EDITORIAL: by Peter WestmoreNews Weekly
A tale of two countries ...
, August 2, 2008
In stark contrast to Australia, France derives 90 per cent of its electricity from hydro-electricity and nuclear power.As I watched the direct telecast of the Tour de France, as much to see the magnificent scenery of provincial France as the race itself, one of the commentators made a passing comment that almost all of France's electricity comes from hydroelectricity and nuclear power.
I subsequently discovered that about 90 per cent of France's power comes from these sources, which helps to explain why France is able to reduce its dependence on imported petroleum and meet its greenhouse gas reduction targets.
The contrast with Australia could not be more stark.
Australia is heavily dependent on coal-fired power stations which, according to the Australian Coal Association, produce around 85 per cent of Australia's electric power which is used not only for domestic purposes, but also sustains some of Australia's largest industries, including the manufacture of aluminium, most of which is exported.
Combustion of coal produces carbon dioxide, and so the electricity generators, which have an outstanding record of producing low-cost energy on which Australia's prosperity is based, are now to be the victims of the new carbon-trading scheme unveiled by Canberra academic, Professor Ross Garnaut.Expert?
Despite being widely described as the Government's "climate change expert", Professor Garnaut is neither a scientist nor an expert on environmental policy.
He is an academic economist. It is instructive to quote from the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia, of which Professor Garnaut is a fellow. It describes him as a "Professor of Economics, Division of Economics, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies" at the Australian National University.
It adds: "His research interests are focused on China's economic reforms and internationalisation; Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation; Australia's economic relations with the Asia Pacific region, and domestic economic adjustment to Asia Pacific economic development."
So much for climate change!
If Mr Rudd was serious about Australia reducing its dependence on coal, one might have expected him to follow France's example, of increasing construction of hydroelectric or nuclear power plants.
In fact, Labor has ruled out both these options.
Late last month, Mr Rudd repeated earlier statements that Australia would not use its substantial uranium resources to develop a nuclear power industry, and his point was reinforced by a spokesman for Resources Minister Martin Ferguson who categorically ruled out accepting nuclear waste from any other country and any nuclear enrichment program in Australia.
And Labor is against any expansion of hydroelectric power, either in the Snowy Mountains or in Tasmania.
While Mr Rudd is pressing ahead with the introduction of a carbon tax from 2010, it is interesting to note that, at the recent summit in Japan of the Group of Eight (G8) nations, China and India - two of the fastest growing nations in the world - stated that they would not accept quantitative limits on CO2 emissions.
This followed a G8 statement that the developed nations would set a goal of halving greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
India's Prime Minister, Manhohan Singh, said his country's immediate priority was to eradicate poverty, and it could not even consider quantitative restrictions on CO2 emissions.
China's President Hu Jintao was a little more diplomatic. He said, "As countries represented at this meeting differ in terms of their stage of development, level of scientific and technological development and national conditions, our endeavour to combat climate change should be guided by the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities."
He claimed, falsely, that China was making steady efforts to control greenhouse gas emissions, but stated that "developed countries should make explicit commitments to continue to take the lead in emissions reductions".
A far clearer picture of China's position comes from the Chinese government news service, Xinhua.
It said that leaders of developed and emerging economies were unable to agree on emissions targets at the G8 summit, and Chinese economists endorsed the stance of the developing countries.
"They said it would be 'unreasonable' and 'unfair' if developing countries had to accept equal responsibility on emissions-reductions targets set by the G8 industrial powers," Xinhua said.
In the meantime, Mr Rudd is hell-bent on introducing an emissions-trading scheme which will be an effective tax on energy, forcing even more of Australia's beleaguered manufacturing industries to shut down or move off-shore.
Along with the impact of drought and rising fuel prices, it will also signal the death-knell for much of Australia's agriculture, on which Australia's prosperity has traditionally rested.
The impact of Mr Rudd's utterly futile policies will be felt by all Australians.- Peter Westmore is national president of the National Civic Council.