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Who tilts at windmills? Explaining hostility to renewables

Marc Hudson writes in The Conversation (29.5.17) that the policy uncertainty around Australia’s energy sector is unsurprising, given the recent history of political ambivalence towards renewables and other alternative energy sources.

'Studying the catastrophe that has been Australian climate and energy policy these past 30 years is a thoroughly depressing business. When you read great work by Guy Pearse, Clive Hamilton, Maria Taylor and Phillip Chubb, among others, you find yourself asking “why”?

'Why were we so stupid, so unrelentingly short-sighted? Why did the revelation in 2004 that John Howard had called a meeting of big business to help him slow the growth of renewables elicit no more than a shrug? Why did policy-makers attack renewable energy so unrelentingly?

'About now, readers will be rolling their eyes and saying either “follow the money, stupid!” or “they are blinded by their marketophilia”. Fair enough, and they have a point.

'My recently published paper, titled “Wind beneath their contempt: why Australian policymakers oppose solar and wind energy” outlines the hostility to renewables from people like former treasurer Joe Hockey, who found the wind turbines around Canberra’s Lake George “utterly offensive”, and former prime minister Tony Abbott, who funded studies into the “potential health impacts” of wind farms. It also deals with the policy-go-round that led to a drop in investment in renewables.

'In a search for explanations for this, my paper looks at what we academics call “material factors”, such as party donations, post-career jobs, blame avoidance, diminished government capacity to act, and active disinformation by incumbents.'

 

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