Given how much media interest there is in Kevin Rudd, it is notable that a recent speech on energy more or less has been ignored.
Speaking in Brisbane on 14 October, Rudd noted that we can expect other economies around the world to continue to demand vast quantities of energy from reliable suppliers like Australia.
Large companies, he noted, continue to invest big sums here in resource development. “With coal, LNG and uranium, we will still be an energy super-power in 2020 and 2030.”
He pointed out that the value of our energy exports has increased by an average of 10 per cent a year since 1988-89 – and could have added that this economic river of gold is fed by the energy sources the Greens love to hate: coal, gas, uranium and (often forgotten) condensate found in association with natural gas offshore.
As he said, we are the world’s largest exporter of coal, third largest exporter of uranium and fourth-largest exporter of LNG.
What he didn’t discuss, although Martin Ferguson often does, is our rising reliance on importing liqued transport fuels – nor, of course, the carbon price issue of whether local refineries can stay viable.
In raising the issue that the ability of economies to access the supplies they need (at the costs they can afford, I’d add) on the global markets is a critical issue, he might have considered that the coal seam gas-based exports from his home State that the Greens and others are trying to trip up are vital to us, along with other energy exports, in helping to defray the costs of transport fuels we import.
Of course, he sang the modern version of the ALP’s domestic anti-nuclear theme — we do not need nuclear power here as we have “a full range of other energy options” – but he was happy to observe that Australia is well-positioned to continue selling uranium to other countries, pointing out that 65 new reactors are under construction even as Germany and Switzerland move away from nuclear generation.
He acknowledged that the non-nuclear, clean energy sector still faces technologoical challenges, notably storage to support solar power, and argued that Australia needs to be at the forefront of pursuing innovation.
“We must be at the forefront of clean energy research so we can capitalise on future market opportunities in a carbon-constrained world.”
Fair enough to say, but he and the government would be hard-pressed to demonstrate how we move from where we are today to the “forefront” – our efforts are modest, to put it mildly, and the schemes in place, as I keep pointing out, are not going to deliver a “clean energy future” in 2030 or 2050.
The elephant in the room for Labor remains its inability to square its “clean energy future” stance with its stubbornly weak position on local nuclear energy.
But, in a point that should have some resonance with the boosters of command development of technologies here – if they were listening, which they aren’t – Rudd also emphasized that energy security is “best advanced through open and efficient trade and investment, driven by the market and underpinned by effective competition.”
It is not a speech to get the political commentariat in a lather, but it is worth reading by serious observers of energy issues – it is up on Rudd’s portfolio website – and it contains a couple of decent quotes.
One is “We live in a world that is changing before our eyes and energy is its lifeblood.”
Now, in ending, I need to correct something I wrote in the last This is Power post on nuclear energy. I misinterpreted some numbers presented by Martin Nicholson.
The $82 billion price tag I had him placing on building 25,000MW of nuclear reactors here should have been $147 billion – the lower figure is reached by factoring in the $65 billion not spent on building coal and gas generators with carbon capture and storage.