Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Labor to debate nuclear? I smell a rat.

Recent news stories have been highlighting some calls from within Labor to debate Australia's potential adoption of nuclear energy.

While this may appear to be delightful news to those who are keen for a nuclear debate. I am reluctant to let my hopes soar.

Nuclear energy lends itself to be a very effective tool of the coal industry when it comes to defending itself from climate change related threats. A price on carbon will - by design - threaten the use of fossil fuels in Australia. Since Australians fear nuclear power even more then escalating electricity prices (something the coal industry would not mind by the way), it's introduction into the national narrative just after government begins making noise about a price on carbon is, to me, too coincidental to be overlooked.

It is too easy for the coal industry and/or the politicians who represent them to stoke national nuclear fears by linking a price on carbon to the deployment of nuclear energy stations 'in your backyard'. But in the end, if there is no price on carbon, all no/low carbon energy sources will continue to suffer deployment delays or significant limitations compared with action required to achieve the emissions reductions deemed necessary by global experts.

Then there's potential political benefits, such as getting the Greens to snuggle up to those in Labor who are 'not quite convinced' of the benefits of nuclear energy.

Whether Labor discusses nuclear energy or not is unimportant. It's being discussed already, albeit not openly. What is critical for Australia's future; including our economic as well as environmental security, is a price on carbon to shift energy production away from the use of carbon emitting energy sources.


  1. Ed, it looks to me to be a stunt by the Labor right in advance of the national conference.

    As you probably know, ALP members and parliamentarians split broadly into two factions - the Left and the Right. These factions are organized mini-parties within the party. It used to be the case that these factions differed strongly on policy; they don't much, these days; Julia Gillard was nominally of the Labor Left but appears to be basically a small-l liberal.

    However, there are still a few genuine policy passions in some Labor apparatchiks. Opposition to anything nuclear-related is one of them, for a fraction of the ALP Left. Similarly, there's a socially conservative subset of the ALP right out there; for that group, gay marriage is an anathema.

    So, essentially, in response to the ALP Left threatening to put an issue that will split the Right (gay marriage) on the agenda at the ALP's annual conference, some members of the Right are looking for an issue that passionately divides the Left.

    Yes, it is unfortunate that a serious and important issue has been hijacked by game-playing prompted by an unrelated issue, but that's what appears to have occurred.

  2. Thanks Robert, I got that impression from the media reports. But these policy / conference agenda disagreements can be aired behind closed doors, no? Why go public with either issue? Wouldn't this similarly split the electorate... and thereby facilitate a BAU energy policy that delays a badly needed carbon price?

    Realising I probably come off as a bit of a conspiracy nut... I'm a bit reluctant to get too encouraged nor expect genuine, objective consideration of the technology.