Losing our way

“This is all about balance,” Angus Taylor says of his long-awaited technology investment road map.

In reality, it is all about delay, and distraction.

After nine months of work, surveying 140 technologies, the road map has managed to tell us what was already known: that solar and wind, both of which produce zero emissions, are the cheapest forms of energy.

But Australia will not be taking these findings and quickly decarbonising our grid with renewables.

“Let’s be clear,” Taylor clarified this week, “this is the beginning of a process to establish short-, medium- and longer-term priorities …

“We’re working towards priorities.”

One could be forgiven for thinking the Energy minister conducts himself with a certain carelessness, given the string of scandals that trails him. But Taylor is a political animal; he couldn’t have lasted this long if he wasn’t.

He understands the power of sticking to one’s talking points and has a preternatural ability to shrug off legitimate questions without an iota of self-consciousness.

Asked why Australia isn’t simply embracing wind and solar – both of which are in plentiful supply – he deflects: to gas, small-scale nuclear and unproven carbon-capture technology.

The road map doesn’t back so-called “high efficiency, low emissions” coal-fired power stations, but Taylor finds a way not to rule them out.

Rather than answers, he offers hackneyed metaphor: “We’ve made very clear that we want horses in this race,” he told RN Breakfast this week. “Any horse that can win this race, we want it in there.”

In most portfolios, the minister’s circularity would merely be frustrating. But when the minister is charged with overseeing Australia’s energy and emissions reduction policy at this vital moment in history, it’s hard to see his approach as anything other than dangerous.

It will take years to transition Australia’s economy away from fossil fuels, that much is inevitable. If Minister Taylor could shake his obsession with detours, though, we would get there much quicker.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on May 23, 2020 as "Losing our way".

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