Never saw it coming!

I’m in the US at the moment, working on papers and experiments involving unforeseen contingencies. I just woke up to the news that Clive Palmer has had a meeting with Al Gore that has led him to support the renewable energy target and an emissions trading scheme (the latter contingent on other countries taking the same route). And, relevant to me personally, he is to oppose the abolition of the Climate Change Authority.

I’ll wait for more news on this. In the meantime, at least I now have an ideal example of an unforeseen contingency.

47 thoughts on “Never saw it coming!

  1. Now all that has to happen is that someone has to persuade him that it’s simpler to keep the ETS we’re going to have next year anyway! Clive Palmer seems like a real oddball, but he doesn’t seem to be absolutely on another planet, like Abbott.

  2. “Climate change is a global problem and it must have a global solution,” he said, “Air moves around the world.” -a.v.

  3. From ABC news “Clive Palmer has revealed his party back the repeal of the carbon tax if lower power prices for consumers are guaranteed, but will vote to stop the Government axing key climate change bodies.”

    A bit of a mixed bag.
    Is it just me or is the “lower prices for consumers” is something of a poison pill for new projects?

    Personally, I’ll keep writing that letter to my senator while waiting for the other shoe to drop…

  4. His ‘support’ for an ETS seems to be a stunt, unless as Val suggests he can be persuaded to support bringing forward the conversion of the existing scheme into an ETS, which I understand is what the Greens are also proposing.

    However, his decision to block the abolition of the RET, the CEFC and the Climate Change Authority is good news- assuming he sticks to it. Best wait and see…

  5. Anyone who has taken time to view Clive’s budget reply would have an inkling that anything might be coming. Highly recommended viewing. Clive in Dr Jekyll mode.

  6. Don’t be too excited about the possibility of an ETS. Palmer made it clear tonight that it wasn’t a mandatory factor for scrapping the carbon price, and he knows full-well that any introduction of a new ETS bill will be killed off by the LNP in the lower house, so the end result with respect to shaping carbon use is the same – to wit, no action at all.

    As for the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, the Climate Change Authority, or the renewable energy target, there are many ways to get to the Coalition’s goal of a radical right-wing Nirvana. Just consider how they’re manoeuvring around their election promises regarding the ABC:

    We’re still in a hand-basket, and hell is rushing closer all the time.

  7. Having an ETS, even though the carbon price is zero, is significant.
    Companies know that anytime in the future the price could rise so they better be prepared.
    On climate change policy it moves Australia closer to the US and further away from the Abbott/Harper model of denial.
    It saves the associated climate change authorities.

    While Abbott has been wedged he would be (more) foolish to knock back the offer, particularly if he took the country to a DD.

  8. Of course it’s all meaningless if the abolition of the carbon tax is not made conditional to the implementation of an ETS.

  9. the latter contingent on other countries taking the same route

    That’s his out. He never intends to cash this cheque.

  10. Clive Palmer could turn out to be to Australia what Silvio Berlusconi was to Italy. Al Gore is to the global climate debate what Tim Flannery is here; some say effective some say irrelevant. A possible timeline of climate perceptions is
    June – snow on the hills AGW can’t be so bad
    July – carbon tax repealed
    August – start of El Nino according to BoM
    September -sharpening of knives.

    I favour a tough leak-plugged ETS but that is almost certainly what we won’t get.

  11. If Clive’s proviso is enacted (that all savings from repeal of carbon pricing are to be returned to the consumer), and all savings are returned to the consumer, how many Abbott-voting consumers are going to believe that all savings have been returned to them? Why would they?

  12. Am I being too cynical in thinking that Clive is essentially running an alt version of the NIMBY line – Not From My Back Pocket? It seems that he is green when it comes to encouraging future investments and technologies (support for the agencies) but dirty brown when it comes to removing coal mining / use disincentives (the non-ETS).

    Green, brown, whatever. More accurately, what colour is self-interest?

  13. @Hermit
    LOL… some great comparisons there… although I’m struggling to picture the big fella at too many bunga bunga parties…

  14. Clive is a coal mining magnate. Please be realistic, people! A coal mining magnate is not going to be the least bit serious about reducing CO2 emissions. Clive knows that the ETS mirage or chimera (take your pick of metaphor) is the best way to fool people into thinking that he might do something in the indefinite future about the issue whilst at the same time killing a genuine carbon tax or delaying it forever. Carbon taxes and/or direct regulatory limits are the ONLY way CO2 emissions will be ever be addressed (other than by resource exhaustion itself which will impose real physical limits orby economic collapse).

