renewable energy.
However in fairness to Taylor, he has denied being a total climate sceptic. Here’s an excerpt from his speech to the now notorious anti-wind rally.
“I am not a climate sceptic. For 25 years, I have been concerned about how rising carbon dioxide emissions might have an impact on our climate. It remains a concern of mine today. I do not have a vendetta against renewables. My grandfather was William Hudson - he was the first Commissioner and Chief Engineer of the Snowy Scheme, Australia's greatest ever renewable scheme. He believed in renewables and renewables have been in my blood since the day I was born.”
Perhaps asking “who is Angus Taylor?” is the wrong question. Maybe we should be asking “Is he fit to be taking Australia into the future with renewable and forward-thinking energy policies?” The evidence, based on what we have heard, must be a resounding NO.
Rich Bowden is a freelance writer, podcaster, family man, coffee drinker and news junkie. He spends most of his time looking puzzled and saying stuff like “you’re never too old to learn” to anyone who will listen. Likes a laugh. Otherwise harmless. Podcasts at Climactic, The Real Food Chain and Permaculture Plus.