“The door is closing … I am very worried — if we don’t change direction now on how we use energy, we will end up beyond what scientists tell us is the minimum [for safety]. The door will be closed forever.”

That’s Fatih Birol, chief economist at the International Energy Agency, upon the release this week of the IEA’s World Energy Outlook 2011 report. According to the report, the world is likely to build so many fossil-fuelled power stations, inefficient buildings and energy-hungry factories in the next five years that it will become impossible to hold global warming to safe levels.

If current trends continue then by 2015 at least 90% of the available “carbon budget” will be swallowed up by our energy and industrial infrastructure. By 2017, there will be no room to move at all — the whole of the carbon budget will be spoken for, according to the IEA’s calculations.

Throw to the graphs. Our energy demand:

Room to move:

Meanwhile, back home:

Greens deputy leader Christine Milne:

“Everybody knows that what we need in Australia is to advance a renewable energy revolution. We need to get 100% renewable energy as quickly as possible in this country. Not only will that be a great thing for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and seriously addressing the climate crisis but it is a recipe for sophistication in the Australian economy, greater diversity and a rollout of investment in the bush in particular. It will mean new jobs. As we have just heard in the debate on the steel transformation plan, it is where Australian steel needs to be directed. It is needed to build the towers for the wind turbines and the support for the solar arrays. Solar thermal needs steel; renewable energy needs steel. The advancement of renewables has so many advantages for Australia in terms of our future economy, our jobs growth and our whole manufacturing mix.”

Energy Minister Martin Ferguson:

“It is time the Greens stopped deliberately misleading the Australian public with their claims that Australia can move to 100% renewable energy within a decade … They are living in fantasy land if they think this can be achieved … The simple fact is that renewable energy is currently more expensive than other energy sources … We must be realistic about what can be achieved and over what timeframe.”

Someone might want to put a rocket under the minister … a wind powered one, that is.

canberra-calling.jpg Listen to yesterday’s Canberra Calling podcast! Also, head over to our iTunes page where you can download and subscribe to the latest Crikey podcasts.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey