The view from Billinudgel

Road map to nowhere
Angus Taylor’s road map is anything but an emissions reduction strategy

Energy Minister Angus Taylor. © Lukas Coch / AAP Image 

Our current government has become inordinately keen on producing road maps, and its most recent cartographer is our constantly embarrassed and embarrassing energy minister, Angus Taylor.

Taylor’s hand-picked team in the draft room has developed yet another version of what he misleadingly calls an emissions reduction strategy, but is actually a formula – or at least a cloud of thought bubbles – aimed at shutting up the activists while not seriously affecting the economy, by which he means there will be no new taxes.

Instead he will rely on technology, which he apparently believes comes at absolutely no cost. Our innovative minister has just invented the free lunch.

As you would expect from Taylor and his motley collection of bureaucrats and rent-seekers, the result is a grab bag of possible solutions ranging from the second-rate to the already discredited. In the first category are measures that rely on gas as a stopgap measure until renewables take over, and in the second is carbon capture and storage, which has already received lavish government funding with no discernible outcome.

And, of course, there is the obligatory nod to nuclear power, as unrealistic a solution as it has always been. At least the mad idea of funding a new coal-fired power station in the north, as demanded by the Queensland mafia, has been quietly shelved – well, for the moment.

Hydro-electricity and battery storage – especially as produced by Malcolm Turnbull’s Snowy 2.0 – get favourable mentions, but there will be no real money for established renewables such as solar and wind, which we are told can now stand on their own feet. There are a couple of encouraging signals for electric vehicles (but they won’t kick in for a while) and hydrogen power, which is the only good idea that seems to be taken at all seriously.

But the real, proven solution for reducing emissions is not even on the table. Any hint of emissions trading, as it is now being embraced in most other parts of the civilised world, is anathema to Taylor and his party of denialists. This is right outside his road map – indeed it’s outside his chart of the known world. Here be dragons.

At last week’s announcement, Taylor did not even present a real road map. It is only a discussion paper for a road map, barely a gleam in the Cabinet’s eye. And, like most of the wizard wheezes devised by Scott Morrison and his bumbling bunch of ditherers, it is not about policy, but about options. In other words, “We’re certainly not committing to anything, but we are letting you know that we are thinking about this and when we get around to doing something about it, in due course, we will probably let you know.”

That is, if we can find someone to tell us the date. Apparently, Taylor’s press handout was marked June 21 – premature certainly, but perhaps looking forward to Midwinter’s Eve, the shortest and bleakest day of the year. Maybe he has the idea that it can only get better from here. Or maybe he needs not only a road map, but a calendar.

Mungo MacCallum

Mungo MacCallum is a political journalist and commentator. His books include Run Johnny Run, Poll Dancing, and Punch and Judy. Visit his blog, The View from Billinudgel.

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