The small spotlight that shone on fossil fuel investment by the four big Australian banks last week was a reminder that catastrophic environmental destruction is a cornerstone of western economic success.
Although from a public relations point of view, divestment campaigns make great copy.
And maybe that’s all that’s needed to get a wider movement started towards realistic renewable targets.
The latest push to divest from companies that are heavily involved with fossil fuels comes from Bill McKibben, who is the founder of grassroots climate campaigning organisation 350.org.
He told The Guardian that a recent Oxford University study claims it’s the fastest growing divestment movement in history.
The most important thing, he says, is getting the analysis out into the ‘information bloodstream’.
‘Most of the carbon in the world has to stay underground,’ he says. ‘The analysis has now spread to the point where the World Bank, the International Energy Agency, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and just about everybody else has said that we have to leave at least two-thirds of the carbon we know about underground.’
And while the current knuckle-dragging Liberal/National government wants big polluters to help themselves to public funds for vague climate change solutions, economists think otherwise. Fairfax Media reported last week that after a poll of 35 prominent Australian economists that they almost universally back an emissions trading scheme (ETS) over Toned Abb’s ‘direct action policy’ on climate change.
Who killed the electric micro-hydro industry? With no doubt it was successive duopoly governments and the Clean Energy Council (CEC). The real story is that by amending the Environmental Planning And Assessment Act 1979 and overhauling the CEC, micro-hydro company Pelena Energy might have been saved from bankruptcy.
And given the opportunity to operate under a free market unhindered by regulation, that business could have been the envy of the renewables sector. After all, the north coast’s plateaus have enough small streams to supply free energy.
But as it stands, the fifteen year old Dorrigo based company will soon close its doors and lose five staff due to incomprehensible laws that govern its industry.
It’s perhaps too simplistic to write off the NSW coalition as ‘anti-free energy’; after all, research funding was awarded in 2011 to hydro company Waratah Power. But it’s been two years since $300,000 of our tax money was splashed at Waratah Power, and its website does not indicate tangible outcomes and appears to be still in a‘research stage’.
Meanwhile Mr Lynch’s Pelena Energy was manufacturing and exporting his technology overseas because he couldn’t do it here. The only government assistance he received was a grant of $2500 to fund half his website costs while he received no subsidies – claims Mr Lynch – unlike fossil fuel corporations.
Perhaps Waratah Power has more lobbying power and inside connections than Pelena Energy?
Another main factor in Pelena Energy’s failure is the Clean Energy Council’s policy to squeeze hydro and promote solar. Thankfully legislation can be amended, and all it would take is political courage and a change in CEC policy.
Or even better, the abolition of the CEC.But courage certainly isn’t coming from the National Party which preside over his electorate.
So much for representing regional Australia: Liberal toxicity has clearly infected the Nats. Incidentally, hyrdo power is nothing new and even provided Mullum’s electricity at one point. It’s all common knowledge.
Why isn’t it national news that a company offering sustainable energy solutions has been railroaded by bad regulation?
The survival of micro-hydro companies like Pelena Energy is certainly in the public interest. Maybe its demise is not so much a political failure but a failure of collective knowledge and interest.