Guest Post by Geoff Russell.
Scott Ludlam is a Western Australian Senator with a last minute reprieve after losing his seat at the last Federal election. Ludlam will get a second change when WA has a fresh Senate election next month after the now infamous electoral office bungle which saw some 1,400 ballot papers lost. This makes him a very lucky boy.
A few days ago Ludlam rose to an empty parliamentary chamber in the nation’s capital and delivered a speech that has gone as close to viral as serious politics ever goes. When I say “empty”, I’m just rounding down from the one person present. But when I say “viral”, I don’t need to round up because his you tube clip is at 461,698 views and rising … with thumbs up dominating the thumbs down.
It’s a great speech and I share Ludlam’s contempt for our compassionless Government. But one small section sticks out as being just plain ill-informed. Unfortunately many Greens take their beliefs as a package deal and don’t respond well to criticism of particular components, but that’s the thing about the real world, it’s full of exceptions to rules and cases where general principles need to be put aside in favour of actually thinking through the problem. Energy production is one such area and Scott would do well to follow is own advice and dump his anti-nuclear slogans. They don’t work as policy.
Consider the way Ludlam lumps gas fracking in with the nuclear electricity industry without understanding that the two are inversely related, meaning that the reason we have fracking is because nuclear power got blocked by the anti-nuclear movement. If the nuclear roll out of the 1970s had continued, there’d be little or no gas fracking today.
It’s not complicated, you just need a little history.
Gas fracking and the whole grab back of unconventional oil technologies (shale oil, tar sands, coal-to-oil conversion, etc) have exploded during the past couple of decades on the back of the US struggle for energy independence. Natural gas production in the US fell during the decade from 1973 to 1983 and then it began to rise. Thirty years on, and it’s at an all time peak. Consider the dates. That decade of gas decline was when the US was building it nuclear fleet. And the minute that fleet roll out got scuppered by the anti-nuclear movement … gas production was back in business. Prior to the nuclear roll out of the 70s, the US burned bucket loads of oil for electricity. The nuclear roll out stopped that and it never restarted because oil got priced out of that market. But when the nuclear builds were stymied, and conventional oil supplies became more expensive to find, then unconventional oils got their chance. Australia mirrors these events except that we never had nuclear.
By rejecting both gas and nuclear as a package, Ludlam is throwing the baby out with the fracking bath water.
And what does he want in it’s place?
Quote … “infinite flows of renewable energy”,.
This from someone who claims to value “education, innovation and equality” in addition to biodiversity and (presumably) minimising the destruction to the natural environment.
At this point we need to think about Ukraine, Germany and the renewable energy revolution that’s been underway now in Germany for 14 years. Thankfully, it’s failed. Why “Thankfully”? Have a look at Germany’s energy balance.
The big purple and blue bands are Germany’s oil and gas imports and a large percentage come from Russia. Can you pick out the thin red line down the bottom … marked “Other prod”? That’s the wind+solar part of the “revolution”. It’s about 6.4 of the 362 Mtoe (million tonnes of oil equivalent) energy production plus imports. The green line (26.7 Mtoe) marked “Bio/waste prod” is Germany burning waste and wood. If Ludlam thinks Abbott hates trees, just wait until Greg Hunt wants to do an Angela Merkel and burn them for renewable electricity. About half of Germany’s forestry output is currently part of that green line.
The great part about those Russian oil and gas imports, not just into Germany, but elsewhere in the EU, is that nobody wants to upset these flows. The EU want the oil and gas while Russia wants the cash. Which means nobody wants a bloody big war. It’s clear watching evening news reports that neither the Russian nor the Ukrainian armies really want to kill each other. It was positively uplifting a few nights back to see the Ukrainian army disarm and march up to the Russians requesting them to “please leave”. That’s my kind of war! Some generals will be old enough to have served together in the Soviet era. Let’s hope the extreme militias from both sides don’t screw things up.
To imagine an EU with energy independence and a Putin led Government who didn’t need to sell oil and gas to stay solvent is far more scary. So we can all be thankful that the German renewable revolution has been a flop. Which brings us back to Ludlam.
If you care about the environment Scott, and if you go back to basics and think hard about nuclear power, then you will eventually realise that it is a large part of the solution, it isn’t the enemy so you need to separate it from the rest of your ideological grab bag of ideas.