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17.7.06

Australia To Be World's Top Horse And Buggy Exporter

I guess you have to give John Howard credit for being honest. The Aussie PM is excited about the prospect of Australia becoming an "energy superpower" by expanding its share of the fossil fuel market. Howard rejects not only the Kyoto Protocol but also any alternative (such as a carbon tax) other than end-of-the-pipe carbon cleanup technology. Burning fossil fuels comes first, because that's what will make Australia rich. Protecting the environment can't be allowed to interfere.

Australia is well placed to be an innovator in clean energy, with its cloudless skies and wide-open spaces ready for solar and wind power. But those kind of innovations won't make money right away for established mining companies, and Howard is clear on whose back he's watching.

Howard repeatedly cites "pragmatism" as a reason to focus on older forms of energy. It's a common rhetorical trick, portraying older energy technologies as known quantities while renewable energy is speculative and risky. The problem is, if we demand that our energy source be clean -- which Howard gives lip service to -- the plausibility of that claim goes out the window. Is it really "pragmatic" to aim for a massive engineering fix that will turn dirty energy technologies into clean ones, but not "pragmatic" to expand the use of already-existing technologies that are intrinsically clean?

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