    The name of the game for climate change denialists and lukewarmists is “delayalism”. Every one of their moves is calculated to delay real action for a long time if not forever. Of course, “forever” does not exist for us humans or our civilization. Our civilization is on a growth-limits-watch, probably on a collapse-watch and possibly even on an extinction-watch. This is easily and irrefutably demonstrated by Limits to Growth theory, Footprint theory and the Laws of Thermodynamics are they apply to the economy as a sub-system of the biosphere. You need no more than Senior physics, a bit of targeted reading and the willingness to reason to logical conclusions based on empirical facts to understand this.

  15. Ikonoclast :
    A coal mining magnate is not going to be the least bit serious about reducing CO2 emissions.
    Clive knows […] the best way to fool people into thinking that he might do something in the indefinite future about the issue whilst at the same time killing a genuine carbon tax or delaying it forever.

    Pretty much how I read it.
    Every day effective mitigation is delayed is another dollar in his pocket… or rather about $150M a day (for black coal collectively, according to IBISWorld).

    Clive gets to kick Tony, win over the boomers with electricity pricing and get in some astroturfing, to boot. And his side interests keep ticking over.

    Great politics other than the making me want to cry bit.

  16. The new saviour seems to be the Emissions Trading Scheme. Clive likes it, Bill likes it and Tony may think it’s an easier sell than Direct Action. However different supporters if indeed they are serious may have completely different notions of what it might entail. I suspect most supporters think it will mean a carbon price of around $5-$10. Is that likely?

    The problem is the price for a tonne of CO2 seems to be all over the place. The consultants report for the RET review panel found the cost of CO2 avoided by windpower was $54 per tonne, for solar $186 and as of June 2014 the official price via carbon tax is $24.15. However Certified Emission Reduction certificates or offsets on the European exchange are about 30 eurocents per tCO2. In local currency make that range about 50c to $200. Beats me how they think an ETS will arrive something like $10. If it’s all a stalling tactic it will never get as far as an actual price.

  17. @Hermit

    It’s a stalling tactic. J.Q. has posted that a price per tonne for CO2 emissions of about $50 to $60 a tonne is required to make the ETS work effectively. I trust his figures. However, as I have said many times before, only a tax will work not a market price. Artificially pricing a negative externality will NEVER work. Nobody has any incentive to make it work other than the “distant” feel-good factor of saving the planet. I mean nobody has any IMMEDIATE incentive to make it work politically or economically. That is why the ETS has NEVER WORKED and will NEVER WORK. I predicted years ago on this forum that the ETS would never be implemented and/or never work and I was right as usual.

  18. Footnote:-

    I thought by now people would realise my philosophy, which I term “Empirical Cynicism”, has a high predictive value when applied to the interaction of humans with each other and with the natural world. The basic tenets of Empirical Cynicism are;

    1. Humans are selfish.
    2. Humans self-delude except when applying strict empirical and quantitative methods.
    3. Humans over-estimate their own capacities. (Am I not proof of my own thesis?)
    4. Humans under-estimate natural forces and their material dependence on same.

  19. It is true that the fact that Clive did not make his vote to repeal the carbon tax contingent on passing his ETS amendment does dilute his message somewhat.


    Abbott might be well served to follow Clive’s lead and pass his ETS anyway, since it makes a hell of a lot of sense for him politically. It heads off the threat of Turnbull and the wets in general, since Malcolm (or Joe) can’t wedge him on the issue any more. It also means that Abbott can host the G20 without being an international laughing stock, and in fact means Abbott can get on his high horse and lecture Asians about his superior morals, which is right in his wheelhouse. Plus, he doesn’t have to negotiate anything, and the Greens would hate it which makes him very happy. There’s a lot to be said for it benefiting Tony Abbott.

  20. @m0nty It’s just not going to happen.

    Imagine that each and every country says that they will wait for someone else to make the first move before acting. That could be a very long time.

    And then when some countries do come to an agreement to act eg EC others refuse to comply based purely on “not in our national interest”. Which becomes a get out as other countries can then say that they won’t act unless everybody is in agreement.

    I think it’s beyond politics.

  21. What is wrong with the policy of a zero (very low) ETS floor price, moving to a floating price subject to our trading partners instituting equivalent ETSs? It seems to me to be a sufficient way to the international community that we are serious but not willing to unduly harm our economy. No doubt there will be debate about equivalence including inclusion/exclusion of industries (e.g., agriculture) and development issues, but that negotiation would have a framework if ‘dormant/conditional ETSs’ were legislated in each country.

