Published at RenewEconomy.
Treasurer Joe Hockey’s recent comments branding wind farms “utterly offensive” and “blight on the landscape” has drawn attention to the Coalition’s views on renewable energy technology.
Crikey reviewed the position of key Coalition politicians on wind energy in the weeks after the election of the Abbott government in September 2013. It identified one lone pro-wind energy MP—Warren Entsch, Member for Leichhardt—among the Coalition’s ranks.
More recently, RenewEconomy has published an analysis identifying key state and federal politicians who are opposed to renewable energy. Predictably, the list is dominated by members of the Liberal and National parties, including the likes of PM Abbott, Treasurer Hockey and Premier Napthine.
Interestingly, both analyses omit a leading opponent of wind energy and the Renewable Energy Target: Angus Taylor, the Member for Hume.
Angus Taylor is a staunch critic of wind energy and the national Renewable Energy Target. He is also linked to research supporting the gas industry. The omission of Taylor in previous analysis can be put down to his status as a first time MP with little political influence. Yet, with party faithful have branding Taylor a “star” recruit and a “future PM“, he’s someone to watch.
Let’s recap Angus Taylor’s anti-renewable energy activism to date:
- February 2013, then candidate Angus Taylor ruffled feathers among seasoned Liberal party politicians with his attempt to put the overhaul of the Renewable Energy Target on the agenda. Angus Taylor circulated a report by Port Jackson Partners—a firm were he was a director—to mount the case for scrapping the Renewable Energy Target. Senior Liberal Ian Macfarlane rebuked Taylor for his manoeuvre which challenged party policy: “We support the RET. I am not sure Angus does.”
Energy policy commentator Giles Parkinson dissects the Port Jackson Partners report in a thorough analysis at RenewEconomy. “[The PJP report is] based around a whole series of false assumptions,” wrote Parkinson. “It is more likely to push up costs by around $1 billion a year.”
- In June 2013, Angus Taylor fronted and anti-wind farm rally at Parliament House in Canberra. The so-called ‘National wind power fraud rally’ was organised by the clandestine anti-wind farm website Stop These Things. The event was an embarrassing flop for wind energy opponents. A Rally 4 Renewables held in Canberra on the same day attracted ten-times as many people.
- In August 2013, Taylor opined in the Goulburn Post criticising the Renewable Energy Target. Taylor claimed “the exorbitant costs” of the Renewable Energy Target “flows through to the cost of electricity, making it much higher for every electricity consumer in the nation.” Prospective wind farmer and Hume constituent, Charlie Prell and I penned the following rejoinder which showed Taylor’s claims to be greatly exaggerated.
- In October 2013, Angus Taylor, now the Member for Hume, published a media release in citing a skewed report by a real estate valuer purporting to show wind farms deflate land value. “The study shows potentially dramatic negative impacts on the value of property located near wind farms,” claimed Taylor in the Goulburn Post (21.10.13). “In some cases, land has been identified as dropping up to a staggering 60 percent in value.”
Close observer of the wind energy sector, Dave Clarke, contested the claims at Yes 2 Renewables, pointing out the flaws in the Peter Reardon study which relied on a sample size of just 13-15 properties. In contrast, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s comprehensive research on wind energy and property prices examined 50,000 transactions. The Berkeley Laboratory concluded there’s “no statistical evidence that operating wind turbines have had any measurable impact on home sales prices.”
- In November 2013, ABC News revealed Angus Taylor was a member of the Peter Reith-led taskforce the Victorian government charged with investigating the development of a coal seam gas industry in the state. “[A]ll the taskforce members, except for Mr Reith, represent energy companies or associated industries and lobby groups,” wrote ABC journalist Jeff Waters.
- In November, Taylor issued yet another media release criticising wind energy and the Renewable Energy Target. Taylor claimed the Renewable Energy Target constituted a “massive subsidy” and alluded to the policy forcing up electricity prices. Additional comments from the MP present wind energy as divisive—a narrative opponents of wind energy frequently use in the media.
- Yes 2 Renewables has been told that Angus Taylor briefed the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry on the Renewable Energy Target in December. The chamber has emerged as a leading supporter of the Dick Warburton review of the Renewable Energy Target. In February, ACCI called on the government to “unwind” the target. According to ABC, ACCI chief economist Burchell Wilson backs a cut to the RET.
- In April 2014, Angus Taylor joined New South Wales MPs Pru Goward and John Barilaro to attack the ACT government for its’ commitment to a 90 per cent renewable energy target by 2020. The ambitious target will stimulate demand for new wind farms in the region.
With the Dick Warburton review of the Renewable Energy Target underway, and the Abbott government’s energy white paper and wind energy/health review on the horizon, it’ll be interesting to see how Angus Taylor builds on his activism.