(Image: Mitchell Squire/Private Media)

Scott Morrison and Angus Taylor’s commitment of $600 million to an unnecessary gas-fired power station in Kurri Kurri brings the government’s taxpayer subsidies of fossil fuels to more than $3 billion this year alone — while spending just $30 million in the budget on battery and renewable energy projects.

The list of recent spending for fossil fuels — on gas infrastructure and exploration, the discredited scam of carbon capture and storage, and this week’s monster $2 billion-plus handout to Ampol and Vitol to continue refining in Australia — dwarfs both funding for renewables and for adaptation, the politically correct form of climate action for the right, which assumes global heating can’t be stopped.

The figures should end forever the absurd claims by many political journalists that the Morrison government is somehow moving towards climate action. It is, in fact, ramping up support its major fossil-fuel donors.

Its commitment to the fossil-fuel-based power station comes at the same time as the International Energy Agency, a body traditionally aligned with the interests of the fossil-fuel industry, issued a landmark report that directly challenges the government’s continued support for fossil fuels and its insistence that technology will deliver lower emissions without government action.

The Net Zero by 2050 — A Roadmap for the Global Energy Sector report lays out a path to net zero by 2050 — a target the government refuses to commit to even as other major economies commit to radically greater climate action.

The IEA makes three points that directly contradict the Morrison government’s actions:

  • “All the technologies needed to achieve the necessary deep cuts in global emissions by 2030 already exist, and the policies that can drive their deployment are already proven.” (That is, the Morrison government’s idea that it must wait for emerging technologies to hand climate solutions to big emitters like Australia on a platter doesn’t stack up)
  • “Beyond projects already committed as of 2021, there are no new oil and gas fields approved for development in our pathway, and no new coal mines or mine extensions are required. The unwavering policy focus on climate change in the net zero pathway results in a sharp decline in fossil fuel demand”
  • “Clean electricity generation, network infrastructure and end‐use sectors are key areas for increased investment.” (These sectors are receiving virtually no support from the Morrison government.)

Bear in mind that the IEA is closely allied with, and represents the interests of, fossil-fuel industries. It is notorious for underestimating — often dramatically — the uptake of renewable energy. Yet even it is demonstrably far ahead of the Morrison government and its media supporters on energy and climate.

As a supporter of fossil fuels, the IEA inevitably spruiks the use of carbon capture and storage, although it advocates more strongly for new — and unproven — “direct air capture” technology than the failed technology the government is spending a quarter of a billion dollars on.

What’s significant, however, is that even the IEA can see only a minimal — bordering on trivial — role for CCS in its path to net zero. Even by 2050, and assuming significant investment in all kinds of CCS, it forecasts only a tiny role for abated fossil-fuel generation in the overall energy mix, with solar and wind accounting for more than three-quarters of total production.

And emphasising how wrong Morrison was when he claimed “there is no credible energy transition plan that does not involve a greater use of gas”, even the IEA has gas rapidly diminishing as a fuel source.

When you’ve lost the fossil-fuel industry and its peak international lobbying body, it’s hard to overstate how out of touch you are on climate.

Morrison, and Australia, are in a fossil fuel fantasy.