Well, we did tell you so. Just two weeks ago we told you Australians had blundered by entrusting power to a deep green Labour party committed to getting them out of the climate “naughty corner” and into the “renewable energy superpower” sky castle. And now comes the news story that “AGL Energy generation crisis deepens amid Bayswater outage” which, in case you aren’t from around there, means “Australia’s energy crisis has deepened after AGL Energy lost half its capacity at the giant Bayswater coal plant, the second largest power station in the national electricity market, while a breakdown at its Victorian Loy Yang A facility could take an extra two months to fix.” Australia’s energy crisis deepens. And yes, it already had one. And BTW “Wholesale prices have surged in the power grid with up to a third of coal generation – which normally provides 60 per cent of supply – currently out of service”. So there’s a reality check that didn’t bounce. Instead it went thud.
The energy crisis is global. And yes, as the Australian Business Weekend story goes on to say, the immediate problem is “due to a combination of mechanical faults, extended maintenance and supply issues.” But the bigger problem is due to a failure to invest in workable kinds of energy because you believed in unworkable kinds. For instance in Britain, the Times just warned, “Millions warned of power cuts this winter/ Ministers delay closure of coal-fired generators over fear of gas shortages caused by Ukraine war”. And what sort of rapid attitude adjustment can one expect from politicians who just swept to victory on a tide of unrealistic expectations?
Generally the record of those in power seeing the light is not good. On all sorts of issues, not just climate or indeed environment, but anything from rent control to national security, the normal way a working political system deals with someone whose ideas are plainly unsuited to a sudden or even slow-motion crisis is to vote them out and vote someone else in. So expect new Australian PM Anthony Albanese to avoid reexamining his fundamental assumptions, and instead stick to the tried and false approach of propping up the creaking existing coal facilities while openly seeking their collapse. And look for it to work just about exactly as well as it sounds as though it would.
We hope it will be otherwise. There have been exceptions, for instance Roger Douglas in New Zealand on massive government intervention and borrowing. But if Albanese has not yet figured out that to keep the lights on you need sources of energy that have been proven to work it may be that he has some sort of deep-seated trouble grasping what seems to us a sufficiently obvious concept that he’d have understood it as soon as he heard it. In which case the notorious instability of their electoral system might just turn out to be a good thing for once.