Dear editor . . .

One way of keeping climate change in the news, and fostering informed discussion about current issues, is by writing letters to the paper. Members of CCBR do so regularly - some occasionally get published.


Aug: To The SMH re Sen Kelly's causality error

Craig Kelly observes that nations that have led the move to renewables tend to have dearer electricity.  Hardly surprising.  Not all nations have cheap and plentiful fossil fuels, so the switch to renewables made economic sense there first.
Did this help to hold down prices? It seems to have in South Australia. From 2006 to 2016 power expenditure rose 49% in SA in real terms, compared with 66%, 73%, and 87% in NSW, Victoria and Queensland respectively. 

Aug: to The Canberra Times re technological neutrality and the NEG

Stephen Galilee (18 Aug) calls for a technologically neutral solution to grid security, avoiding ideological preferences.  Unfortunately there can be different opinions on what is neutral and what ideology.

The Energy Security Board goes part way to specifying the solution to grid reliability - every generator must have contractual back-up.  That is not the only way to ensure enough total generation to meet a given demand.  Further, it ignores, for now, demand management solutions and blackouts caused by distribution failures.  The ESB's solution favours traditional baseload, so despite the good intent, it is not technology neutral.
True neutrality would also add up the total cost of generation - including the direct health harms from pollution and longer term environmental costs - and balance all against the financial cost of the occasional outage.
Meanwhile, the dogged insistence by the right wing of the Coalition that coal has to be supported is pure ideology.  This even creeps into the article's quote from Josh Frydenberg, where he transmutes the ESB's caution against closing coal power stations prematurely into a mandate to keep them operational beyond economic sense. 

Aug: To The Age re PM's claim the NEG will save $550 per household

Malcolm Turnbull accuses the Victorian government of denying households $550 a year in power savings by opposing the National Energy Guarantee in its present form.

According to the Energy Security Board, only $150 of that comes from the NEG itself; the other $400 will happen anyway as a result of new renewable energy generation already committed.

Besides, there is no reason to suppose that the changes the State government seeks would miss out on much, if any, of the extra $150.

Aug: To The Daily Telegraph re potential for NEG to save on bills 

Your faith that the NEG will make power cheap ("Greenies push Labor to keep power prices high") is misplaced.  
The board's own estimates are that most price easing will come from the renewables already to come online in the next few years.  The NEG is mostly geared to firming power production (not actually supply; it won't stop the distribution failures that cause most outages).  That, and an emissions cut target of only 26%, will inhibit further renewables that would bring power prices yet lower.
At the same time, with a national commitment of a 26% cut, only cutting 26% from electricity generation pushes the same burden onto sectors that will find it much harder. We will all pay for that in other ways.
And if the Coalition backbench succeeds in subsidising new coal power, that just shifts the impost from electricity bill to tax bill.

July: To The Canberra Times re fuel excise and electric vehicles

Eryk Bagshaw (27 July) describes fuel excise as "used to pay for roads", giving the impression that it represents a fair means of covering that cost.  This is not the case.

If charged in proportion to road damage, HGVs would pay $1.50/km but passenger vehicles only 0.05c/km, a ratio of 3000:1; yet HGVs enjoy an excise rebate! That would shift much freight to rail, significantly cutting the cost of road maintenance.

If we accept that passenger vehicles should continue to subsidise commerce so massively, we should at least consider all the public costs driving creates. The Department of Infrastructure estimates petrol and Diesel health harm from particulates and noxious gases at 10c/L. That is probably out of date, as more harms are discovered every year. Using the US Environmental Protection Agency's figure for the Social Cost of Carbon (i.e., climate damage) we can add another 12c/L.

True, an electric vehicle charged from the coal-fired grid of today also results in CO2, but that is not inherent in the vehicle, and would not apply to all. The way to make that fair is to reintroduce a price on carbon.

Besides, fuel excise only raises about half the revenue. The rest comes from rego, stamp duty, GST and tolls, all of which are charged equally on electric vehicles.

