Beware Of The Foolish Politics Of Climate Change
Last week, while America dithered over whether or not to depose Syria’s president, an ocean away, a different leader was decisively dumped. The election of Australia’s new prime minister has international implications.
On September 5, in a landslide election, Tony Abbot became Australia’s new Prime Minister—restoring the center-right Liberal-National coalition after six years of leftward economic polices. Conservatives the world over are looking to learn from Abbott. In the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), Tom Switzer, sums up the “resounding victory” this way: “Abbott did the very thing so many US Republicans and British Tories have shied away from in recent years: He had the courage to broaden the appeal of a conservative agenda rather than copy the policies of his opponents. As a result, Australians enjoyed a real choice at the polls.”
Conservatives have a right to be rejoicing. As Jerry Bowyer points out in Forbes: “the Anglosphere is now post progressive. The English speaking nations of the world: England, New Zealand, Canada and now Australia are governed by conservatives. America stands apart from them as the sole remaining major leftist-governed power in the Anglo world.” He then points out how the English-speaking peoples “tend to move in a sort of partial political sync with one another.”
While this should sound alarms for liberals, the real panic is with the global warming alarmists.
Abbott is said to have run a “tight campaign”—though he was “remarkably vague over his economic plans.” The Financial Times reports: “Abbott was much clearer on his intention to scrap a carbon tax and a levy on miners’ profits.”
Abbott ran an almost single-issue campaign saying: “More than anything, this election is a referendum on the carbon tax.” While there are debates as to whether or not he will have the votes needed in the Senate to overturn the Labor Party’s policies (though it looks like he can do it), the will of the people couldn’t be clearer. As Switzer observes: “what changed the political climate was climate change.” In Slate.com, James West calls the election “the culmination of a long and heated national debate about climate change.” Abbot has previously stated: “Climate change is crap.”
Add to the Abbot story, the news about the soon-to-be-published Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's “fifth assessment report,” which “dials back on the alarm,” and you’ve got bad news for alarmists. Addressing Abbott’s win, West writes: “Politicians enthusiastic about putting a price on carbon in other countries must be looking on in horror.”
It is not just the politicians who are “looking on in horror.” It is everyone who has bought into, as the WSJ calls them, “the faddish politics of climate change”—those who believe we can power the world on rainbows, butterflies, and fairy dust are panicked. Their entire world view is being threatened.
This was clearly evident at last week’s hearing in Santa Fe, New Mexico, regarding the proposed change in compensation for electricity generated by rooftop solar installation. The hearing was scheduled in a room typically used for Public Regulatory Commission meetings. Well before the scheduled start time, it became clear that a bigger auditorium was needed—and it was filled to capacity. The majority was, obviously, there in support of solar—they were carrying signs. Thirty-nine of them gave public comment in opposition to the proposed rule changes. After each comment, they hooted, cheered and waved their signs—until the Chairman prohibited the sign waving. Two of the women went by only one name “Lasita” and “Athena,” with no last name—linking themselves to some goddess. Several referenced Germany’s success with renewable energy.
They were organized, rabid in their support, and intimidating to anyone who dared disagree. At one point, the Sierra Club representative, took control of the hearing and, completely ignoring the Chairman’s instructions, stood in the front of the room and, with hand-waving gestures, got everyone who was there in opposition to the proposed change to stand up and wave their signs. A smattering of individuals remained seated. Three of us spoke in favor of the proposed change. I brought up those who’d held up Germany as a model to follow and posited that they didn’t know the full story.
At the conclusion of the meeting, a petite woman marched up to me and demanded: “What do you do?” I calmly told her that I advocate on behalf of energy and the energy industry. “Oil?” she sneered. “Yes.” “Coal?” “Yes.” “Gas?” “Yes.” “Nuclear?” “Yes.” “It figures,” she hissed as she went off in a huff. When I approached my vehicle in the parking lot, I feared my tires might have been slashed. They weren’t.
Australia’s election was early this month. Germany’s is later—September 22. As climate change played a central role in Australia’s outcome, green policies are expected to be front and center in Germany’s election.
