View from the Street: Energy Wars, Episode IV: The Government Strikes Back #Auspol

It’s been an exciting few days for weirdly
arbitrary edicts from the Prime Minister – and given the sheer number over the last almost-two years, that’s saying something. Isn’t that right, Sir The Duke of Edinburgh?
Yes, there’s been another “captain’s call” to ensure that the Clean Energy Fund doesn’t permit any investment in wind farms – a move calculated to rob Australia of an estimated $8.7 billion in investment over the next five years.

You know, wind farms. The things about which you’re paying for an inquiry into the non-existent health effects. Those ones. 

Now, not to suggest that the PM has a history of using popular misunderstanding of technology to play on people’s fears, but wind farms aren’t the first thing he’s crusaded against.

Indeed, in the mid-90s he was all about stopping the demonic encroachment of mobile phone towers, which as we know gave off powerful radiation that did… um, things.

Sure, it might look like a deeply silly witch hunt, but how can we know for sure that mobile phone towers and wind turbines don’t cause terrorism, huh? Answer us that, Dr McScience!

The problem with wind farms

Sure, wind farms are comparatively cheap and quick to set up, with the average time from beginning of construction to actually generating electricity being measured in weeks rather than years. 

Unfortunately, they also don’t support the coal industry – and as we know, coal is good for humanity.

So good, in fact, that it’s better for humanity than actual food – which is why the government OKed the digging up of prime agricultural land for Chinese mining companies last week.

That was despite protests against the plans for the Shenhua Watermark mine coming from the Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce: who failed to protect the region from the government’s decision despite a) being the MP for the electorate in which said development is taking place, and b) just to repeat, being the Minister for Agriculture in the government giving approval for the project. Great job there, Barn!

At the coalface

Now, you might think that coal isn’t a great investment right now, since mining companies are downgrading their forecasts as China stops buying and the price bottoms out to the point where the Adani Carmichael Mine in Queensland has been declared “unbankable” by the Queensland treasury (although the Commonwealth Bank appears to be throwing money at it, in what’s a very brave investment and public relations move in the current climate). 

Also there’s that whole “global warming” thing about which everyone that respects reality is rightfully terrified. Oh, and there’s the interesting fact that, even with no improvements in existing technology, renewable energy could provide Australia with literally all of its power right now with zero emissions, if we wanted. 

But mining is so very, very important, though. After all, it employs so very many people – right? Far more than stupid old farms, surely?

Numbers are fun!

If you look at the employment data collected by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, you’ll discover that according to the ABS’s most recent data, the non-seasonally adjusted number of people employed by the mining industry was 273,300 in February 2014 (with adjustments: 271,200). 

Agriculture, forestry and fishing, conversely, employed 320,600 people – which you might notice is more.

In fact, mining employs a bit over a quarter the number employed by the construction industry (1,025,600) a fifth the number employed in retail (1,216,500), a bit over a quarter of those in manufacturing (945,900) and education and training (907,700) and a third of science and technology (884,200) or hospitality (742,900).

Health care? That employs 1,417,000. Weird that one’s nowhere near as politically important as the other, huh?

Heck, mining employs half that of postal and warehousing (590,400), and significantly less than the number employed in banking and insurance (419,500) or admin and support services (377,900). Indeed, there’s almost as many people involved in the arts (207,700) as in mining. 

So, y’know. Perspective is good.

Press link for more: Andrew P. Street |


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