Energy white paper “climate and technology illiterate”

Friends of the Earth Australia press release, 13/12/2011

Friends of the Earth renewable energy campaigner Ben Courtice says the draft Energy White Paper released today by the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism “suffers from a bad case of climate and technology illiteracy”.

“Its commitment to climate action makes frequent reference to the need to do something without reference to any targets or science other than the Australian government’s existing carbon price policy. An honest analysis of current climate science would have us on a crash course to 100% renewable energy”.

Instead, the paper promotes gas. It even abandons any notion of emissions standards for new coal and gas plants.

Courtice said, “This reliance solely on the carbon price gives us decades of gas dependency – and will fail to deliver on emissions reductions.

“Fossil gas seems to become more dirty with every study done, especially unconventional CSG and shale gas that rely on destructive “fracking”. Even conventional gas reserves are far too polluting, given our current climate predicament.

“We clearly need much more imaginative, direct measures that will ensure the transition to renewables not to gas.”

The report also promotes carbon capture and storage (CCS) for fossil fuel generation. “CCS is slipping further away from viability with every new report and study”, Courtice said. “This pie-in-the-sky idea is just a figleaf of “clean technology” to hide ongoing fossil fuel dependence.”

The paper attacks the Renewable Energy Target (RET), which has been driving what expansion Australia has seen in renewable energy. The paper points out that renewables are keeping down wholesale electricity prices in the National Energy Market. This could make gas generators (the most expensive on the NEM spot market) uncompetitive. The paper threatens to review such “complementary” measures as the RET.

“For a report that seeks to promote gas, this may be problematic. Yet we need more renewable energy, not more gas. Supporters of renewable energy should take this as a serious threat to the little government support renewable energy currently enjoys,” Courtice said.

“In keeping with its naked fossil-fuel priorities, the report is ignorant of the current potential of renewable energy technology.

“The report’s target for our 2050 renewable energy includes a pathetic 3% from large scale solar – a proven generation technology with enormous potential in this most sunny continent. Wind is a paltry 13-15% despite already being over 20% in South Australia, and clearly having much more potential across the continent.

“Geothermal energy is projected at a relatively massive 13-23% despite the fact that Australia’s main geothermal resource is an unproven, hypothetical hot dry rock resource, not conventional geothermal. We hope it’s that good, but it would be better to rely on what’s proven.

“This paper’s technological and scientific illiteracy is only providing a smokescreen for its commitment to maintaining the fossil fuel industry, come hell or high water – both of which climate change will indeed bring us if we do not replace fossil fuels rapidly.”

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