In an article titled: “Ballooning costs threaten Merkel’s bold energy overhaul,” Reuters points out that Merkel’s priority, assuming she wins a third term, “will be finding a way to cap the rising cost of energy.” “In the current election campaign,” Der Spiegel reports, “the federal government would prefer to avoid discussing its energy policies entirely.” Later, addressing Germany’s renewable energy policy it states: “all of Germany’s political parties are pushing for change. … If the government sticks to its plans, the price of electricity will literally explode in the coming years.”
German consumers pay the highest electricity prices in Europe. “Surveys show people are concerned that the costs of the energy transformation will drive down living standards.” Spiegel claims: “Today, more than 300,000 households a year are seeing their power shut off because of unpaid bills.” Stefan Becker, with the Catholic charity Caritas, wants to prevent his clients from having their electricity cut off. He says: “After sending out a few warning notices, the power company typically sends someone to the apartment to shut off the power –leaving the customers with no functioning refrigerator, stove or bathroom fan. Unless they happen to have a camping stove, they can't even boil water for a cup of tea. It's like living in the Stone Age.” This is known as Germany’s “energy poverty.”
Because of “aggressive and reckless expansion of wind and solar power,” as Der Spiegel calls it, “Government advisors are calling for a completely new start.” Gunther Oettinger, European Energy Commissioner, advised caution when he said Germany should not “unilaterally overexpose itself to climate protection efforts.”
While the solar supporters in Santa Fe touted the German success story—“more and more wind turbines are turning in Germany, and solar panels are baking in the sun”—“Germany's energy producers in 2012 actually released more climate-damaging carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than in 2011.” Surprisingly, according to Der Spiegel, Germany’s largest energy producer, E.on, is being told not to shut down older and inefficient coal-fired units. Many of the “old and irrelevant brown coal power stations” are now “running at full capacity.”
Interestingly, one of the proposed solutions for Germany’s chaotic energy system is much like what has been proposed in New Mexico and Arizona. Reuters writes: “instead of benefiting from a rise in green energy, they are straining under the subsidies’ cost and from surcharges.” The experts propose a system more like Sweden’s, in which “the government defines the objective but not the method.” Der Spiegel explains: “The municipal utilities would seek the lowest possible price for their clean electricity. This would encourage competition between offshore and terrestrial wind power, as well as between solar and biomass, and prices would fall, benefiting customers.” If implemented, the Swedish model “would eliminate the more than 4,000 different subsidies currently in place.”
The Financial Times reports: “Nine of Europe’s biggest utilities have joined forces to warn that the EU’s energy policies are putting the continent’s power supplies at risk.” It states: “One of the biggest problems was overgenerous renewable energy subsidies that had pushed up costs for energy consumers and now needed to be cut.”
“It is only gradually becoming apparent,” writes Der Spiegel, “how the renewable energy subsidies redistribute money from the poor to the more affluent, like when someone living in small rental apartment subsidizes a homeowner's roof-mounted solar panels through his electricity bill.” Sounds just like what I said in my public comment at the PRC hearing in Santa Fe.
Australia’s election changed leaders. Germany’s election will likely keep the same leader, but Merkel “has promised to change but not abolish the incentive system right after the election.”
While other countries are changing course and shedding the unsustainable policies, America stands apart from them by continuing to push, as the Washington Post editorial board encourages, building “the cost of pollution into the price of energy through a simple carbon tax or other market-based mechanism.” President Obama’s nominee to chair the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Ron Binz, believes in regulation and incentives to force more renewables and calls natural gas a “dead end.”
In a September 5 press release with the headline: “Administration Should Learn From Australia’s Carbon Tax Failure Before Committing US to Same,” Senator David Vitter (R-LA) says: “We can add Australia as an example to the growing list of failed carbon policies that are becoming so abundant in Europe.”
It is said: “The wise man learns from the mistakes of others, the fool has to learn from his own.” Sadly, it appears that the US has not learned to beware of the foolish politics of climate change.