IPA Today

We Need Power Now

Written by
14 June 2022
Originally appeared in The Daily Telegraph

Australia must scrap net zero emissions targets and bolster its coal, gas and nuclear resources

Over the last two decades, Australians have suffered through low voltage leadership, which has culminated in the dawning energy crisis that Australia certainly did not need to have.

Australia has thousands of years of coal supplies. Yet, under the policy of net zero emission by 2050, we ship the overwhelming majority of our coal offshore rather than use it for our own affordable and reliable energy supply at home.

We are also home to around a third of the world’s uranium, although using it to generate electricity here remains illegal despite the fact, again, we freely export it for the benefit of other countries.

For too long, our vain political leaders have sought environmental plaudits on the international stage while simultaneously giving away our vital resources to fuel growth in foreign economies.

Despite being forecast long ago, the perfect storm belting our energy supply is even forcing the elites into taking some tentative steps towards a common sense approach.

A poll released last week by the Institute of Public Affairs found that more Australians than ever before support building nuclear power plants to generate the affordable and reliable electricity we desperately need.

A poll of more than 1000 people found 53 per cent are ready to embrace a reliable energy future with nuclear. Significantly, the support for going nuclear is bipartisan, with 70 per cent of Coalition voters and 52 per cent of Labor voters agreeing.

Astonishingly, 44 per cent of Greens voters support going nuclear, compared with less than a third who oppose. This is remarkable given generations of implacable opposition to nuclear by fringe environmental zealots.

Young Australians are also backing the move with a majority of 18 to 24-year-olds taking a pro-nuclear stance.

Real Australians understand nuclear is an important, mature technology that can provide reliable and affordable power, which is precisely why it is used right around the ­developed world.

Our friends and trading partners have long reaped the benefits of nuclear, with a whopping 70 per cent of electricity generated in France, 20 per cent in the US and 15 per cent in the UK and Canada coming from this source.

The brutal invasion of Ukraine by Russia has forced the West to accept that modern industrial economies can only be sustained with sovereign energy supplies.

Last month, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced his country would build a new nuclear plant each year, which was backed by French President Emmanuel ­Macron, who made similar commitments.

And, a fortnight ago, in a historic shift, Finland’s Green Party voted to adopt a fully pro-nuclear stance at its national meeting.

The overdue rethink on nuclear appears to have finally reached our shores as well and Australians are ready to back in leaders with a ­vision.

On the heels of the IPA’s poll showing widespread support for ­nuclear, Coalition leaders Peter Dutton and David Littleproud have indicated an openness to exploring nuclear energy.

Within hours of publication of the IPA’s poll in The Daily Telegraph, Littleproud said “there now needs to be a conversation about nuclear”, while Dutton said he was “not afraid to have a discussion on nuclear”.

Indeed, the Coalition’s new shadow minister for climate and energy Ted O’Brien has, in the past, indicated support for the industry.

O’Brien chaired a parliamentary committee on nuclear energy which in 2019 recommended the government “consider lifting the current moratorium of nuclear energy” for “new and emerging nuclear technologies” subject to community ­consent.

This is a good start, but it is just a start.

Nuclear energy generation is vital to Australia’s future but it will take years to develop after its ban is repealed.

We cannot afford to wait. The energy crisis of supply shortages and price rises is just beginning.

On the very first day of winter the Australia Energy Market Operator made the extraordinary assessment that Soviet-style rationing of gas may be required in response to supply shortages.

Also last week, the Tomago aluminium smelter in NSW’s Hunter Valley had to pull back on its operations at the request of its power provider several times, and Alcoa’s Portland smelter in Victoria also had to curtail its operation on Thursday.

It’s time for the political and corporate elites to catch up to what real Australians have known for a long time – we desperately need more coal and gas energy supply, as well as nuclear, to fix our energy crisis.

This means scrapping net zero and lifting the ban on nuclear ­energy generation.

On this, political fortune will favour the bold and real Australians are ready to back in those with ­vision and conviction.

If you've enjoyed reading this article from the Institute of Public Affairs, please consider supporting us by becoming a member or making a donation. It is with your support that we are securing freedom for the future.
JOIN DONATE

Daniel Wild

Daniel Wild is the Deputy Executive Director at the Institute of Public Affairs

Become a Member