by Ruth Hessey
posted 23/02/2017

Energy – What Energy?

powerful owl 05

We are living in the physical world (not the hair-conditioned Tower of Babble), as Canadian band Austra warbles angelically in Gaia, from their terrific album, Future Politics, which kicked off the show this week.

Relevant, because whether it’s coming from burning lumps of coal, spinning wheels or solar panels, the question of how we harness, channel and consume energy has been kicked loudly around by pollies from all quarters in the past few weeks.

Meanwhile black outs, price hikes, and heatwaves have converged to create a crisis in confidence for both business and domestic consumers at the very moment when science and popular culture have reached a consensus the political class seems reluctant to effectively address – climate change is happening, now. In Canberra they are still arguing about whether it’s real or not.

Interestingly, the market is starting to lead where government is lagging. Just this week, climate change has been recognised as a “material” risk to Australia’s financial system by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority. Which is another way of saying that Australia’s commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement, is now embedded in the investor mainstream as we transition to a low-carbon economy, whether the Coalition wants to admit it or not.

It was terrific to have clear headed Danny Price on Monday Drive this week, explaining what all this means to the average punter. A well known expert in energy economics, and managing Director of Frontier Economics, Danny has advised some of the largest energy utilities in the world, and worked with Malcom Turnbull in 2009 to create an Emissions Trading Scheme policy for the then Opposition leader. This didn’t end well for Turnbull, or the country as a whole, as Turnbull was ousted by climate change sceptic, and coal industry acolyte, Tony Abbott.

As Danny pointed out, both major political parties are still struggling to create a cohesive policy to meet the challenges ahead, even though it’s clear the Australian energy sector has to become cheaper greener and smarter if we are to meet our net zero emissions target by 2050. That figure is based on scientific advice that we must stop heating the planet by burning fuel ASAP.

“This lack of policy certainty is creating a hiatus in investment response,” said Danny, and jeopardising Australia’s future. “We have to start to plan for this right now.” Instead of forward thinking, what we have in Australia currently is “rear view vision” he said.

“It doesn’t help when government is engaged in juvenile tactics,” said Danny referencing the fondling of a lump of coal in parliament. “It needs to send a message to investors that this is a stable environment for long term investment. If they sit on their hands, the system will become insecure and the prices more volatile.”

morrison coal

Only this week, SMH reported that the impacts of burning coal are set to kill more people than WW2 – between 110 and 1500 died from heat stress this summer.

Listen as Danny Price drills through to the facts here.

Our ears were warming up so it was good to get some cool air in-between during our chat to Ken Boundy -‎Chairman at Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust, who reminded us how lucky Sydney is to have had the Macquaries plan the city 200 years ago.

“It was probably more  Elizabeth than Lachlan,” he said of the lady and her famous well placed chair. “But they both had a keen appreciation of the need for green infrastructure and set aside 40% from the CBD for parks and recreation.  That’s been gradually whittled away but the Macquaries showed tremendous vision.”

Lady M

With government aspiring to grow Sydney’s population by 50% over the next 25 years, the pressure we are already putting on the city’s breathing spaces, let alone the fact that we are not creating more of them, will come back to bite us, Boundy warned.

“We need to recognise the economic benefits that flow through directly from green infrastructure, like green grids and corridors,  street trees,  green walls and rooves, inner city patches of bush and urban wetlands. That’s where I think the Greater Sydney Commission will be very important building awareness.”

Click here for more info about the GSC.

Meanwhile we were sadly amused to hear that Upper hunter residents affected by noise pollution produced by open cut mines brought as much awful din as they could muster to a protest outside Newcastle’s NSW Environment Protection Authority office on Monday. Wind farms have copped a drubbing from the likes of Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott for their noisome qualities, but no money has been spent or air time wasted investigating the intolerable racket produced by the mining industry. In fact NSW Environment minister Gabrielle Upton is about to approve new guidelines which will increase daytime noise limits. Residents of Wollar, Muswellbrook and Bulga who turned up said there lives are being ruined, with 90% of Wollar locals forced to leave the area because of the commotion caused by the Wilpinjong Mine. It’s no laughing matter. We hope they really kicked up a stink!

Riley Lavelle Long was back with his charming and erudite film reviews – he covered both Marty Scorcese’s new film Silence and Matt Damon’s blockbuster The Great Wall.

Next week on Feb 27th, we welcome independent energy consultant Hugh Saddler to Monday Drive.

We’ll also talk to some Bundeena folk battling to preserve the precious habitat of the two nesting Powerful Owls, and a whole ecological community, in Spring Gully. Powerful Owl project officer Beth Mott has already sent us some recordings of the owls muted hooting on a moonlit night we can’t wait to play you.

We’ll also have a chat to Michael Galeazzi about the Jazz at the Pav series down at Bondi pavilion. 

Until then, take care of your ear drums – we’ve got big plans for them on Monday Drive!

100% renewable

Ruth and Riley

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