Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Chris Breen on Government Greenwash, Hypocrisy and the Mildura Solar Power Plant

Chris Breen from Save Solar Systems highlighted the greenwash by GovernmentsChris Breen has been active in the Save Solar Systems Campaign. As a person working in the renewable energy sector, he has first hand experience of the lies and double standards our politicians have accorded between the subsidies and support to the fossil fuel industry as against the limited support for the renewable sector. Greenwashing.

I videoed his speech at a picket of Peter Batchelor, Victorian Minister for Energy and Resources, who was about to attend a $3000 a head Victorian Coal Industry conference. I took the time to transcribe the speech, so you can Read or watch:



Speech





On the one hand the Rudd and Brumby Government say that climate change is one of the most serious problems humanity has ever faced and that they are acting. On the other hand the reason we are here today is what they are actually doing is that they are sending Peter Batchelor to a $3000 day a head coal conference on how Victoria can keep burning coal to Kingdom Come.

And I think Damien Lawson was right when he said there is a simple test. They tell some very complicated lies around carbon trading. But there are simple tests about are they acting or not. The simple test is are we getting large scale renewable energy, are we getting the Mildura Solar power plant, or are indeed are we getting new coal, the new HRL coal power plant.

Unfortunately the answer is the wrong way around at the moment and that is what we are trying to change.
If carbon trading came in tomorrow, if we had any sort of carbon pricing, carbon tax, it's not going to build the Mildura Solar Power Plant, and it's not going to stop the HRL power plant. The climate movement needs to be demanding these very practical things about what the Government should do.

When it comes to the Mildura Solar Power Plant it really is part of the smoke and mirrors that the Government is acting on climate change. Brumby has been saying that they are committed to this project for three years, and yet we still don't have a construction date. The Victorian Government put out a media release recently saying that the money is on the table; they want this project to go ahead but the company Solar Systems who were going to build it has been sold to, are saying it may go ahead in 2011 which is conveniently after the next two - state and federal - elections. There is no date for construction.

And the other key thing is that Solar Systems who were going to build it had 150 employees. After the sale, Silex, who it has been sold to, has 14 employees. How are you going to build a solar power plant with 14 employees, let alone continue the research and development programs to commercialise the technology. This was going to be 1000 jobs in construction in Mildura, this was going to power all of Mildura by the sun, and yet it is not going ahead.

I would love Batchelor and Brumby to prove I'm wrong and start construction but it seems that is not happening. What we are getting instead is the coal conference. If you look at the agenda of the coal conference is very much the same sort of thing: on the one hand they are talking about low emissions coal technology, clean coal - it's entirely fantasy - it's about coming up with the lies they are going to need to keep burning coal for as long as possible.

Clean coal is simply not going to work, not going to work at scale. You would have more chance at turning a cigarette into a safe cigarette by adding uranium to it than clean coal going to work.

You don't need to go to a Future of Coal Conference at $3000 a head to understand what the future of coal is. The future of coal is death. If we don't stop burning coal and build renewable energy, we will pass climate tipping points, we will see the deaths of hundreds of millions of people, we will see agricultural collapse, we will see war, we will see starvation, we will see disease, we will see hundreds and hundreds of millions of refugees.

So what Peter Batchelor is choosing is obscene. There is a choice. You can choose the future of coal or the future of the planet. And it is obscene we have Government ministers going to this. Imagine if Peter Batchelor was at a conference on the future of tobacco? the future of Asbestos? But this is what we are getting again and again.

I think that climate change has made renewable energy an essential service. Like Government built schools and hospitals, it needs to start building renewable energy. These things should be part of the social wage. There are more jobs in renewable energy than there are in new coal, the HRL thing is only going to have 35 jobs if it gets up and running. There was going to be a 1000 jobs in the construction of the Mildura Power plant.

The Government should employ people like it employs nurses and teachers to start to transform our economy. People tell you that Governments don't do things directly anymore, but they do. The same week that Solar Systems was sold the Brumby Government gave $363million to build a new roof for the tennis centre directly. That is about the cost of the Mildura Solar power plant.

Nothing against tennis, but what's more important? That we have a planet on which to play tennis or that we have a roof on the tennis centre?

The Government is spending $40billion on the national broadband network directly. They are spending $36billion on new submarines. To put that in context: $36billion you divide that up by $50,000 each, you could employ 700,000 people for that money to begin to transform our economy.

The very last thing I will say is this. I think it was fantastic we had the firefighters union here today. If we are going to force our government to start to do what is necessary to stop climate change, we are going to need a power, which is an alternative power, to the power of the corporations which are currently running the show.

I think that power is in the union movement. I think we need union leaders, not just in the firefighters but in every union, we need union members saying again and again and again give us the jobs that will save the world.

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You can see images from the Peter Batchelor picket at my Flickr Peter Batchelor Climate Picket Set. Some of the speeches I have transcribed.