On balance, the charging split between petrol, Diesel and EVs is already about right.

July: To Anthony Albanese, seeking a clear statement of opposition to the Adani coalmine 

July: To SMH re Coalition's push to subsidise new coal:

Dear Prime Minister: do you have a mandate to use taxpayers' funds to build new coal-fired power stations (''PM backs cheaper power'', July 12)? Better check with us first. 

July: To SMH re ACCC's report calling for new "firm" power stations 

July: To SMH re Frydenberg's view of 26% Paris commitment:

I wondered how Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg could describe as ''ambitious'' Australia's Paris target to reduce our emissions by 26% by 2030 (''Barrier reef headed for 'collapse''', July 21-22). Then I realised he is 26% Minister for Environment and 74% Minister for Energy - and most of that is Minister for Fossil Fuels. 

July: To SMH re IPART's halving of Solar feed-in tariff 

June: To Josh Frydenberg re Adani attempt to avoid impact assessment on huge increase in water take

May: To SMH re Perrottet's "big Sydney" vision:

Your article ignores the elephant in the room: climate change. If Perrottet cares about the future for his children, reducing our emissions as well as adapting to our escalating climate emergency had better be on his agenda.

April: To SMH re Canavan's attack on lobbying by Green groups 

March: To The Oz re how domestic PV saves others more than the subsidies cost 

Jan: To The Oz re subsidising electric vehicles 


Nov: To Chinese Ambassador and China Machinery Eng Corp (CMEC) re Adani finance 

Oct: Letter to the board of the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund (NAIF)

Aug: Report to Albanese re poll on Adani mine:

In May, you mentioned to us that you heard less from members of the community about climate change than you had in the 2007-08 period.
We assured you that we would keep you in touch about what we heard, and we write now to let you know of the results from a survey we undertook during July in your electorate. The great majority of those surveyed were new to Climate Change Balmain-Rozelle, and have not written previously to you.
The issue was primarily the Adani mine, and we thought that you should know that of the 360 voters we spoke to, an overwhelming 97% were opposed to the coal mine, and 98% to the proposed $1 billion Naif loan.
Further, 97% told that they wanted their local politician - and this means you - to take a stand to stop the proposed Adani mine. Some said it was a significant voting point for them - others said simply that "in this day and age, supporting the mine is absolutely stupid".
These figures exceeded even the proportion (95%) that agreed with the statement "It's time to make the transition to renewable energy sources like wind and solar".
These are views expressed by your constituents: and we are hearing very similar results from groups all around the country conducting similar surveys.
When we met, you told us how you stand keenly behind Labor's plans for renewable energy, and we are pleased that you again supported it recently when you spoke to Sky News.
But we are concerned that your voice has been silent on what else Australia must do to reduce not only our emissions, but those we might export. The Adani mine, like any new coal mine, cannot be part of the world's future, and we urge you to say so publicly.
We will continue to campaign on the Adani mine and on other climate issues in the lead-up to the next federal election. When that comes, we would love to be able to report that you are at the forefront of a strong Labor policy that truly addresses the urgent transition from fossil fuels.

Survey results 

MayTo The Oz, responding to a call for new coal fired power stations in NSW  

Feb: To SMH responding to four climate Furphies

FebTo SMH: Stop Westpac funding Adani coalmine 

FebTo SMH: Climate Security is paramount 

FebTo SMH re Scott Morrison's parliamentary stunt with coal lump 

JanTo SMH; If US backtracks from climate action we need to do more, not less


NovTo SMH re Electric Vehicles and fuel excise 

Oct: To SMH re opinion piece blaming wind farms for SA power outage 

OctTo The Oz, on why international activism against Aussie coal is justified

Jul: To SMH: Canavan fails to understand risk management 

AprTo SMH re $7bn tax breaks to mining 


Sep: To SMH; IPART undervalues PV feed-in by ignoring lowered peak demand 

Apr: To SMH; Gov't's ERF thinks 100 years is forever 

Apr: To SMH re Greg Hunt's flunked math