  22. @Jason
    This seems akin to the EU’s troubled policy of ‘grandfathering’ whereby free permits were given to emitters on the basis of prior output. First problem it punished those who already made cuts second problem lack of incentive to immediately cut further. Third problem undeserving slackers could sell unneeded permits.

    See Figure 1 of the Dept Environment’s greenhouse projections. Our 2013 emissions were about the same around 550 Mt as in 2000. If the aim is 80% cuts by 2050 we should be down around 450 Mt by now. Perhaps we should throw the book at everything above this but it needs some kind of fair allocation mechanism.

    The thing is there will be a carbon crisis before 2050 warming or not. I believe Australia is now importing about 50% of its oil, we’re letting the gas price escalate to unaffordable levels and coal seems increasingly troubled although there’s plenty in the ground. The idea of phased decarbonisation seems prudent whatever the politics.

  23. The bottom line is that in over two decades humanity has done a big fat nothing about carbon emissions growth and the climate change that will come in its wake. Emissions have grown rapidly over the whole of this period except for a blip caused by the GFC or Great Recession. These graphs tell the story.

    Humanity has done nothing proactive and will do nothing proactive to avert this process. This we can predict with near 100% certainty given the empirical record to date and the record of human behaviour to date. The only way this process will be reversed is by economic collapse and then population collapse. Both of these events too can now be predicted with nearly 100% certainty.

  24. rog :
    Opinions like this just go to show how humanity can’t see the forest for the trees.

    mcluhan called it “the tribal drumbeat”. -a.v.

  25. And I’m sorry to support Ikonoclast’s cynicism, but the retention of well meaning bodies providing scientifically and economically valid advice will mean nothing in the absence of governments who believe in evidence-based policy.

  26. First up, I am, like most, disappointed that there apparently won’t be an explicit carbon price as part of the mix. That said, given the senate we got post 2013 and of course the regime in the lower house, that was always on the cards. Even had one remained, it was quite likely that it would be reduced to a derisory sum — probably less than $8 tCO2e and most of those permits would have been some pretty doubtful REDD credits bought off-shore.

    Protecting the RET and CEFC though clearly well short of what was required, is not to be sniffed at. These too were in the cross-hairs and if they remain we will have some very low cost abatement. Politically too if Abbott cannot show that stationary energy prices have retreated with the end of the permit regime, then this will expose the lie he told on this matter. Equally, the CCA’s survival ensures that it, rather than the handpicked committee of deniers will be the source of advice on RET.

    One interesting manoeuvre that might have been considered was to press Clive to require the ETS to continue albeit at a derisory level — say, $2 tCO2e with no free permits at all and liable entities to be defined as those responsible for annual emissions of at least 1ktCO2e per annum and to ensure that no more than 25% of credits could be bought off-shore. That would make the price ubiquitous and more robust so that any increase brought about by decisions by other major emitting jurisdictions would be imposed on every significant stationary source in Australia.

    That case is still to be put, and Palmer would be hard pressed to explain why it should not be so.

    And equally, if Palmer were to insist on an ETS, albeit one that was laughably low, Abbott would be put in an impossible position. He could abandon his ‘blood oath’ in order to avoid. DD, and lose whatever credibility he had left, or accept the challenge and bring on a DD over abolishing an ETS that nobody could say would cause a ripple in the capitalist firmament.

    A DD would favour all the minority parties and undoubtedly, PUP would snatch some senate and lower house seats from newly elected Libs who wouldn’t be the least bit happy about that. Indeed, it is likely the government would lose power as things stand. Either way, Palmer wins. If he hasn’t worked this out, he really is the buffoon he appears to be in public.

  27. Helen summed it up nicely.

    Palmer has said (after “Shock and Gore”)…

    “I think we can go to Paris and come up with a global solution, and we can implement it (the ets) quickly


    “mr Abbott was to hAve direct action and remove the RET, we think the RET is more effective.”

    Is he saying yes to RET, without DA?

    And why is Gore saying aus has been a “leader in the world”. I do believe he wants action on climate change but this also is nonsense (often repeated). Aus is a laggard.

  28. Whoops. Misused the block quotes. Those in quotation marks are the actual Palmer comments. Sorry

  29. I suspect the real lesson in terms of political economy is that Al Gore will always be happy to appear for a fee.

  30. Terje

    Really? That is what you suspect? I suspect that the Bolter told you that this is the real story.

