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Scott Ludlam’s viral video

Scott Ludlam’s viral video

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.


By Barry Brook

Barry Brook is an ARC Laureate Fellow and Chair of Environmental Sustainability at the University of Tasmania. He researches global change, ecology and energy.

8 replies on “Scott Ludlam’s viral video”

Even the Japanese have realized that it is prudent to restart their reactors rather than import and burn gas. They do not even have pipelines and have to get it shipped.
i am sure that Germans could also safely manage their reactors if their government were so inclined.
India and Australia are neighbors in the Indian oceans and the leaders keep on visiting to develop trade. Indians have cheapest nuclear plants on the planet and Australians have biggest uranium reserves. They have not yet been able to trade these goods.


The reason we have fracking is because fracking will make some people very, very wealthy. It will make them even more wealthy than they have become already by exporting huge quantities of gas which we need here.
It has nothing whatever to do with nuclear power.


Good comment Barry. The opposition to Nuclear Energy is an act of faith with no substance whatsoever. I am not sure how you turn that around – all our politicians look to the anti-nuclear movement for marginal seats and do not “have the stomach for this fight” – yet. But sooner or later the message must get through – keep going after it.


I disagree with the claim that “If the nuclear roll out of the 1970s had continued, there’d be little or no gas fracking today.”

The main reason is that fracking also exists to extract oil, which is now mainly used as a liquid fuel for transport and as a raw material for chemistry. Nuclear could never have hoped to displace oil between the 70s and now, because the technology for electrical vehicles has extended to cars and trucks. In short, oil is used for cars and trucks because it’s liquid, has a low weight yet a high energy content.

For gas, the case is less clear cut as it can be more readily replaced by electricity and therefore nuclear power. Yet, I find hard to believe that nuclear power would have displaced gas in heating and peak electricity production.


Great post Geoff. I discussed energy substitution in an earlier post:

Taking a long-run historical perspective, it is clear that advocacy against one fuel is essentially arguing for another – the US provides a classic case-study of energy substitution for electricity of coal/natural gas/fracked gas/nuclear – whether fracking at current gas market prices is sustainable is another question –

But of course as Proteos notes, there are practical constraints on substitution, particularly for transport. But low-cost baseload will be (eventually) ideal for EV’s and France, for example, relies on electricity for heating. We can already see oil/gas being pushed down the EROI curve and the next major step in countries with readily available coal will be coal-to-liquids.


Proteos, substantial substitution of gasoline by electricity was quite feasible even in the 1970’s.  The lead-acid battery is sufficient for plug-in hybrids (albeit crude ones by 21st-century standards) and the ability to buffer energy would have helped make the cranky engine pollution controls of the era much more effective by limiting throttle transients.  The market for traction batteries would have jump-started the revolution that had to wait for ubiquitous portable electronics in our world.

Sadly, Geoff is right about Greens:  they do take their beliefs as a package deal, or rather a dogma, and very few can justify those beliefs based on facts let alone rationally evaluate and debate them based on their worth for helping the environment, by which I mean the world’s climate (no nuclear accident to date seems to have had any serious negative effect on even the local environment).  Sadly, the behavior of such people gives credence to the denialist assertion that Green is a religion.  It behooves them to debunk that assertion by making a firm break with the stereotype.


Just found the blog. I agree with the greens and the ideological package. If I joined the Catholic Church and said I didn’t believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, I’d be ex-communicated. And if I joined the Green Party and said I didn’t believe that nuclear power was a terrible thing, I’d also be ex-communicated, and much faster I would guess for the latter sin. The bodily resurrection of Christ is an absolute act of faith in the Catholic Church, there is no evidence but you just HAVE to believe it. Similarly the bullshit about nuclear power is equally an absolute act of faith in the Green Party, there is no evidence but you just HAVE to believe it.


Funny that Scott is the most technically aware of the Greens.

Mind you.. This infinite renewable power business has me wondering about upgrading my batteries just in case there is a minor surge..

Maybe he did math with Sen Cormann


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