angus taylor wearing a hardhat
Energy Minister Angus Taylor (Image: AAP/Mick Tsikas)

We’ve reported it before, but there’s no reason to stop reporting it if they continue to offer up evidence for it: the Morrison government is a clutch of climate denialists eager to reward its major donors in the resources sector as much as it possibly can without incurring political damage.

Its “Low Emissions Technology Statement” and its commitment of $1.9 billion to support it has been crafted with that goal in mind. All the chin-stroking commentary from the Press Gallery about how the government has abandoned coal won’t change that.

The statement was literally written by fossil fuel company executives: the panellists who advised on the statement include former Origin CEO and former head of the climate denialist Business Council, Grant King; and the CEO of the Gas Infrastructure Group, Ben Wilson, along with another BCA director, Coca-Cola’s Alison Watkins, who is also a director of the Centre for Independent Studies, which has hosted climate sceptics.

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The statement itself is aimless: it offers no hard targets of any kind. The real purpose is the promotion of carbon capture and storage, a repeatedly debunked myth peddled by fossil fuel companies, to the status of a foundational goal of Australian energy policy.

There it is on page five: the four “Big Technology Challenges” guiding the statement are “more affordable, clean and reliable energy to households and industry”, “expanding production and increasing productivity”, “preserving and expanding onshore manufacturing of energy-intensive products” and “scaling geological and biological sequestration”.

They may as well have included giant orbital sunshields as the fifth challenge, for all that sequestration will ever be a workable climate strategy.

Even the statement admits, quietly, that carbon capture and storage doesn’t work unless you have a pure stream of carbon dioxide to easily bottle and store. There’s a “stretch goal” of $20 per-tonne of CO2 for this, but that “does not cover capture processes, noting the cost of capture technologies varies between applications and depends on factors such as the relative concentration of CO2 produced by an industrial process”.

Even so, the government intends multiple mechanisms for handing taxpayer funding to fossil fuel companies in the name of CCS. There will be a “King Review Co-Investment Fund” — reflecting that a review of the government’s discredited Emissions Reduction Fund run by King and another fossil fuel industry executive, which recommended the fund embrace CCS, a “CCS Deployment Fund”, as well as “Emissions Reduction Fund methods to support CCS and soil carbon within 12 months”.

Soil carbon — or, more correctly, “soil magic”, The Guardian’s Lenore Taylor’s term — is another scam that has seen huge amounts of taxpayer money directed to companies undertaking projects they would have undertaken anyway, and farmers claiming that they can permanently store carbon despite no evidence they can do so. Unsurprisingly, Australia’s emissions surged the Abbott government abolished the carbon pricing scheme and established the Emissions Reduction Fund.

To do this, the government will not merely need to remove the legislative limitation on the independent Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency that limits them to renewable and other forms of clean energy. It also promises it will force them to invest in non-renewables and scams like CCS and soil carbon. Angus Taylor’s plan promises the government will be “requiring key agencies (ARENA, CEFC and the CER) to focus on accelerating the priority technologies”.

That’s more or less all you need to know: an “energy” plan written by fossil fuel executives elevates fossil fuel industry scams to the foundation of Australian energy policy, with a government commitment to force independent renewable energy investment and program administration bodies to waste money of them, to the benefit of fossil fuel companies.

There’s probably a simpler word for it: fraud. And it comes at the expense not merely of taxpayers but of the generations to come who will suffer from our climate denialism.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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