Tuesday, 1 July 2008

More discussion re: Australian nuclear power

This time it comes from the editorial staff of the Geelong Advertiser (sorry no web link to the story - this one is only in the print version).

[emphases added]

The pro-nuke stance of two such heavyweights [Howes and Carr] -- the AWU is the country's biggest blue-collar union -- marks a watershed in traditional Labor thinking. Exorcising the old ghosts, however, won't be an easy task. While greenhouse concerns mighty be high, angst about disposing of nuclear waste remains front and centre in the thinking of many Labor supporters.

But industry and job concerns are running high within Labor also, linked intrinsically as they are to the rising costs of greenhouse emission cuts. Who wants to lose jobs and mangle the nation's economy on an altar of self-sacrifice that achieves little, if anything, to help the planet? Especially while greenhouse villains such as China continue their economic growth and assault on our domestic manufacturing. And this, driven by the Australian mining sector China is hell-bent on buying up to cut out the middle-man and assume greater economic independence?

For all the strife brewing within the ALP over nuclear power, time may well show that Kevin Rudd is inclined toward the thinking of Carr and Howe[s]. Industry and jobs hold powerful sway over any government, as do consumer prices. Anyone who thinks the cost of turning green, without nuclear power, is going to be affordable simply hasn't even attempted to do their sums.
On the same day as the above editorial, Minister for Climate Change, Penny Wong discussed the results of a recent poll where 61% of Australians are in favour of an emissions trading scheme and 56% say they are willing to pay higher energy prices to achieve it. I was happy to read that Wong said any scheme will not be designed around polls.

Wong then refers to ongoing discussions following Garnaut's report. Assuming this report becomes the first of its kind that is not dismissed as an underestimate within 12 to 18 months of its issue date, it remains unclear when Australia can expect to see the results of some policy action [e.g. emissions begin to level off - let alone begin to decrease].

Based on Wong's prediction of ongoing 'discussions' and Rudd's statement that government is "...proceeding on this policy development process, calmly, coolly methodically, responsibly..." I would not be surprised if the implementation date for an emissions trading scheme conveniently slipped to after the next election. I hope I am very wrong and election politics take a backseat to emissions cuts. Considering the projected economic pain of the scheme's implementation, I doubt I will be.

As the GA editorial staff has outlined above, keeping nuclear power off the table will undoubtedly complicate any discussions and challenge progress on real emission cuts [as the Greens push for the techno-economically unachievable cuts of 40% of 1990 levels by 2020]. If the strategy is indeed to defer the release of the detailed emissions trading scheme let alone its implementation until after the next election - holding back discussions of nuclear would help in this regard.

Similar sentiments are laid out in a report by Janet Albrechtsen for The Australian.

Howes says that the support for an emissions trading system is not as strong as many people think. "Once you educate the public about the costs they will have to wear, voter support will drop away. We need to be realistic about the subsidies that will be required for business. Handing out wads of cash to working families is not going to alleviate the pain of a loss of jobs. If we are going to reduce emissions and have jobs in society, we need to secure baseload power, and until the technology for that is available we need a genuine bipartisan approach to developing nuclear power in Australia."
The report is centred on a comparison of the upcoming American and recent Australian elections and the complexities of implementing a genuinely effective emissions trading scheme.

Without nuclear, there is no credible, technically defendable solution for Australia.

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