Taylor bets $18 billion on emissions technology, ignores own hot air


On Tuesday, The Federal Government’s Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction, Angus Taylor, addressed the National Press Club to launch the first report into the Morrison Government’s Technology Investment Roadmap. The Statement outlines five priority technologies which the Government will focus $18 billion in taxpayers’ money over the next decade. 

These technologies are: 

  • Hydrogen production 
  • Long duration energy storage (6-8 hours or more) 
  • Low carbon steel and aluminium 
  • Carbon capture and storage (CCS) 
  • Soil carbon 

Following this prioritisation, Taylor also announced eleven key actions the Government would be taking, including the introduction of legislative reforms to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) “to give their boards flexibility to respond to the Government’s priorities.” This is to say, to obviate the words “Renewable” and “Clean” from each institution. This action is in itself indicative of the Morrison Government’s pretence of emissions reduction – they do not seek remission, for their power depends upon those who profit from the recurrence of complications. 

“Low emissions” euphemism

Taylor said “The Government’s plan has three key focuses – lower emissions, lower costs and more jobs…If these technologies achieve widespread deployment globally, they will significantly reduce emissions from energy, transport, agriculture and heavy industry.” Of course, the Government has fallen almost immediately in its three key focuses as CCS doesn’t lower emissions, increases costs, and doesn’t produce more jobs. This is especially true if CCS is used in combination with coal production. Simon Holmes à Court is so sure CCS+Coal is a dud that he’s offered this challenge: 

Holmes à Court is less pessimistic about CCS as a technology with a possible future use in sequestering gas emissions, decarbonising cement manufacture, as well as the potential for CCS and bioenergy to pull CO2 out of the atmosphere. Again however, it needs to be said, huge investment is being made on symptomatic treatments when the cure is readily administrable. 

Now, I’m more Promethean than most, like Taylor I do believe technology, innovation and creativity have always been the human sources of solutions to difficult problems. But the Morrison Government’s attempt to present itself (“technology not taxes”) as if it is the only technologically supportive group and any dissenters are Luddites is frankly ridiculous, and rather telling. The Government calls itself “technology neutral” in order to feed this self-aggrandising myth of its technological monopoly, but considering it threatens to build a gas-fired power plant every time it doesn’t get its way, “neutral” is the last word one would use. Indeed, if the Morrison Government is technologically agnostic, I’m the Pope. 

Taylor says that existing and proven technologies “like coal, gas, solar and wind will play important roles in Australia’s energy future, but are not the focus of the Roadmap.” 

Australia’s Chief Scientist Alan Finkel said that the Roadmap “addresses the biggest global challenge of our era – to rapidly reduce emissions in a way that supports economic growth.” And here in a sentence is the reason why a broad education is superior to a specialised one (and hence why the Morrison Government’s binning of the humanities is so horrifying). As Taylor should have told Finkel, for Taylor said he read Adam Smith at Oxford, the challenge is not to support economic growth, but to realise that it is the emissions themselves which hinder growth. In Smith’s era the challenge was the Atlantic Slave Trade, and as early as 1776, Smith realised that slavery, by definition, is a hindrance to economic growth for it limits those who can take part. Similarly, emissions hinder economic growth for they limit the renewable growth that will define the next phase of the global economy. 

“History has also shown that you don’t tax your way out of a challenge like this,” said Taylor, who should also know that a lot more history shows that the kind of tax breaks for the exceedingly wealthy that the Morrison Government is pushing for is the best way to cause a whole lot more problems. 

Taylor went on to say that the reason the Morrison Government is threatening to intervene in the energy market is because of the economic shocks of coal-fired power plant retirements which not only retired their energy but their inherent frequency control and energy storage, which solar and wind don’t come with. “So when we compared the cost of generation between wind and solar and traditional generators, we forgot about the services we were getting for free. We effectively compared a block of land with a house and land deal and assumed they were the same.” This analogy would hold some water if the Coalition hadn’t continually and perniciously halted construction on that land through its elision of the carbon trading scheme, its polarisation of energy policy, its lazy renewable energy targets etc. In other words, the Coalition didn’t invest in the right technologies a decade ago and they’re making the same mistake now. 

According to The Guardian former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull “was scathing about the approach of his former colleagues, describing government intervention as a substitute for a market mechanism, and the Coalition’s much-vaunted gas-led recovery, as ‘crazy’ and ‘mad ideology’ and ‘bonkers’.” 

Hydrogen, storage and electric vehicles 

Despite the Coalition’s best intentions, large scale investment in hydrogen, storage and electric vehicles (EVs) will produce some genuine technological advancements, although the Morrison Government has not committed to green hydrogen. 

Nevertheless, the lion’s share of new investment will be directed toward hydrogen, and unsurprisingly, the Australian Hydrogen Council (AHC) welcomed Taylor’s Statement. AHC CEO Fiona Simon said that the announcement highlights “the transformational impact that hydrogen will have on Australia’s economy…The AHC will continue to work with all hydrogen stakeholders on the required steps to reach the target of getting hydrogen to $2/kilogram and support the deployment and commercialisation of hydrogen.” 

ARENA CEO Darren Miller noted that new funding brought a broadened scope and shifted focus – away from solar and wind and toward hydrogen, energy storage, electric vehicles and enabling technologies.

The Smart Energy Council (SEC), on the other hand, no doubt delivered their response without an Angus Taylor issued autocue, calling the Technology Roadmap “a Road to Nowhere…directions to a dead end.” 

“The Technology Roadmap provides no destination, no targets, no clear direction,” said SEC Chief Executive John Grimes, “it just takes us to a dead end.” 

“Prime Minister Scott Morison has already made it clear gas has chosen itself’.” continued Grimes, “The Government’s energy policy has been written by the gas industry, for the gas industry and will try to fund and prolong the life of the gas industry.” 

“The roadmap does not tell us where we are going, by design,” states Grimes finally, “It is intended to impede, not facilitate clean energy progress.” 

The Clean Energy Council was less forthright but no less anxious, saying that the Roadmap shows promise “but fails to address crucial barriers to clean energy.” Clean hydrogen, energy storage and green steel are all roads to genuine destinations says the CEC, but the Morrison Government completely missed the opportunity to “prioritise the increased and better use of Australia’s wind and solar resources.” 

CEC Chief Kane Thornton said it was “surprising and disappointing” that the proven technologies of wind and solar which could have the greatest impact on decarbonising Australia’s energy system and economy are completely left out. 

The priorities, says the CEC, should be on “off-shore wind, renewable energy enablers, including grid-forming inverter technology, transmission network and integrated systems architecture as well as focus on much-needed development of the grid and reform of the energy market.

“This technology roadmap is no substitute for a comprehensive energy transition strategy,” says Thornton, “including target and policy, to lead the shift to clean energy.” 

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