    But consider for a moment what assumptions you and the Bolter have to make about the way the system and human nature interact to come up with this awesome explanation. Never mind, I know you can’t do this type of thinking, you being a Libertarian and all.

    It seemed to me that perhaps this is an example of the wonderful thing that “chinless libertarians” have applauded for years now, ‘creative destruction’ and Clive is taking it to politics. Although, who knows if it will work as it seems from the latest discussion on Crooked Timber, that the whole idea of creative destruction is, unfortunately just another irrational assumption that some people have been believing in for years despite the lack of any evidence. Oh well.

    Oh well, except you have been forcing these irrational beliefs on us for too long?

    Just in case you are wondering, the “chinless” claim about libertarians comes from a letter that Jason Wilson sent to John Roskam. Did you see it?

    “Mr Roskam,

    Thanks for mentioning my Guardian column in your latest fund-raising letter. You have increased awareness of my brand among the many corrupt property developers, chinless libertarians, young fogies, and elderly racists that compose your membership. ”


  31. I would say Al Gore sold out his principles if I thought he had any. I find it hard to believe he thinks Climate Change is real. His behaviour in standing up with a coal magnate for a fee indicates he has no real principles or position. I think this happens a lot in politics. People take up a position not on evidence nor on what they believe but simply to have a saleable position in the political market.

  32. Clive Palmer owns a private jet and Al Gore sometimes charters one to get to speaking engagements on the need to reduce GHGs. The one who rides a pushbike to work is Abbott.

  33. @Happy Heyoka
    Agreed but possibly Clive is having more fun in this politics game and the business of coal is a tad boring in comparison. It doesn’t change the equation but stranger things have happened.

  34. @rog

    I predict the circuit breaker in that vicious circle is Hillary Clinton. Odds are she will dominate the 2016 election and, since Obama already fixed health, she will take on climate change as her signature reform. That seems to me to be what Al Gore is banking on.

  35. Evidently Gore, together with a number of senior Australian environmental activists, considered that trying to influence Palmer offered the potential to save some of the existing climate change policy infrastructure. According to reports in Crikey and The West Australian, they were not able to persuade Palmer to save the existing carbon tax, but considered that if he could be persuaded to save the RET and some of the other climate change policy institutions estalbished by the ALP/Greens, engaging him would have been worth it. Gore did not receive a fee.

    To the extent that Palmer follows through on his promise to save the RET and the Climate Change Authority, their decision will have paid off. The Clean Energy Finance Corporation is now safe, as the Govenrment has withdrawn the bill for its abolition.

  36. @Tim Macknay

    The reasoning here is sound. Catallaxy commenters have noted, to their disgust, that the CEFC and RET remain significant components of mitigation policy — one even saying that the carbon “tax” (sic) was relatively innocuous by comparison. And they are in this limited sense, correct.

    It seems very unlikely that Gore — a man who navigated his way to the top of the pile in US politics only to be denied the top job after a dubious administrative process would not have been briefed about Clive Palmer’s game.

    Gore having a presser alongside Palmer would have annoyed the hell out of Abbott, and since palmer was probably always going to feel bound to help Abbott kill off explicit carboin pricing, Clive’s refusal to help him kill off renewables was a net loss to Abbott. An echo of this annoyance was found in the Australian, which ludicrously complained about the influence in Australian politics of overseas millionaires.

    Gore has copped some flak over this, and fairly obviously, given that he’s also on the right, I’m not a great fan, but he’s a good deal sharper than Palmer and the vast majority of people in or near serious political power here.

  37. @Fran Barlow
    I’d also add that, given that Gore has spent his entire career working on efforts to establish policies to address climate change, and has frequently been ridiculed and depicted as a fringe environmentalist by his opponents as a result, the notion that he sold out his principles by appearing next to Palmer, or that he doesn’t really believe in climate change, is pretty inplausible. Much more plausible is the view that he simply took an opportunity to try to influence the debate in Australia, to the limited extent possible. Others involved have now confirmed this.

  38. Hmm maybe we overlooked the bloody minded stupidity and m$lice of this tegime, in seeking consolation in the survival of the CEFC

    It seems that the regime plans to turn it from a profit-making into a loss-making concern in an effort to hobble renewables and prove that governments simply cannot invest wisely in anything, and thus score a point in the culture wars by being the cautionary tale.

    There really is no nadir of public policy malfeasance that this regime does not mean to test.

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