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Monday, 24 September 2007

More on Howard's "Clean Energy Target"

Since reading this morning's announcement and posting my initial response, I've come across more coverage from the ABC including an interview with Federal Minister for the Environment, Malcolm Turnbull. The transcript is here.

Apart from the mandatory political bluster and spin, there was this most amazing statement from the minister:
"Our approach to climate change... is pragmatic and practical. We are determined to meet this [target], we are determined to get to the point in the course of this century, where the whole world has a zero emission electricity sector, and we will aim to achieve that in Australia, but we've got to get there and do it practically."
I was only this morning wondering to myself when we'd see a political party come out with some kind of long-term vision for energy supply, and in particular whether it was too much to ask for a party to look ahead to a 100% renewable, sustainable energy infrastructure. Out of the blue (no political pun intended) Mr Turnbull drops half of my dream into a national radio interview.

The whole world, with a zero emission electricity sector, this century. Credit where it's due: that's a great goal.

However... and you knew that had to be coming... zero emissions technology does not necessarily mean sustainable or even particularly desirable technology. Wind power has no waste products. Coal plants have megatonnes of CO2, fly ash and contaminated water, plus an ongoing dependence on oil for coal mining and transportation. Uranium-based nuclear is arguably worse. And in time even coal and uranium supplies will dwindle, leaving the world dependent on a greater energy supply than it can sustain.

(Rhetorically:) Minister, what would it take for you to at least aspire to a truly sustainable clean energy future? If not this century, then next? How much could we achieve even by 2050 if we truly put our hearts into it?

I begrudgingly concede that this is a step in the right direction, a slight improvement over what was. But I have to agree with John Connor of the Climate Institute who pointed out that Spain has a target of 30% renewable energy by 2020, prompting the question of why in sun-drenched Australia we couldn't aim to match or better that.

Still a case of "target, schmarget" as far as I'm concerned. Somebody bring me some real policy.

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