Mining industry elected Prime Minister of Australia

Much less of an exaggeration than it sounds:

The fate of Australia’s embattled Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is likely to be decided within hours as rivals seek enough signatures to force a vote on his leadership.

Amid a flurry of ministerial resignations Thursday, Turnbull said he would call a special meeting of the governing Liberal party at noon on Friday only if his main challenger — right-wing populist Peter Dutton — can gather enough signatures on a petition.

Just Monday, Turnbull abandoned a modest effort to reduce energy emissions under pressure from conservatives in his party. And yesterday, those same conservatives just missed toppling his government. Hmm:

Australia’s resistance to addressing climate change — by limiting emissions in particular — is well documented. Turnbull could yet be turned out of office as rivals rally support for another challenge as soon as Thursday. If that happens, he will be the third Australian prime minister in the past decade to lose the position over a climate dispute.

Despite the country’s reputation for progressiveness on gun control, health care and wages, its energy politics seem forever doomed to devolve into a circus. Experts point to many reasons, from partisanship to personality conflicts, but the root of the problem may be tied to the land.

“The Europeans think we’re crazy,” she added. “Who’s got more solar, who’s got more tidal power than us? It just goes to show the strength of that particular group.”

The trend of hyper-partisanship has not helped. Just as climate and energy issues in the United States create a toxic divide, with many on the right opposing anything the left supports — including well-established science — any mention of emissions control tends to create an anaphylactic reaction among Australian conservatives.

The arguments differ. Some make a case for free markets, despite subsidies granted to fossil fuel companies, or they say action works only when all nations act. Others, like Turnbull’s opponents this time, emphasize local priorities such as reduced energy prices for consumers.

The Aristocrats!

Under Turnbull, a former investment banker and a moderate, the Australian government has increased its support for fossil fuel extraction projects, failed to meet goals set under the Paris climate agreement, and shied away from challenging the consumption status quo even as the Great Barrier Reef bleaches toward oblivion.

Darren Saunders, a cancer biologist in Australia, spoke for many in a popular tweet that said, “It’s incredibly hard to describe how utterly sad it feels to be a scientist and dad in a country being dictated to by a small group of science-denying clowns putting their own short-term political gain over the long-term public interest.”

Which of these underlying conditions don’t we share with the Aussies? Show your work.

Image: Coral bleaching at Heron Island in the Great Barrier Reef, via

Ugly Green Ties to the Past

Not that one, specifically, but not altogether different, either.

I’m as skeptical as anybody about clean coal, but as a fan, of sorts, of Energy Secretary Steven Chu, I’m willing to give him and cc its due when he goes to links to take it seriously. Following routes we ostensibly mistrust, after all, is what open mindedness is about, n’Green pas?

This is all concerns FutureGen, a public-private partnership to build a first-of-its-kind coal-fueled, near-zero emissions power plant.

The article somehow manages to wax agnostic about the merits of living with the contradictions of the above statement.

Stephanie Mueller, press secretary for the U.S. Department of Energy, issued a statement after Monday’s meeting leaving no doubt about Chu’s interest. “Secretary Chu believes that the FutureGen proposal has real merit,” Mueller said. “In the coming weeks, the department will be working with the Alliance and members of Congress to strengthen the proposal and try to reach agreement on a path forward.”

If the project is revived, it will have plenty of company internationally. Three similar IGCC projects figure among a dozen schemes that European leaders last month deemed eligible to compete for €1 billion in stimulus funds set aside to support commercial-scale application of CCS in coal-fired power plants. Of those projects, six will be selected to receive funding. Meanwhile, a consortium of Chinese power generators has initiated construction of the GreenGen project, which was inspired by FutureGen.

I cringed repeatedly about Obama’s invocation of cc on the campaign trail; it sounded exactly like the dreamy sort of pandering with which his critics have tried to paint him, to little effect thus far. But here comes the administration again, continuing to strike a serious posture with an expensive, non-serious solution.

The idea of outfitting new coal-fired power plants with carbon storage and sequestration technology should be a minimal point of entry into our energy supply; that the coal industry can and does tout this as the next greatest thing speaks to bar height for the industry and the candle power of politicians as much as anything. As we have said, the cheapest power plants are the ones we don’t have to build. Measures to flatten demand should at least accompany gargantuan efforts to make a dirty power clean.

And even on 4/1 this is not a joke.