Delusionist diehards

Between the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, the on-air demolition of Martin Durkin and, most significantly, John Howard’s self-proclaimed conversion from ‘sceptic’ to ‘realist’ on climate change, I had the impression that delusionism was finally a spent force within the government. It was known that a couple of senior ministers, most notably Ian MacFarlane and Nick Minchin, remained unconvinced, but they seemed willing to keep quiet most of the time. Even the commentariat seemed to be cautiously backing away.

The report of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Science and Innovation suggests all this was premature. Four of the six government members of the committee (Dennis Jensen Jackie Kelly, Danna Vale and David Tollner) signed a dissenting report denying that human activities are disturbing the climate in dangerous ways, and describing those who accept the mainstream view as “fanatics�. If this is the view of government members who have chosen to serve on a committee devoted to science, one can only guess at how widespread such ideas are within the government.

I plan a piece for Thursday’s Fin looking at all this. Of course, I’m not going to bother with silly talking points about climate change on Triton. The real question here is how such beliefs can maintain a hold, long after the corporate push behind them has evaporated and at a time when they are so obviously a political albatross for the Howard government and for the political right as a whole. The right (at least in Australia and the US) has entered the kind of self-reinforcing pattern of disconnection from reality that long characterised the Marxist left.

Update This report has really hit the big time, making it into the Washington Post. Too much blog comment to list everything, but don’t miss Trevor Cook.

77 thoughts on “Delusionist diehards

  1. OK, Mugwump, here are another couple of drops. This time from The Age (March 13, 2007), and The SMH (16/10/06):

    “China’s Suntech sees $US180m net for 07
    March 13, 2007 – 5:44PM
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    “China’s Suntech Power Holdings Co Ltd said on Tuesday it expected net income to surge in 2007 as the solar panel maker ramps up production and captures global market share.

    “The leading maker of photovoltaic (PV) cells and modules will spend up to $100 million this year to boost production to 280 megawatts equivalent, up 75 per cent from 160 MW last year.

    “The spending would almost double over last year and help the company reach 2007 net income of $US180 million ($A229.43 million), a target in line with Reuters Estimates and which represents a 70 per cent rise from the $US106 million ($A135.11 million) last year.

    “‘We are aiming in that direction,’ Shi Zhengrong, the company’s chief executive, told Reuters in a telephone interview.

    “Suntech posted a 276 per cent surge in net income in 2006, a year after it raised $US400 million ($A509.85 million) in a US initial public offering.

    “With global demand rising for its energy efficient products, the company is focusing on taking market share from rivals such as Sunpower Corp.

    “Suntech is forecasting its current 7-8 percent global market share to double by 2010, when its production output capacity will reach 1 gigawatt, or 1,000 MW.

    ‘Our short-term strategy is to increase our market share as much as possible,’ Shi said. “Even if we have to sacrifice our margins.’

    “The company’s gross margin fell to 25 per cent last year, from just over 30 per cent in 2005. Shi reckons margins will continue to erode to around 20 per cent over the next 7-10 years, while his selling price could be halved over the same period.

    “But falling prices will also boost demand. And with the supply of silicon rising, pushing down Suntech’s costs, Shi is confident that profits will continue to rise strongly.

    “‘Companies that can buy silicon at a high price and still make a good profit are the ones that will grow and be the long-term winners,’ he said.

    “Silicon makes up about 70 per cent of costs for Suntech, a key reason it has been locking up supply with long-term deals.

    “The company expects more two-thirds of its silicon this year to come from such long-term contracts.

    “Suntech’s ambitious expansion plans will be funded from internally generated profits, said Shi. The company has no plans to offer shares to the public, he said.

    “Suntech’s sales are determined to a large degree by the subsidies that governments provide for solar energy products, which explains why Europe is the company’s largest market.

    “The company sends 35 per cent of its products to Germany, and another 25 per cent to Spain, while its home market of China takes up only 10 per cent.

    “Shi said China was working hard at all levels of government to form a policy that would boost solar energy use, and was hopeful that something concrete could be announced this year.

    “Green economic growth is a focus for Chinese policy makers worried about rising costs for imported oil and social unrest sparked by pollution. But the mainland still gets 70 per cent of its energy by burning dirty coal.”

    and from the SMH:

    “Australian firms to energise China: govt

    October 16, 2006 – 7:04AM
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    “Environment Minister Ian Campbell says Australian renewable energy companies are well placed to take advantage of China’s huge demand for energy.

    “Senator Campbell is in China this week to open a $300 million wind farm built by Australian company Roaring Forties.

    “‘The challenge is to see massive increases in energy in China with massively reduced greenhouse gas emissions and the Australian renewable energy industry can play an incredibly transformational role in delivering that outcome,’ Senator Campbell told ABC radio.

    “Labor has long criticised the government for failing to take drastic action in Australia to encourage renewable energy.

    “Roaring Forties cancelled two wind farms in South Australia and Tasmania earlier this year over an alleged lack of government support for renewable energy initiatives.

    “Senator Campbell also blocked a Victorian wind farm because of fears the propellers of the turbines would kill the extremely endangered orange bellied parrot.

    “Labor’s environment spokesman Anthony Albanese says the government needs to increase its renewable energy target.

    “‘It’s very clear that one reason why renewable energy is expanding in China is that they have a 15 per cent renewable energy target compared with our pathetic 2 per cent target,’ Mr Albanese told ABC radio.”

  2. I see the Rann Govt has introduced The Electricity (Feed-In Scheme- Residential Solar Systems) Bill into Parliament
    http://www.greenhouse.sa.gov.au/PDFs/Feed_In_Bill.pdf
    Essentially this is to allow owners of solar electricity systems to be reimbursed at the rate of 44c/kwhr for their surplus electricity fed back into the grid. (one for one now which is around 20c/kwhr summer peak rate). That is apparently double the current commercial rate charged. This would make solar power cost effective coming on top of an $8000 maximum Federal grant for a solar panel system. Spending around $15k ($23k in all before subsidy) and the 44c /kw hr could see a 9.6% return amortised in just over 10 years. However, I see the buyback scheme expires in July 2013, which is a problem for returns. Once you blow out returns over 10 years, most people will lose interest. Still Ranny has to do something to get that 60% GG reduction, mission statement, underway, particularly with more subs to build and BHP Billiton power stations and desal plant for Roxby.

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