Friday, March 31, 2017

Waleed Aly – Fantasy that Coal has a Future

Symmetry isn't always beautiful. Take this week, when Victoria's coal-fired Hazelwood power plant ground to its inevitable halt just as President Trump signed his coal-fired executive order undoing the bulk of the Obama administration's climate change policies.

These are, of course, diametrically opposed developments in obvious ways: Trump's order is aimed at prolonging the lives of precisely the kinds of coal power extinguished at Hazelwood. But in truth they're telling the same story. It's a story of steady decline, artificial enemies and false hope. And it's a story that tends only to produce misery.

To grasp this, consider the state of Australian climate policy. We are a nation that chose to ditch a carbon price, opting instead for a policy that pays companies that want to abate some of their emissions, while leaving undisturbed those who don't. We did so on the promise of keeping power prices low and rescuing high-emissions jobs. And yet here we are with energy prices surging and coal power plants closing – nine of them in the past five years.

Hazelwood isn't the victim of a green revolution in Canberra. And it hasn't been saved by the Abbott-led brown one. If any green movement did this it comes to us from France, the home of Hazelwood's owner company, Engie. Engie is closing coal power plants all over the place – in Belgium and the UK before Australia – and not by accident. In fact, it's intending to ditch all its coal plants because it wants to focus on renewables. That's the business decision it has made.

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