For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.

Richard Feynman

Consultant Dan

30 April 2012

Clive Palmer's federal politics push against renewable energy

This was republished on ABC Online.

If Clive Palmer is elected to Parliament, it will put a face to the ‘Greenhouse Mafia’, which could be a very good thing.

For 20 years the climate debate has been spinning in circles. The worlds biggest miners and polluters have used every trick in the book to sabotage progress.

They have funded extremism and confusion, to hide their interests. Now that democracy is on the verge of fixing the problem, they are taking on democracy.

When the public sees a coal billionaire in Parliament, the penny will drop. The whole climate debate has been a charade of false claims and abstract policy. Palmer will make it a concrete battle of interests; coal versus everyone else.

In the USA, the coal versus everyone reality was hidden for years. This involved funding right-wing hate groups, supporting Sarah Palin and spending billions on political lobbying and advertising, to undermine rational politics.

In Australia, we had it all revealed in 2006, when ABC’s Four Corners featured a whistleblower, Guy Pearse. Pearse explained how the government of Prime Minister John Howard had undermined renewable energy technologies, to protect the interests of the miners and polluters.

There are five elements to the political strategies of the polluters and those who share their quarry vision for Australia:

  1. Smear solar and wind as expensive and unreliable
  2. Depict coal, gas (and even nuclear power) as reliable and cheap
  3. Force governments to provide polluters with taxpayer handouts
  4. Undermine the environmental movement
  5. Manipulate the renewable energy sector

If this strategy is prosecuted by Clive Palmer, in the Parliament, everyone will understand what has been going on for years.

The most striking fact that Guy Pearse revealed is that these corporate leaders actually called themselves the ‘Greenhouse Mafia’. It is the political equivalent of a Freudian slip. It is as if they know, in their hearts, that there is something thuggish about their lobbying.

Any rational person will know that these Mafiosi are kidding themselves. A healthy economy relies on a healthy environment. By soiling our environment, they are soiling their environment. There is only one Earth.

The only way that the Greenhouse Mafia has been allowed to throw its power around, is by masking it behind the facade of the political parties. As journalists put it, the most corrosive impact of spin-doctoring and lobbying is to hide the facts. The ultimate aim of spin is not to nuance the bad stories, but to keep them out of the media completely.

Australia could be a renewable energy superpower, but we are throwing away that wealth and opportunity. This story has to be kept out of the media, in order to protect the polluters.

Under the Labor Government, the job of keeping this story out of the media goes to Martin Ferguson, Minister for Energy, Resources and Tourism. Ferguson is the Mafia’s enforcer, who bullies the clean energy sector into submission and confuses the public with false information.

For example, Minister Ferguson artificially inflates the economic costs of renewable energy. His department is the lead agency on energy, so its false information about solar and wind flows through the rest of government. This is why even independent, credible agencies such as the Productivity Commission use inflated costs for clean energy.

Another example, in a recent speech, Ferguson attacked community groups who are campaigning for solar energy. He did not name them, but was clearly aiming at 100% Renewable Campaign, Australian Youth Climate Coalition, Beyond Zero Emissions and GetUp!

Despite all this, Australians still love renewable energy, even more than people in other countries. More than 80% want an increase in solar and wind. (During the John Howard era, the figure was around 90%.) But our democracy has been ‘carbon captured’ and ignores the wishes of the electorate, the needs of the economy and the limits of the planet.

That is why it would be good to have Mr Palmer’s presence in Parliament, directly representing himself and Australia’s other mining billionaires. As the wags in the environment movement put it, he puts the ‘coal’ into the coalition.

The answer is not to ridicule Palmer but for the clean energy lobby to ‘man up’, as Sarah Palin would say, and put its case to the public. Whether or not Palmer is our next Minister for Energy and Resources, the solar and wind industries have to get organised and put their case to the electorate, simply and clearly. (Or will Clive Palmer become Minister Against Climate Science?)

Greens and Labor have negotiated a $13.2 billion dollar package for clean energy, as part of the carbon tax. What has the renewable sector done to explain the value of this? Where are the wall-to-wall ad campaigns that the mining industry runs to advance its agenda?

The good news is that an Abbott-Palmer government would be a one term wonder, if the media does its job properly. Every day there is a good news story about renewable energy somewhere in the world. The Press Gallery would be able to door-stop Mr Palmer every day and ask for his response.

Here are some recent examples, Mr Palmer should respond to, if he seriously wants to become a politician.

  • Last week UK Prime Minister David Cameron said, ‘As a result, renewables are now the fastest growing energy source on the planet. And I am proud that Britain has played a leading role at the forefront of this green energy revolution.’
  • The China Development Bank has provided US$47 billion to help the solar and wind industries, just since 2010.
  • This month Wells Fargo, the largest US mortgage lender, announced US30 billion for green economy investments.
  • Brazil is bringing in a progressive feed in tariff, to turbo charge the development of its solar industry.
  • Modelling commissioned by the International Trade Union Confederation shows that an investment of 2% GDP in emerging market economies could create 18 million green jobs over the next 5 years. G20 nations could generate 24 million green jobs.

Clive Palmer is entitled to run for election, on an agenda of self-interest and climate denialism. But he has to start to acknowledge the facts and explain why he thinks Australians don’t deserve the benefits of renewable energy and a clean environment.

Postscript

The article has been a big success.

There were more comments on The Drum piece than for any other article I’ve had published by the ABC and they were of higher quality. The article was attacked by The Australian .


Jane R [Wed 9 May 2012, 7:48PM] said:

Martin Ferguson is no friend of renewable energy. Maybe we will see some action now the Clean Energy Finance Corporation is out of his department. Maybe he and Clive Palmer can form their own party – Martin seems to have more in common with Clive than he has with the greener parts of the ALP.

Dan Cass [Wed 9 May 2012, 8:20PM] said:

Jane – that is an excellent suggestion; Clive Palmer and Martin Ferguson can form their own political party.

What would it be called, I wonder?

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