Time for An Environmental Rethink

Australia is a beautiful country that isn't taking advantage of renewable energy opportunities, such as power generated by wind, solar or ocean waves, writes Mike Bryan. Those in power need to rethink their environmentally unfriendly policies.
By Mike Bryan | June 11, 2014

On occasion, I update folks on what’s going on in Australia (Down Under, as they say). First, because I live here and, second, because Australia, an ultra-modern, first world country, is of interest to many on a global scale.

Last September, the Liberal Party (similar to U.S. Republicans) won in a landslide victory over the Labor Party (similar to U.S. Democrats). Now I will be the last to say that the Labor Party, which had been in office for six years, was an environmental giant, but since the election, the country has rapidly begun the process of negating almost all of the environmental programs that were in place.

The carbon tax, designed to reduce carbon emissions from the country’s biggest emitters, is set to be repealed in July of this year. The government has called for the abolishment of the Clean Energy Council, an organization established to oversee the establishment of clean energy programs. Additionally, they have said that they will cut funding to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. The CEFC had billions of dollars allocated to it to help develop, with private industry, renewable energy projects.

The Treasurer of Australia, Joe Hockey has openly stated that the few wind farms that he sees on his drive to Parliament are obnoxious and offensive and funding for such development should be terminated. Over 70,000 hectares (nearly 173,000 acres) of natural forest in the State of Tasmania has been taken off the list of protected areas and the government will allow large areas of it to be harvested. The tax credits for renewable fuels like ethanol and biodiesel are on the hit list for elimination. At the same time, coal is being used in record amounts because it’s plentiful and cheap. This is in a country that has so many natural renewable feedstocks available to it that it boggles the imagination.

Australia has more sunshine than almost any country in the world, yet industrial-size solar projects struggle to get built. Wind is another major source of potential renewable energy with millions of hectares of open space, yet there is very little assistance from government to develop it and, in fact, as I stated earlier, some in government find it repugnant.

Australia is surrounded by oceans. There is enough energy in tidal and wave power to generate enough electricity to completely power the country of 23 million people. Enormous sources of biomass exist in forest trimmings, field residue, and municipal solid waste. Geothermal power could provide a significant energy source in numerous parts of the country.

If I sound like I am trashing Australia, I’m not. Australia is a beautiful country with great people, a strong economy and a wonderful environment. Perhaps that’s part of the problem. The air here is clean and so the urgency to act does not seem very pressing. Yet, Australia thumps its chest and boasts of its clean air while exporting millions of metric tons of coal to China to pollute its environment. It’s time for a major rethink of the strategies that drive the environmental agenda of Australia. The chance, however, of that happening under the current government is negligible.
That’s the way I see it!

Author: Mike Bryan
Chairman, BBI International
[email protected]